Swapfig News: Six Options for Future Growth [part 2].

Six Options for Future Growth [part 2].

Part 1 of this three part post was basically a TL;DR of our current situation and the underlying emotions surrounding them. Now it's time for Part 2, where we'll go over the six possible options we can take concerning Swapfig's future.

1. Shut it down.

If it's been causing so much grief, and the product is so bad, perhaps the best thing for Swapfig is to call it a day - even if it's too late to bow out gracefully.

Reasons for choosing this option:

  • BANG! and the stress is gone.
  • When things have gotten rough, especially when we were crowdfunding, giving up was the thing most people suggested we do.
  • Time and energy will be freed for other endeavours (designing/building MOCs, the day job, running other sites etc.).

Reasons against choosing this option:

  • It would be disrespectful to existing donors and those who supported our crowdfunding campaigns.
  • We would see those who didn't support us trying to save face on social media: "I don't know why Swapfig shut down..."
  • There's no guarantee that the complaining will stop: if anything it will become more personal.
  • The reputation of Swapfig's owner is already shot to pieces, and the site closing down would mean their future endeavours are far less likely to succeed.

2. Charging to use the site.

On the surface, this is the option that makes the most sense in terms of making money. After all, we're "running a business".

Reasons for choosing this option:

  • This option is best for attracting people who want to use the site, and keeping rogues/Bad Traders/squatters under control.
  • This would potentially provide the best return on investment, which would go back into the site by making improvements more quickly and through promoting/advertising.
  • We could potentially afford to bring in other people to develop and/or administer the site.
  • Above all else, this would provide the most incentive to focus our efforts on Swapfig, as opposed to other projects.

Reasons against choosing this option:

  • This would cause a mass exodus to other sites, reducing the number of [active] users.
  • There would be increased responsibility on my part: not only in terms of the site being absolutely required to work properly, but in site security and handling transactions.
  • "How dare they make money! It should be free!"
  • It would be difficult to find a suitable subscription model; not only would any price be considered too much, but Swapfig isn't really a frequent use site.
  • Swapfig is highly dependent on the longevity of Collectible Minifigures, minifigure/polybag collection, and the acceptance of the concept of trading/swapping (as opposed to buying and selling).

3. Remove advertising and be completely dependent on donations.

Reasons for choosing this option:

  • This would make people who don't want to see ads happy... for two seconds.
  • If more users were willing to make donations, Swapfig could become a more collaborative site (which, believe it or not, is what we wanted from the beginning).
Reasons against choosing this option

  • There's no guarantee of receiving anything at all; there would be much less incentive for people to donate.
  • We're certain that the site being ad-free would mean that more demands would be made of us.
  • No guarantee that complaining or badmouthing in general will even decrease.
  • It would be seen as a victory for those who complain about ads; their next target would be us asking for donations.

4. Prioritise supporters and donors.

This is similar to option two, except there would be a separation between donors and non-donors. Donors would have greater access to the site than those who haven't: a few ideas we've had include trading level capping, limiting the types of items that can be traded, and access to Swapfig's advanced features (eg. Who Wants..? and the printable Checklist).

Reasons for choosing this option:

  • This will support our renewed focus on people who actually use the site, and less focus on the number of users.
  • We can prioritise ideas and suggestions from people with "skin in the game", and readily dismiss lists of demands from those we've never seen before.
  • Incentives to donate would hopefully encourage more users to do so.

Reasons against choosing this option:

  • "How dare they ask for money! It should be free!"
  • More decisions will have to be made on how to handle donations, particularly those that don't involve money. Should a $1 donation give the same level of freedom as a $20 donation? How about one-off versus recurring donations?

5. Relegate Swapfig to a side project.

What if we didn't go for the aforementioned options and keep things as they are, but give Swapfig far less priority than it's had in the last three years?

Reasons for choosing this option:

  • Swapfig can live on.
  • The hard work already done on the site wouldn't have been for nothing.
  • There would potentially more time to focus on other endeavours.

Reasons against choosing this option:

  • There would be less frequent site updates (including the addition of new items), unless other people are brought in.
  • There would less incentive to continue running the site, as other more lucrative and interesting projects may take precedence.
  • It wouldn't stop the complaining at all; we could mention it being a side project all we want, but people (especially those who feel entitled to use Swapfig) would still expect it to run as normal.

6. Sell or pass the site on.

It's worked for a certain other site (that is allowed to make money), so perhaps Swapfig's future would be rosier in the hands of someone else. Anyone else, it could be argued!

Reasons for choosing this option:

  • Membership would increase at least tenfold - pick any reason you like.
  • Depending on the new owner, the site may see drastic improvements, and on a much faster timeline.
  • We can put Swapfig behind us and move on to other endeavours.

Reasons against choosing this option:

  • We'd be unlikely to find a buyer or a new owner.
  • We'd be very unlikely to reach a reasonable agreement or price, based on the site's current situation.
  • The new overlord owner would be very likely to implement option two! (although it would suddenly become a more acceptable option under them.)

We've had to give some serious thought about at least five of these options, and we think we've come to a decision about the path we're going to take. (You may have seen a hint on the site as to what we've decided.)

Stay tuned for Part 3, where we're going to spell things out in plain English.