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The Extreme User

Jihun, Erkal and ABK working efficiently to complete our prototype.

When doing research about what customers want from a product or service, it is very important to  identify a certain type of user that will give you useful feedback. Often, we assume that the average user of a product or service is the best to survey. Yet these types of customers often don’t have feedback that gives us anything to learn from. It is better to identify extreme users when trying to learn what is needed or wanted from a product or service.

Our task for this class was to speak to different students on campus and ask them about their shoes. What do they like about their shoes? Why did they choose them? What makes them decide to buy a style of shoe? The key to this exercise was to find students wearing shoes that are unusual or not common. This was a challenge in itself. Most of the students were wearing trainers or leather boots which were all remarkably similar. My team-mate Erkal and I were struggling to find an extreme user. Luckily, we manged to find exactly what we were looking for after much persistence.

Liza was a 22 year student from the Ukraine. Liza was wearing a pair of wellington boots in a bright pink colour. The weather was particularly gloomy on the day of our task. We asked her several questions to try and get a feel for why she chose to buy these boots and what made her decide on a style so different from all the other students. After roughly ten minutes of questioning, the most important and insightful information we received from Liza was that she hoped to make other people smile or happier on days when the weather prompts dullness or unhappiness. What we could establish from this information is that there was an emotional choice to her purchase and not just a functional choice.

Upon our return to class, we then had to think of a show business based on the knowledge we had gained from out interviews and build a prototype of the product.  Our group included Jihun and ABK who had been also been interviewing students on campus. After putting our key findings together, we decided on a business called ‘Frankie Skins’. The idea behind the business was interchangeable ‘skins’ that could be changed on a day to day basis. Firstly, the shoes would be very functional as you could use the same shape of shoe for different events. Secondly, there is an emotional link as the shoes can be changed whenever necessary to suit your mood. If you’re feeling happy you could choose to wear a bright and colourful skin. If you’re feeling a bit down or are going to a formal event you could choose to wear a skin that is better suited to your event or mood.

What I really took away from this class was the fascinating knowledge I gained from the videos we watched before the class. The Deep Dive videos about IDEO and how they work was inspiring and interesting. I am sure that for the sake of the documentary the producers make it look like more fun than it actually is, but the video portrayed IDEO as an extremely fun place to work. The processes of observing, brainstorming and prototyping were all performed in a fun manner. I am sure there are also stressful times for employees at IDEO but the video was very memorable. The producers documented the development of shopping carts for supermarkets in this documentary. I liked the notion that no idea is a bad idea and that every idea has some merit to it. I found it very entertaining that older shopping carts were clocked doing speeds of up to 35 miles per hour on windy days due to their lack of aerodynamics.

Overall this was a very engaging class. Not only did we get valuable experience in prototyping in a short space of time. But we also learnt a lot about extreme users and their value when it comes to researching customer needs.

The final prototype for Frankie’s Skins.

Published by fortysomethingrebirth

I am a South African from Jo'burg. I love football, music (mainly from the Caribbean) and design. I am currently studying a Masters of Managing in the Creative Economy at Kingston University in London.

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