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It seems it's the time for LEGO sites. :-)

I've been working on something for the past couple years, for selling both LEGO and potentially other products as well... I'd be interested to hear any feedback. It's easy to get started.

http://www.pieceparts.com

The theory is simple. Instead of keeping all the revenue generated in a central body, pay it back to anyone who contributes.

Upload an image? Get credit ANY time that item sells. Forever. Someone who uploads a lot of images could potentially fund their hobby. Enter an item? Same situation.

It is young. But with all the changes going on in the LEGO world right now, I think it is time to get out there!

Comments

  • PaperballparkPaperballpark Near ManchesterMember Posts: 4,057
    I hate to put a downer on things, as I'm sure you've worked very hard on it, but I won't be using it. The design is very outdated (honestly, who uses HTML tables these days?) and is possibly even worse than BL. There's no coherence to the design, and I'd go so far as to say it looks like you've used a really old 'off-the-shelf' template, for want of a better phrase.

    Furthermore, I may be missing something here, but your central idea of paying revenue to people who contribute doesn't sound too sustainable to me. If you don't get any revenues, then why are you doing it?

    I also don't see how you're going to attract sellers to what looks on the surface like a poor man's Bricklink. The site says 'sell free in 2013' but you're hardly shouting about it.

    Furthermore, you've signed up here simply to promote your site. Where is the guarantee that you're a long-standing member of the community, who has contributed extensively and has a good idea of what the AFOL community wants?

    I admire you for trying, but I fear that it just won't get off the ground.
    hantot
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    Very helpful, for sure...

    I'm not shouting because it's early. Testing the waters. I've only posted here, and this is helpful. It is a combination of HTML & PHP. You don't care for HTML tables at all? Interesting...

    Revenue... presumably there would be, eventually. Just not this year.

    As to signing up, I'm new here... but I'm a longtime member of Eurobricks, where I posted a thread about "Bill & Mary go to the airport" and others. I've come here and been having a look around. So far I like it.

    Will keep at it...
    -mike

  • PaperballparkPaperballpark Near ManchesterMember Posts: 4,057
    That's fair enough, welcome to Brickset! (Not everyone here is as blunt as me.) I'd be curious as to what members of Eurobricks think of it; I assume you've posted there too?

    Yes you're right that I don't care for HTML tables. In my opinion you can do far more and have far better and more flexible design using DIVs and CSS. There is no longer any need for HTML tables in websites, and IMHO using them will generally only constrain and frustrate good design. They were fine 5 or 10 years ago, but things have moved on now.

    I never made any claims that my feedback was helpful, but then I am honest (sometimes brutally so). If I like a design, I'll say so. If I don't, I won't mince my words and pretend that I do.
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    No, haven't posted there -- I was just doing a small float to get some ideas and a fresh perspective. It's been so long in the works, and as you notice, yes, a lot of work... but I agree there is a lot to do.

    As to tables... I try to only use them where tabular data is represented, tho if you dig around, you can spot a few places they are used for formatting...

    The fb is appreciated. Brutal? Nah, it goes w the territory. Practical feedback on changing things is not going to be "looks great thanks". ;-)
  • red5red5 Member Posts: 7
    I wouldn't worry about using tables. Still useful. You might want to look at your cache/form settings so the back button still works. And theres a php error making it into the page at catalogColors.php. Interesting though, good luck!
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    Thanks Red. That error is fixed. I've been converting pages from posts showing data to redirected gets. If you (or anyone) notices a page from which you cannot back up please let me know. They are a quick fix and I've just missed that page.
  • BustinBustin Member Posts: 286
    While certainly not a modern design it is far more attractive than brick link.
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    Thank you, I've been meaning to take the logo and block-letters on primary colors concept and tie that in throughout. (the center puzzle thingy is just temporary) Imagery has just taken a back seat to functionality. If anyone has an artists touch and would want to help out in that regard, please find me... Keep in mind this is not a prefab / skinned site... wordpress, etc, it's entirely from scratch so the sky is the limit.
  • BumblepantsBumblepants DFWMember Posts: 6,902
    Tip: Kill the rainbow gradient in the lettering and kill it quickly! Use one of your solid colors from the other text or something, anything but that.
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    The things that seemed neat at the time... ;-) I do want colorful and fun... but not tacky.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    No intention of signing up yet, so only a quick look at it. It looks like a fairly poor copy of bricklink - it just looks like a bricklink clone. The way you search for items, the way you add items. I'm not sure that's helpful and if you want to attract buyers and sellers you need to improve (fairly significantly) on the current available technology. From what I can see, and it was only a quick look, this doesn't.

    As a software developer and former web developer, I would echo the comments about tables (and rainbow colours and is that comic sans?). Sure, if you want to do it, but rightly or wrongly it says a lot about you and the probable success of the website.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    Im also not convinced combining toys is a good idea. Might be better just to duplicate the system with linked sites for the other toys. You could still allow shops and baskets to span multiple toy sites.

    Good luck though, and well done for doing it. I just think you need something special, something extra to make it a better alternative than bricklink. That has to be the base line. You could easily update the look and style which might bring it in to line with bricklink and even better, but what is going to make this site a better experience for the buyers and sellers than sticking with bricklink - which has a user base, people know it etc.
    Joseph
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    Thanks Cheshire... I've gone back and forth on having it look more or less like other sites. Some have said that a familiar look and feel would create an immediate sense of usability, so it's a tradeoff. Within minutes I could change the menus to pull-downs, or on the left side, or anything else, but then it's just less familiar, not necessarily better. So the style is just a matter of tweaking the CSS. Do you have suggestions there?

    What you bring up is the key. Differentiation. I have many ideas of things that will set this apart... including having the content be rewarded... and an internal currency that will allow ppl to buy and sell without expensive 3rd parties like Paypal. Automated shipping, automated VAT, all these things were never incorporated into other sites.

    As to combining items. I know this is touchy. LEGO fans like their LEGO and ONLY LEGO. (heh, me too). One thought is to allow one to select a product line at signup and have the site customize and only show those facets of the site. Default in the Product Line, and so on. Suffice to say that when browsing a LEGO line, ONLY LEGO will be shown. No customized parts or after-market chromed parts.

    But only selling LEGO is limiting. I have (for example) boxes of classic 80's Star Wars with nowhere great to sell them. While that may not appeal to you, and surely you might want to suppress even knowing they're there... it most certainly will appeal to toy collectors of the other genres.

  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 19,653
    What do you mean by an internal currency? As a buyer, I'd nearly always prefer to pay with PayPal, since there is buyer protection if things go wrong. How are you going to deal with buyers saying sellers have not sent something (or sellers complaining they sent something and the buyer saying they haven't).

  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    You're hitting on some of the key reasons this was not implemented previously. It's not a walk in the park... but it's doable w the right thought put into it. There are some basics... like Paypal does, absorb some losses, carry a reserve to cover issues, establish trends, verify addresses, make such a service opt-in, vet users, and so on... But this is *not* in place now. I'm thinking about what I don't like about buying elsewhere... and paying high fees is definitely one of those things that needs to be addressed. Buyer protection would be a staple of any such system... I've always maintained if you cannot buy with confidence then internet commerce would not work. The trick is in hammering down the loopholes to control abuse.
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 19,653
    So who is going to carry the loses? You?

    Who is going to cover the costs of vetting users? You?

    If so, surely you will need to charge users to cover these losses and other charges.

  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    CCC,
    When such is implemented, fees will of course change. However, I believe it is possible to do this for less than the Ebay/Paypal combination, which suffice to say, is extremely costly. However... this is way ahead of establishing the core functionality. While I believe these concepts can and will work, at this early stage I'm testing the registration, ordering, cataloging, and imaging functions, while relying on Paypal or other payment methods for the financials. It's going to be that way for now (sigh) until I am certain of financial sustainability, security, and a system of buyer (and seller) protection.

    For now... I am interested in developing that core functionality. When we get to that point later, we (myself, and anyone interested in participating) would engage in that discussion. I'm sure it will be a hot one -- because of how much ppl dislike Paypal, (as a seller), like Paypal (as a buyer), despise fees, yet want to buy with confidence.
    -mike
  • piratemania7piratemania7 New EnglandMember Posts: 2,144
    I'll admit. Great idea and concept. Of course, so much in life is. I am however confused and frustrated by the idea of yet ANOTHER site to sign up and register for, to keep track of, to visit, etc etc etc. I enjoyed BrickOwl and going there to check things out, I just feel like this is an off shoot to BL. Not knocking though, you are putting in the effort so kudos.
  • mr_bennmr_benn United KingdomMember Posts: 890
    Whilst I have to admit to echoing other's comments about the site, I just wanted to say that your airport on Eurobricks is superb :)
  • PaperballparkPaperballpark Near ManchesterMember Posts: 4,057
    I know I've already commented, but for what it's worth, I'm going to again.

    I noticed before that it was similar to BL, but I've just been deeper into it, and it's almost exactly the same style! Now it's one thing to copy a website which has a good looking, easy to use design, but BL has neither.

    If you design a site better and easier to use than BL then people will consider switching. However, if you make a website virtually identical to BL, what is the incentive for people to switch from BL? There is none whatsoever. It's not better designed and it's not easier to use. I'd actually go as far to say it's harder to use.

    Take this page for example: http://www.pieceparts.com/buySearch.php?iid=28613&color=7

    Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer. Assuming you've managed to get as far as that page (more about that below), where on that page would you click to buy the item? Being so used to BL, I clicked the store name, which only took me to the store page. So I went back, and at first I couldn't actually see anything that said 'Buy this item'. It was only by looking hard that I noticed the bland shopping trolley.

    I recognise you saying that people will be familiar with the design, and you're right with that, but I'm not sure that's actually a good thing. People have been saying for years how badly designed and unintuitive BL is for new users, so by making your site a virtual copy of BL, by definition your site will be the same things!

    Now, about it being harder to use and navigate than BL. To get to the page above, I had to click the mouse 6 times from the homepage. (buy -> 'Family' drop-down box -> LEGO -> 'Part' drop-down box -> Brick -> Blue brick 1x1). To get to the equivalent page from the homepage in BL, I only had to click 4 times (buy -> parts -> brick -> Blue brick 1x1) and you can remove one of those steps by clicking on 'parts' from the homepage.

    People haven't got time for loads of drop-down menus these days. They want simplicity and ease of use. Hiding things away in menus doesn't help with that.
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    Thanks Pirate. It has been a lot of work... For the longest time there was only Bricklink -- a monopoly of the LEGO after-market, and nowhere to sell anything else except Ebay which has pretty much locked up the "selling stuff" market. Still, most ppl I know don't like buying or selling on Ebay yet they do so because it gets the job done. Pieceparts is small and primitive as of now but hopefully it might catch some momentum and grow from there. I appreciate the feedback...
    -mike
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    @Paper... You know, I had a lot of those thoughts in the back of my mind, and can't disagree w you at all! I think sometimes after working on something alone for so long you need a kick in the pants to get back on the path to what ppl want... That's what I came here for, and I totally appreciate the frankness!

    I think you have pointed out a lot of what I needed to hear, that ppl need a simple click-thru to get to where they can buy. At Amazon it's on the first page you visit -- and Amazon is insanely successful for it.

    "unintuitive BL is for new users" Understood... and point taken. This will take some thought...

    @Mr_Benn... Than you. :-) Can't wait to finish and post pics of my City Center Hotel / Luxury Living / Fun Center triple-tower skyscraper. :-D It's so near done that I want to put pix out but waiting till it's polished is so much better...
  • PhoneboothPhonebooth USMember Posts: 1,430

    I know I've already commented, but for what it's worth, I'm going to again."

    We get it, you don't like it. Move along.

    @squishyball - Good luck with your efforts. I always say that it takes brass to try anything new, to build something from scratch. There's a thousand people on here bitching about everything from BL to fleabay but hardly anyone does anything about it.

    "I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb." ~ T. Edison

    EKSam
  • hantothantot UKMember Posts: 281
    I'll back up @paperballpark tables should be used for data display and not to aid formating, which was common place only a few years back - also a personal bug bare of mine, not all (or any in fact) of your pages conform to XHTML standard yet you've got the W3C XHTML1.0 badge everywhere, so I'd ditch it or "fix" your pages
  • EKSamEKSam Member Posts: 349
    @squishyball

    All the very best with the new site. Its better to have tried and tested then not at all. :-))

    @Phonebooth
    Hear, Hear! :-))
  • paul_mertonpaul_merton UKMember Posts: 2,966
    Am I being blind, or is there no search functionality?
  • paul_mertonpaul_merton UKMember Posts: 2,966
    ^ Ah, found it on http://www.pieceparts.com/catalogView.php. I think that's the kind of thing people would expect to find on the homepage.
  • paul_mertonpaul_merton UKMember Posts: 2,966
    I think there might be some cross-site scripting vulnerabilities. Some of the item names start with 'S' (with the single quotes) and I wasn't sure what that meant, so I searched for it to see which other items also contained that string, and the search box went empty. Looking at the HTML returned by the server, you're not encoding the search term properly which might allow attribute injection (I haven't confirmed that, as I don't do security tests without permission, but I'm happy to have a quick poke around if you want).
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 19,653

    Thanks Pirate. It has been a lot of work... For the longest time there was only Bricklink -- a monopoly of the LEGO after-market, and nowhere to sell anything else except Ebay which has pretty much locked up the "selling stuff" market. Still, most ppl I know don't like buying or selling on Ebay yet they do so because it gets the job done. Pieceparts is small and primitive as of now but hopefully it might catch some momentum and grow from there. I appreciate the feedback...
    -mike

    That was true. Now there are other sites ... bricktrader, brickowl, (and swap ones such as swapfig) etc. Both these are good attempts, and I really hope at least one of them is a success. Their (hopeful) success relies on being different from bricklink - having decent features that people have wanted for a long time and bricklink have completely failed to implement.

    I really don't see what your site offers that is any different to bricklink. They charge fees (3%), and you state that you will also charge fees (1-3%) in the future.

    You will give some fees back for those that contribute, so there is a possible slight advantage there.

    Any commercial site needs a payment system. I cannot see any other way apart from integrating PayPal, or some other existing commercial system, for which there will be fees. I cannot see how you will use an internal currency - are you really going to think about banking licenses for some countries or continents (eg EU, Aus and Japan), money transmitting regulations in the US, and so on. So that doesn't give you a USP either. And as already noted, there is a cost of running an internal currency system above this, due to fraud and chargebacks. So there must be fees associated with that.

    So the only real advantage is that sellers might get a little bit back by supplying images and data. To get the big sellers to move you are going to need to provide a large incentive, which includes a large buyer userbase. So how are you going to get buyers to move? What incentive is there for them? Without a significant number of buyers, sellers won't move. Without a reason to move, buyers will stay put.
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14

    ^ Ah, found it on http://www.pieceparts.com/catalogView.php. I think that's the kind of thing people would expect to find on the homepage.

    Thank you Paul! Will definitely add it there...
  • SquishyBallSquishyBall Member Posts: 14
    CCC, You make a lot of good points. However all sites start small. Mine is small. I don't have a budget, years of history or an established userbase. It may grow and work, it may fail and just be an exercise in business. But I'm not one to say someone else is already doing it so that's that. There is room for competition, and only by trying to overcome those issues that you mention can competition succeed. Look at Ebay. They stomped out the competition and jacked fees thru the roof. Now ppl use them, they're the best, they have the userbase. That's the nature of business. There is just accepting that and doing nothing or attempting something else.

    "I cannot see any other way apart from integrating PayPal"

    So no commercial site will succeed that doesn't use PayPal? PayPal is there for ppl who want it. They can use it now at pieceparts. I have no issue w PayPal, I use them myself. But they are hugely expensive. I think I can do a better job. If you are skeptical, that's totally understandable, but I'll still try... :-/
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