Social design for Springleap

Cape Town’s new collaborative T-shirt design website is a really interesting piece of social design.

A couple of weeks ago, Eric Edelstein, the CEO of Springleap asked me to pop by and chat about the user experience strategy for his site.

The idea for the site is simple: Designers submit designs for t-shirts, the community votes on the designs, and the winning t-shirts get printed and made available for to buy on the site. The designers of those shirts get a cash prize and people can come and buy the shirts.

Eric holding a Springleap shirt
Eric Edelstein and one of Springleap’s shirts.

It’s similar to Threadless but the community rules and processes are a bit different. And therein lies the challenge. Designing a community that works, and that makes money, is not easy but always interesting.

The number one rule for social design is: deliver personal value to each individual user. That way you’ll attract members regardless of how big or small the network is already. When you’ve attracted members, value will start to emerge from their interactions, and the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.

Now: where’s the personal value? Designers see value in submitting designs: they might win money, and they will certainly get exposure. And shoppers see value in buying: the shirts are limited editions by talented designers. The tricky part is the getting people to vote. There’s no obvious incentive for them to do it.

But people are already voting, and with some planned improvements to the site, they should soon be voting even more. Here are some reasons:

  • The designers encourage people to come and vote for them. This means the promotional activity for the site is distributed to the members themselves. That’s very scalable.
  • People who came to the site as designers or shoppers can be “seduced” into voting. Once they have completed their primary goals, designers want to check out the competition and shoppers want to find new things to buy.
  • Voters will earn kudos for voting, and particularly for predicting the winning designs. So if you vote well, you can become a respected design pundit on the site, and get free stuff too.
  • Voting will be very very easy. That’s a straight usability challenge. Put voting opportunities in attaractive locations, and make the voting process extremely quick.

Springleap T shirts in their bags
Getting a Springleap t-shirt is a great customer experience. There’s a mini brochure of that month’s winning shirts, and a postcard and badge of your chosen design.

It’s working so far

There are all sorts of business and community design challenges for Springleap to tackle. But the bottom line is: they’re getting designs in, selling t-shirts and doing something amazing. The web gives them world-wide reach, and there’s no need to stop at just t-shirts, either.

There’s a great vibe in the office, and we had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas. But the best thing about my visit: they paid me in T-shirts!

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