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Extreme users and why you should listen to them


If you want your product to become a hit, try to study extreme users of this product.

Who are extreme users?

“Extreme users” is one of the popular approaches used at the empathy stage in design thinking. Saying in short, they are customers who differ from the “average” user.

Some of these extreme users have a super-ability to open up the future to us – how the bulk of consumers will behave in a few years. Others have special needs that no existing product on the market can meet, and as a result, they redesign existing products or develop their own.

There are people among them who completely reject entire industries.

Why are extreme users useful?

For example, you will learn a lot about mobile phones by talking to an advanced user. But, you will learn even more if you talk to a person who does not buy a mobile phone in principle.

How to find extreme users?

Extreme users are ready to experiment, and this is beyond the capabilities of any design agency. They won’t even charge you an hourly fee — after all, they are improving a product that will bring them huge benefits in the future.

When we gather extreme users in one room, the first thing we do is sit them closer to the best designers and R&D masters of our clients. Then we ask customers to voice ideas that they would never be able to push through inside the company.

If extreme ideas are sensible, then their ideas will easily resonate extreme people.

How to convince extreme users to participate in the study?

When you’ve found them, it’s important to convince them to help you. If you work for Nike, it won’t be difficult to find extreme consumers. Just visit the Sandy Marathon in the Sahara Desert and take some ultra-ultramarathon runners.

Aggressive philistines, who make up the majority of focus groups, trample on truly breakthrough concepts. “It’s not like Coke at all,” they said of Red Bull. “The boss chair should be made of leather,” they said of Aerons. “Leave the keyboards to the secretaries,” they said about computers.

All kinds of great ideas died somewhere in research involving ordinary consumers. Well, just because ordinary people don’t really like new things. 

The secret is that there are people in the world who are willing to pay for a cool new idea. Or maybe they will give it to you. Club party-lovers liked Red Bull for helping them to party all night long.

A short woman liked the prototype of the Aeron chair so much that she had to postpone production until she could reach the lever with her own hands.

But what if you’re working on something less glamorous? For example, remedies for calluses and sweaty feet. How to calculate a person who spends most of the day in uncomfortable shoes, but at the same time, his profession requires maintaining his legs in perfect condition?

An experienced recruiter will quickly figure out that models can be suitable and will find them even via the Internet.

Who is suitable for the method of extreme users?

At first, it also seemed strange to us to take mainstream brands and apply the method of extreme users to them. But it works.

Kenyan micro-lenders and global bankers have a lot to learn from each other. Insurance companies and medical tourists can create services that benefit them both.

There has been a revolution in sneaker design thanks to the study of people who have never worn them in their lives.

It seems strange to talk to ordinary people — what can they tell you that you don’t know yet? If you set ambitious goals for yourself, go not only to “ordinary people”. From them you will just hear the usual answers.

Get out of your cozy nest and boldly step into the unknown world. The real transformation happens at the moment of the collision of two worlds!

Conclusion and recommendations

Extreme users are useful when you need:

  • – to detect barriers, limitations or bottlenecks of your product/service;
  • – to identify dark areas and non-obvious features of perception and unusual attitude to the product;
  • – to find out what causes negativity, rejection and other nuances.

Precisely, thanks to the knowledge about the experience of extreme users, you can improve your product / service; find a solution that will suit both extreme users and increase the satisfaction of even “average” users.

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