Innovation often focuses on improving usability in order to access a broader audience. Photography is a good example. You can buy a powerful, complicated SLR camera and take a photography course, or you can buy a point-and-shoot camera and get started right away. Further, you can upload any basic image from your phone to Instagram and add a filter without having to know anything technical about film processing.
The Internet economy has always been focused on improving usability and empowering the masses. Successful Internet companies provide self-service tools that allow non-technical users to engage with their products and services. eBay, for example, empowers anyone to become an online merchant, SurveyMonkey empowers anyone to write and deploy their own web survey, and WordPress empowers anyone to become a blog publisher. The theme is “no programming skills required.”
Any product or service that can be templatized or configured via an admin panel will be. We’ve written previously about such trends as “democratizing fashion” and the proliferation of product configurators (customization) and online design tools (personalization). Here are a few examples of the next frontier of the digital do-it-yourself movement.
In the education space there are many self-service training tools like CodeAcademy, Treehouse (no relation), Lynda.com, and Khan Academy that give aspiring web developers the tools to learn new skills. Along these same lines, Game-o-matic allows aspiring game developers (or aspiring computer science students) learn the basics of object relationships through an interactive video game development platform. The interface is drag-and-drop intensive with no exposure to the game code itself.
Design your own toy
Cubify lets anyone design their own toy. The 3D product configurator allows a user to make functional and color selections. According to Cathy Lewis, Vice President Global Marketing, 3D Systems, “Cubify Bugdroids underscores 3D Systems commitment to democratize creativity.” Indeed the online product customization tool enables anyone to play the part of an industrial designer. The experience is limited and guided, of course, minimizing the risk of user error. “Creativity loves constraint.”
As we’ve often written on this blog, there is a fine line between designing and shopping. Designing used to mean manual aesthetic creation by trained professionals, while shopping used to mean selecting and buying mass produced products off the shelf. Now we’re seeing the worlds of product design, product selection, product customization and crowd-sourcing merge together as the Internet continues to produce innovative, browser-based, do-it-yourself, design / shopping tools for the masses.