Designing for the Extremes

OXO is a company that is beloved throughout the world for making kitchenware that is a delight to use. They do for kitchens what Apple did for smart phones. They build products that people love through a simple concept called designing for extremes.

To see how their products differ from standard kitchenware, take a look at these two potato peelers:

OXO and normal peeler

So how did OXO learn how to build great kitchen items that people love? They stopped thinking about their “average” customer, and focused on the extremes: “If we understand what the extremes are, the rest will take care of itself.” In their world, that means designing a potato peeler for someone in their 70s…or someone with arthritis…or someone with an injured arm in a sling.

In terms of web design, this means having a website that works just as well on a three year old smart phone with a 3.5″ screen as it does on a state of the art computer with a 27″ screen, or having content that serves the needs of a one-time visitor there for 30 seconds as well as repeat visitors looking to delve deeper. An entertaining way to think about designing for the extremes for a website is to imagine that your visitors are drunk. If you can make it work for that audience, then you are guaranteed to delight everyone else. Here’s a great (if slightly tongue-in-cheek) overview of the concept:

The User Is Drunk

Hannah talking on the phone