Do You Design for the Average User or the Extreme User?

In the documentary Objectified, Dan Formosa talks about industrial product design at Smart Design:

(And here I’m going to disregard my word count and just explain, because I can’t provide a video clip at the moment. The gist is that they don’t care that the average user is female with 2.3 kids… They care that there might be a user with arthritis, or one who is an athlete. They design for the extremes, feeling that that will provide a better experience for the middle as well. This is the kind of thinking that produced the Oxo vegetable peeler, a vast improvement over the previous standard peeler because of the rubberized grippy handle… essentially just a bike handle placed over the ungrippable metal one that had been around forever. Watch 00:05:25 to 00:08:00 in the film if you have Netflix Instant. Or watch the whole film, because it’s really good. Now, back to the regularly scheduled blog post.)

I think BabyBjorn products are designed the same way: When one of my sons started treatment for a club foot, we found that their baby carrier was not only comfortable, it was the only one of our three carriers that would accommodate an infant in a full leg cast or brace.

When I taught for The Princeton Review, I was trained to consciously organize boardwork so that someone who had trouble concentrating would be able to catch up easily after short mental breaks. And everyone in class benefited because it simply made for better teaching.

But most elearning design seems to focus on the “average” user, starting with audience analysis. Food for thought: When you start with Average and add accessibility features, how is usability affected for everyone?