Tuesday, April 19, 2011


What are the similarities and differences between a community-driven product development process and a traditional product development process within a firm?

- Both go through basic development phases such as design, production, marketing, distribution, and customer services (though the community-driven one engages community tremendously in several phases, especially design and marketing).
- Both try to satisfy customer needs, either via formal market research as in traditional process or through community voting as in community-driven product.
- Both need to find more ways to bring in new customers such as rewarding referrals (though the community-driven one has users refer to others through links on their own blogs or via social networks instead of referring to others traditionally in person or via phone).
- Community-driven product development process engages a great variety of activities performed by the community as in the Threadless case: submitting designs, critiquing submitted designs, blogging about their daily lives, posting songs and videos inspired by the designs and most importantly purchasing t-shirts. In contrast, a traditional one is typically constrained by activities performed by the firm itself and involves no or limited community activities. For example, the latter has a team of designers and after some market research, comes up with new designs, and picks a few that it considers the best itself. The only community activity for the latter is to purchase whatever company designers (not "community" designers) make.
- A website for community-driven products is used not only for selling products but also for varying other services to meet different needs of the community. As in Threadless, people go to the website to buy t-shirts, to use the site to practice design skills and get feedback from fellow artists, to try to win design prizes, to interact with other consumers and designers, and to participate in blogs. A website for traditionally developed products is mainly for selling and might go as far as allowing buyers to comment and vote on products.
- For marketing, a traditional process pays for ads on public mass media such as TV, magazines, or radio. Recently, these companies also pay for ads on the Internet. For community-driven ones such as Threadless, they exploit less expensive and arguably more effective methods such as word-of-mouth marketing and press coverage as "the two major sources of Threadless community expansion."