Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Supporting Creativity within Web-Based Self-Services

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Supporting Creativity within Web-Based Self-Services

Article excerpt

Introduction

Web-based customization self-services allow and encourage a diverse set of consumers to engage in creative work. In the not-too-distant past most consumers purchased mass-manufactured products from a physical store, whereas today people can remotely acquire a variety of individually tailored items ranging from sneakers to wedding invitations. Increasingly, companies provide online configurator software, inviting consumers to customize their own products: Timbuk2 beckons, "customize a bag" (Timbuk2: www.timbuk2.com); Chocri bids, "design your own chocolate bar" (Chocri: www.createmychocolate.com); and miMuesli calls, "mingle your favourite Muesli" (Muesli: uk.mymuesli.com).

These Web-based customization self-services expand expectations for creative performance for anyone with Internet access, yet customers' creative ability, and their perception of it, may vary greatly. Though technology has the potential to enable this mass cultivation of creativity, people will be more motivated to use such self-services if they believe they are able to use these tools to take creative action and will be more encouraged to return if they feel their product is a successful result of their efforts. If performance expectations and perceived performance are aligned there are potential benefits for both the individual customer and the providing manufacturer. If these aspects of the online experience are mismatched, customer satisfaction suffers possibly resulting in a decrease in the revenue and customer base of the provider (Meuter, Ostrom, Roundtree, & Bitner, 2000; Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Malhotra, 2002). Given enhanced performance opportunities and expectations, how can service designers best support the creative experience and performance of the individual customer? While service designers can focus on functionality and usability without understanding the underlying psychology of motivation and creativity, this added knowledge might contribute to the design of more effective technology-based self-services. This under-utilized theoretical perspective can help to explore what supports creativity online and how outcomes vary across customers and products.

In this paper, we take a step towards formalizing a set of design principles to support the creative experience and performance offered by Web-based customization self-services. We draw from research concerned with supporting individual creativity in the fields of psychology and human-computer interaction (HCI) and from cases of how service designers have approached the design of existing Web-based customization self-services. The paper is organized into four sections. The introduction sets the stage for this work, including a history of self-service technologies, the evolution of the customers' role in product creation, and research on customer satisfaction with Web-based services. The second section lays out our approach to understanding issues of motivating and sustaining creativity. The third section outlines nine design principles, each including a description, supporting research, and examples from existing Web-based customization self-services. In the final section, we discuss the broader implications of this work, including what it means to actively manage customers' online experiences, and potential future efforts to generalize these design principles to a wider range of task-specific Web self-services.

Self-service Technologies

Self-service technologies are technological interfaces that enable customers to produce a service independent of direct employee involvement (Meuter et al., 2000). These were originally placed at the location of service, allowing customers to withdraw money from ATMs outside their local bank, pay for gas at pump terminals, and check out from hotels at kiosks in the lobby. As Internet access became ubiquitous, a new category of self-service technology emerged off site. These Web-based self-services are Internet-supported interfaces that enable customers' access wherever and whenever they have Web access, still without the need for a direct service representative. …

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