Open-ended vs closed-ended online creation

My last couple of posts on online creation, I wrote about frictionless creationproduct relevancy and immediate context. I think all these factors are important to make online creation successful. In this last post of the series, I am writing about open-ended and closed-ended creation.

Let me explain what I mean with Open-ended and Closed-ended Online Creation. Closed-ended is online creation within limits, and the end goal or purpose of creating is clear. As a user, you can configure or modify but cannot fundamentally change the form and function of what the creation should be. Perfect examples are product configurators. It gives you freedom to express, but the end result keeps — more or less — the same form and function.

Open-ended creation allows you to create but does not limit either form and/or function. It is up to the user to determine what it shall be. Example is twitter. People use it for conversations, news notifications or link sharing. Twitter does not restrict the use cases and limits only the form. Not the function. You see a lot of creative expressions based on Twitter because of that design decision. It allowed the platform for creation to become greater than its creators could have foreseen.

Obviously, open-ended creation allows for more elaborate, creative expressions. The key to success though is to either limit the form or function to make it understandable and doable from a user’s perspective.

Designing content for 3D printing today is hard because of this. There are two options to create content; 3D design software and product configurators. 3D design software offers no limits, but adds lots of friction due to the complexity and steep learning curve. Or we have product configurators, which are only mildly successful because they limit too much — both form and function at the same time.

An interesting concept is Mineways in this regard. It is an extremely simple 3D editor which is open-ended in form and function. Another one, which comes to mind, is TinkerCAD, though I still feel it does not give enough context to make me excited.

The key for success for 3d printing is easy creation and modification of designs. My dream is to enable frictionless creation combined with strong open-ended abilities for expressing creativity. I hope we can get there!

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