The benefits of giving consumers exposure to the product development process through minimum viable product can transfer to place. Several developers are experimenting with ways to get consumers involved in how space is designed and used.

In 2007, now-CEO of Dropbox Drew Houston believed he had developed a product that would solve the problems with file synchronisation that nobody knew they had.

Unfortunately, many potential customers couldn’t understand the concept of Dropbox when it was explained to them and investors couldn’t see how the product was different to the dozen others on the market.

Houston needed to allow potential customers to test his product so they could experience its magic for themselves, but he couldn’t afford to develop the product fully.

Houston’s solution was a four-minute-long narrated video that he published online which showed exactly how seamless and efficient of a file-sharing tool the application was. Overnight, thousands of people visited the Dropbox website and the beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people.

This demo video is an example of a "Minimum Viable Product" — a strategy where a new product is developed insofar as is has sufficient features to satisfy early adopters.

This technique is unique from traditional product development because the underlying goal is to start a learning process. Instead of releasing a finished and (hopefully) perfect product into the market, developers release a product that entices people to use or buy it initially, demonstrates future benefit to retain early adopters and provides a feedback loop to guide future development.

This technique is understandably big in the tech and design industries — and highly effective when utilised correctly.

Interestingly, those who develop place face many of the same difficulties as those who develop products: long-term timelines; big upfront costs; establishing, maintaining and capitalising on interest from investors and the public; maintaining and increasing momentum; increasing product or place value with each stage of development; and securing feedback in early development phases and incorporating feedback received in later development phases.

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