Depending on the initial product, and design situation I would choose accordingly. Online communities are a great way to help us innovate, as it pools resources together on a interactive platform. I would never make use of online communities for the first parts of the design process. In order to effectively use online communities, a certain amount of knowledge has to be created about a design, to efficiently communicate it to other individuals over the internet. Online Communities help us innovate, but don’t do it for us. In order to use these communities to innovate we have to create a sort of case study in which other individuals can give constructive feedback, post new ideas, and discuss the design problems. If the parameters given are not sufficient, the possibility that the knowledge communicated diverges from the original topic are great, reducing the effectiveness of the online communities.
Of course besides the design challenge, it might be difficult to find financing, or support for a product. Online micro-financing sites like Kick-starter allow us to finance the design and production of our products without having to make high interest loans to banks, or businesses. Sites like Microfinancing.com give the possibility to fund projects for NGO’s, or help people in need. There are various types of online financing that can allow you to continue designing your product.
When an online community pools the interest of enough individuals it reduces production and design costs allowing for sustainable human development without mass debt. These communities allow for individuals to contribute to the community without a hierarchical leader, showing how dynamic we can be as humans. We should start using online communities more, to overcome design challenges, but also to improve the human condition.