Extreme User Interviews is a method employed to understand user responses and insights at two opposite ends of the usage spectrum. An ‘extreme’ participant should exhibit sharpened traits of your target users. For example, if your research is focused on a kitchen appliance, an interview with a professional chef will give you quality insights into the experience of cooking. Similarly, someone who barely cooks is at the other end of the spectrum and can help shed light on the cooking experience.
Quick details: Extreme User Interviews
Structure: Unstructured, Semi-structured
Preparation: Participant recruitment, Questions/ topics
Deliverables: Recordings, Transcripts, Notes
More about Extreme user interviews method
Most companies’ worldwide know very little about their evolving users. In early stage startups, where the research budgets are small to nonexistent, the company isn’t as open to spending big bucks on the much needed user research. Again, entrepreneurial firms do not have as much time as big corporates or brands to do ethnography research in order to understand their users better. What is a good alternative? Extreme user interviews!
Before we dive deep into explaining this method, it is important to understand what an extreme user means. An ‘extreme’ participant should exhibit sharpened traits of your target users. For example, if your research is focused on a kitchen appliance, an interview with a professional chef will give you quality insights into the experience of cooking. Similarly, someone who barely cooks is at the other end of the spectrum and can help shed light on the cooking experience. Another form of extreme users can be those who live with limitations, self-imposed or otherwise. Yet another route to extreme user interviews is to interview surrogate users i.e. people within the organization that talk directly to the users and are well aware of their pain areas, expectations and unmet needs. For example, let’s say you work for an organic food company and wish to improve the user experience of your website. A surrogate user in your company would be the customer support personnel that manage reviews and feedback either on the telephone or web for you.
Again, like shadowing, extreme user interviews can be done either 30 mins per interviewee or longer, depending on what the researcher intends on learning. In many cases, you should be able to do it in a few days, even a few hours, depending on the scope of your project.
Furthermore, extreme user interviews are best performed individually than in a group. This will help curb peer-pressured responses from the participants. Extreme user interviews with at least 12 individuals may involve repetitive responses. However, it will also lead the most critical issues to surface based on the frequency of repetition among the participants. Extreme user interviews can be a precursor to customer segmentation and defining personas for your users.
Advantages of Extreme user interviews
1. Meaningful Insights
Quite relevant and meaningful insights can be gathered from extreme user interviews.
2. No peer pressure if done individually
If extreme user interviews are done one-on-one, there is no worry about individuals getting peer-pressured into a response that they don’t entirely agree with.
The researcher can adapt as per the quality and kind of responses being provided by the extreme users.
4. Empathy & Connection
The researcher can give his/her undivided attention to the participants as well as connect with individual participants uniquely. This can allow the participants to feel comfortable during the interview while being authentic as well as open about the situation or issues being discussed.
5. Wide range of data collection
In case of extreme-user interviews, because the sample size of participants is small, usually individuals are picked based on their expertize or amateurism on the subject of research. Therefore, the data collected spreads over a wider spectrum than otherwise.
Disadvantages of Extreme user interviews
1. Participant identification and recruitment
Careful identification and further recruitment of participants can make or break the research.
2. Time consuming
The participant identification, definition, recruitment and then interview is time consuming.
3. Relatively expensive
As the interview involves experts in their field, the participant recruitment costs would be higher than usual.
Think Design's recommendation
Extreme user interviews is the method of choice when you want to discover the extreme limits of how a product could be… and your objective is to capture unknown opportunities. Say for example, if you want to understand opportunities for a personal finance app. One way of looking at it is that you would interview users who already use personal finance apps. The other way of looking at it is, I’d want to make the app in such a way that I capture those users who don’t use any personal finance app. The difference between the two approaches is a business decision but if you wish to pursue the latter, you would employ extreme user interview method.
In this case, you would interview a personal finance app user so that you understand what his/her needs may be and in addition, you would interview a complete non user of personal finance apps in order that you understand the unknown opportunities you might capture. Interviewing the two would give you insights into how the product can cater to a total non-user in addition to appeal to a user.
Do not use Extreme user interviews if you are placing your product with clear proposition in a market that has well defined competition and opportunity… or rather, your objective is to capture known opportunities.