Product Design 2.0

About a week ago I read a post on the Design Sojourn blog called “Designing Products That Will Work with Web 2.0 Strategies” (Link). I didn’t quite get the point of that blog entry considering the title, and as a consequence I made an effort to give it some additional thought; wanting to get back to it because I think that more than most, the blog’s author is representative of the more forward-thinking designers out there.

After re-reading it a few times and bouncing it around the inside of my skull for a bit, I finally posted my comment yesterday morning. The last paragraph of that comment more-or-less summarizes why it was I found this post by a fellow designer so curious:

This sounds to me as if you’re still regarding Real products as distinct from the Net. I don’t do that anymore. And because I don’t, I don’t come to the conclusion that such access is “a vital selling point”. That, to me, is like saying tires on a car is a selling point. My point being that integration will be ubiquitous; everyone will have it and it will be expected. For companies, I think the question isn’t whether or not the product connects, it’s determining what the conversation is *after* it connects.

As it happens, gamer website Kotaku posted something around the same time I made that comment which is getting a lot of attention. It’s an entry that’s effectively relaying some rumors regarding new features for Sony’s PlayStation game console. Now the big to-do is that Sony blacklisted Kotaku over that story, but my interest is in what the story is saying. From that Kotaku entry titled “Rumor: Sony To Unveil PlayStation Home” (Link):

Basically, you get to make an avatar for your console (like a Mii) and this avatar has a room. As you play games and accomplish certain tasks, you will receive items with which to adorn the room that are specific to the game (achievements). The kicker is that this is going to be a new requirement for every PS3 game…

From a product design perspective I find this especially interesting. Sony is perhaps already creating symbiotic relationships between product and service and social networks.

I’d point out that this goes beyond the kind of integration we generally have between, say, cell phones and service carriers. Earlier in that comment on Design Sojourn I said:

I’m sure you remember “smart appliances” from some years back; lots of hype leading to failure. Just because something is internet-enabled doesn’t make it a Web 2.0 product. I’m sure lots of people are out there thinking “let’s connect our product to the internet and jump into the whole Web 2.0 thing”. I don’t believe that will be sufficient. Simply connecting is not enough, imo.

As an example of something that starts to move in that direction but doesn’t quite work in my opinion, is the recent news that people can access Second Life via their cell phone (Link). The problem I have with this is that the phone itself wasn’t designed for that purpose and thus the application and the service, provided by Comverse Technology, is forced to deal with the product platform(s) themselves. That’s not integration, that grafting. And it’s the only option given to them under the circumstances.

As for the PlayStation, I’ll admit to thinking that this isn’t quite there either. This rumored feature also feels like a graft to me. When new products are designed from the outset with the Web 2.0 experience in mind (which I don’t believe the PlayStation was), fully understanding and appreciating that the Experience goes beyond the tangibility of the device itself – beyond merely connecting – and thus reflecting back upon the device itself in some tangible, interactive manner, then we’ll see products that take the market by storm. Kinda like the iPod (which would have been so much more compelling had users been able to “share” content wirelessly just as they do online).

If anyone has any products in mind that fit this admittedly nebulous standard for integration with Web 2.0, please share them. It’s not just possible, it’s likely that I’ve missed some excellent examples and would very much appreciate learning about them.

4 thoughts on “Product Design 2.0

  1. Hi,

    I’m actually writing a response via a post and it should be up later today, if I have the time.

    Thanks for the debate, and you are right our difference of opinion is as you described in your first quote.

    But after reading this post, I think we are speaking about the same things, but coming from different angles.

    I’ll be intouch.

    BTW I have done an experiement, a quote to another blog after the tag is still picked up by technorati. Perhaps they have changed their engine.


  2. I think we are speaking about the same things, but coming from different angles.

    I considered that, actually. I think there are two angles: tangible product design to intangible Web 2.0, and the inverse. Only I’ve planted my feet – and my business – equally in both; not beholden to either angle as most people are, so I have a slight advantage (emphasis on “slight” as I see you and others quickly grokking the situation).

    BTW I have done an experiement, a quote to another blog after the tag is still picked up by technorati. Perhaps they have changed their engine.

    I’ve been wondering if they have. I should also test this. Thanks for the heads up.

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