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So You Want to Be the Next Zipcar? Principles of Design for the Sharing Economy

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The sharing economy has gained some high-profile backers recently. A female UX expert offers tips on how to design for it.

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

The sharing economy may sound like an idea out of a hippie commune, but since the runaway success of Zipcar and Airbnb, the movement towards collaborative consumption has gotten support from some high-profile folks who are more likely to be seen in board rooms that Birkenstocks.

Here’s Y Combinator partner Paul Graham on Twitter recently:

 

What’s behind Graham’s enthusiasm? Business Insider used the tweet as a launching point for a round-up of the latest sharing economy success stories.

If you’re a founder who shares Graham’s enthusiasm, how can you capitalize on these social shifts to become the next Spotify? Lada Gorlenko, a user experience expert at award-winning design firm Artefac, recently offered some advice on Fast Company. The complete article is well worth a read in full if this is your niche, but Gorlenko boils her wisdom down into five principles, including:

Allow for repeat customization. How do we design for recurring customization of a product so that subsequent owners can make the product feel like their own and remove the traces of previous ownership? Software customization is relatively easy: Wipe it out, and it’s ready. How about customization of hardware, beyond changing covers and decals?

Re-think maintenance to prolong product lifecycle. We tend to look after products we own to prolong their life. When products change hands often, wear-and-tear is a big issue. What are the materials that will make products look new longer? What are the techniques for easy refresh, so that a product is more appealing to new users?

Allow for multi-user scenarios. The previous challenges relate to sequential collaborative consumption where products are passed on from one user to another. However, collaborative consumption also stimulates concurrent usage among different users, such as when multiple users interact with a multitouch surface or similar interfaces.

Check out Fast Company for the other principles and more details on those listed here.

Women 2.0 readers: Do you agree with Graham that sharing is the future?

Jessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.

Photo credit: jcrakow