My name’s Drew (also known as SilentMode in LEGO circles).
To any fans of LEGO, and particularly fans of LEGO minifigures, let me ask you a question:
How many times have you wanted a specific minifigure, but didn’t want to buy a whole set – or spend hours feeling through packets and risk getting the wrong one?
Wouldn’t it be easier to trade with someone who had the figure you want?
Introducing Project Swapfig: a web site where collectors of LEGO minifigures can trade their unwanted figures for ones they want.
Why Project Swapfig?
Trading is one of the best ways of interacting with other fans of LEGO, as well as saving time, money and energy on building a collection – but it’s often been discouraged in favour of selling and making a profit.
People who are interested in trading are reliant on posting in forums and individual site pages, but keeping their lists updated is as much of a challenge as keeping track of offers and trades – and finding other people to trade with. Even on the popular LEGO fan sites and forums, only a small percentage of people are aware of others’ requests for trades.
There is an existing site for trading LEGO’s Collectible Minifigures, which I have used to trade with other people, but there were some very noticeable and fundamental features missing. Being the impatient, ambitious developer I am, I couldn’t wait for those issues to be addressed, nor could I wait for someone else to take action – so I decided to build an improved solution almost immediately.
Project Swapfig’s main goal is to reintroduce trading as a way of building a collection of LEGO minifigures – but even more importantly to bring traders together and connect like-minded LEGO fans.
Here are some screenshots of the site in progress. Bear in mind that the finished site will look a lot better, but for the time being it’s functionality over design.
As an added bonus, Project Swapfig can support the trading of other LEGO minifigures, not just those from the Collectible Minifigure series. For the initial launch only the Collectible Minifigures will be available – I will consider adding some more depending on how things go.
If you’re quick, you can choose which series of LEGO minifigures gets added to Project Swapfig first, by getting the “DIBS” package.
Features of Project Swapfig
- Being able to trade one or more figures at a time. Whereas the existing trading site only caters for single minifigure trades, Project Swapfig will allow users to trade as many figures as they want at once.
- Maintaining “haves” and “wants” inventories for each user. If you have large numbers of figures you want to trade (as I do!), the last thing you want is to count them all over and over. Project Swapfig will automatically decrease the numbers of figures you trade with others, so everybody will know exactly what they have left.
- Marking specific figures as being more or less important. Project Swapfig has a basic priority system which lets users define which figures (in their wants list) are more desired than others. When browsing for people to trade with, those with more desired figures are listed first.
- Viewing other users’ haves and wants lists. No more having to copy/paste/manage/remember the lists of figures you want to trade; just point people to your Project Swapfig profile.
- Keeping track of offers and trades. Project Swapfig will let you know the outcome of trade offers you make, as well as ones that cannot be fulfilled because of a shortage of specific figures. You will also be able to see which figures are in accepted trades, and who has sent what.
- Basic trading restrictions. Some people don’t want to trade outside their country, and some people only want to trade a minimum number of figures. Both options are available through profile settings, including a “domestic only” option.
- A messaging system between users. You’ll be able to send messages to other users through Project Swapfig, without having to reveal your e-mail address.
- Not just the Collectible Minifigures! Many traders have been interested in trading other kinds of LEGO minifigures, most notably from the Star Wars theme. Project Swapfig is able to add these out of the box for trading. (For the initial launch I will be focusing on the Collectible Minifigures only.)
- A strict “two strikes and out” policy. Safety is paramount: unfortunately there are rogue traders even in the LEGO community, and while other web sites are happy to let them off, I am not. That’s why Project Swapfig will have a strict policy against fraudulent and misbehaving users: if they receive two “strikes” against them they are immediately banned. Some offences will result in an immediate ban. In addition, users will be able to exclude trade offers and trading with anyone who has a strike against them.
- Statistics! As more people join the site and trade with other users, I will be introducing some statistical data based on activity. It should be interesting to see which of the Collectible MInifigure series is the most popular, which figures are hot property etc.
Project Swapfig will always be improving, so I am open to any suggestions on how to make it better – or any questions about the features to be included.
Why a Kickstarter project?
Project Swapfig will be launched on May 1st as is, and will be completely free to use as an ad-supported web site. To give the launch as much of an impact as possible, and to ensure the long-term success of Project Swapfig, I could use all the help and support I can get – hence a Kickstarter project to raise some money.
The main aim of the Kickstarter project is to promote Project Swapfig, to attract as many potential traders of LEGO minifigures as possible. The money raised will go towards online (and maybe even print) ads, as well as spending time on improving the look of the site and producing Project Swapfig merchandise (as shown below). As a web developer, I know full well that pretty web sites are far more likely to be promoted and exposed, leading to more people using the site.
I’m looking at Project Swapfig’s first five years, and reaching the target amount will cover the usual costs of running a site (web hosting, domain name etc.), as well as being able to spend more time on development and improvements.
Project Swapfig will be launched regardless of support and backing, but the whole process will be made much easier if this Kickstarter project succeeds.
I’ve been working on Project Swapfig since September, being both in and out of work, and all things aside this is my baby. It’s been a very long and complicated process, with absolutely no help with development, and so I would really appreciate your backing.
Some of the goodies
Reaching this project’s target will allow me to produce all the offered goodies (and perhaps more!), but here are a couple of enticing photos of what’s on offer.
If we exceed the target amount there may be more Project Swapfig merchandise on the cards… but I only be able to offer these and the above minifigures if we reach the goal.
Who this guy thinks he is
I’m a Londoner living in London, and I work as a freelance web developer: self taught and with over eight years experience in front-end web development. I’m used to working virtually on my own, and as well as SilentMode.tv (my LEGO-related site) I run geo.pick: a popular random city picker. I like creative, niche web projects such as this one, and I take what I do very seriously. I’m very fussy about user experience (UX), and I never liked Web 2.0 – in fact, since my designs are mostly CSS, I did the flat colour thing long before it became trendy.
You can see some of the things I’ve designed and built with LEGO by visiting my Flickr photostream. You may also have heard about Graduates and Gorillas: the game, and some of my other projects on LEGO CUUSOO: that was me.
I’ve gotten this far with building Project Swapfig, which has turned out to be quite a challenge, and up until now I’ve done it without help. Please show your support by backing this Kickstarter project, as well as spreading the word (use #Swapfig!) wherever you can.
Again, if you have any questions or suggestions for improving Project Swapfig, please contact me.
The gorgeous music used in the video is Dusk & Umber (ISAN remix) by Origamibiro (http://www.origamibiro.com/). They have some excellent music, so please check them out.
Lastly, Project Swapfig is completely independent of The LEGO Group, who owns the LEGO trademark.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
I’ve been working on my own on Project Swapfig since September 2012, and I realised that creating a minifigure trading site is far more complicated than it appears.
My main concern is with the inevitable issues that will come up after the site launches (I’m taking bets as to what the very first comment will be), and particularly with the unique features that Project Swapfig offers, as well as the ability to report problems. By far the most important challenge is in dealing with misbehaving users. While we know that certain other sites often let troublemakers slide, Project Swapfig will have a strict “two strikes and out” policy. As much as possible I want to avoid people getting screwed over.
What greatly helps is my experience as a web developer (8+ years) with a focus on user experience and interactivity, and my ability to problem-solve and find creative solutions, [reluctantly] without any assistance. It also helps that I’ll be using Project Swapfig myself! I’m hoping against hope there won’t be any major issues on launch, but when(!) they come up I will be around to fix them.
As far as the future of the site: I am serious about Project Swapfig doing incredibly well, and I will not rest on my laurels or use it as an ego trip. I can’t do everything myself, and I will be looking for other people to help with moderation and site maintenance, as well as someone to take care of site design.
This project is about building a trading environment for fans of LEGO (and minifigures), and reintroducing trading as a means of interaction and collection building. That said, I’m risking my reputation as an AFOL on the quality of Project Swapfig, so it’s in my interests to make sure it’s the best site it can be.
Support this project today: CLICK HERE