Continuing on the theme of User Driven Design there are three essential steps.
Understanding these steps will help us diagnose existing User Driven Design software, focus on possible improvements and generate new and useful combinations.
At the most basic level the first step for automated user driven design is the selection (and submission) of the users particular base elements.
The best tools generally accept uploads and in the current crop of UDD tools they are nearly always digital photos. Photos are used because they are common, consumers are comfortable dealing with them and they provide a large amount of customization with minimal effort. I would argue other user data is equally (or even more) accessible and because it is underused there is more opportunity with other base elements. A few examples might be a friends list from Facebook or a list of favorite music from Last.fm but we will go into this more later.
The second step is using the user driven design tool to refine a users base elements in one or more ways. Commonly there is an initial selection of a basic theme which establishes a range of choices. Then the user uses those remaining choices to modify, reorder or in some way refine the combination of elements and theme.
The last step of the flow is to apply the design and elements to the final output. From a user perspective a digital representation of the final product is often presented. Their image married to a virtual T-Shirt or a digital book they can page through are common examples. Often at this simulated output stage the user is given the option of jumping back into the design step to make adjustments. In the analysis of this step choices about the range of possible outputs for a particular tool are critical. The options of customized output is expending at a very rapid pace. The tools to make that ever widening range simply aren’t keeping up.