It is not the features. It's not even accessing it on a web browser. (Though that's nice, I doubt the tech will be where it needs to be to be useful anytime soon.) No, it is the damn interface. It's too complicated. We've known it for nearly a decade and it's only gotten marginally better. It needs to be dumb-simple.
I've previously praised Viewer 2.0 for being a great improvement. I should clarify - it is a big improvement for existing users of Second Life. Except the sidebar; we all know that sucks.
Rather than go into a long explanation right away, let me post a screenshot and give you an idea how a new user sees Second Life.
(click the images for a full-sized version of each.)
And here's my ideal browser for a new user:
So clean, so minimal. Look, I even kept most of the top-bar! Let's run through the changes.
1. Sidebar reduced to one tab. When it opens, then you can have all the different tabs. Once the sidebar opens ... geez, that's a monumental mess. The easiest improvement, if we're going for low-hanging-fruit here, would be that the first time you load each tab, it has a help screen describing what's in each tab and how to use it. You'll click "ok" and it'll then load the tab from then on.
2. Inventory sucks. It needs to work like Windows / Mac, with all the usual copy/paste shortcuts, view as icons / thumbnails, etc.
3. The bottom? Clean. Bottom bars make the whole client feel "caged in".
4. What's important on the bottom? How to chat. That's it.
- The headphones icon has replaced "Speak". It's far more intuitive that headphones means "You can use your headset to chat" than "speak".
- Volume control moved from the top-right, where it is hidden, to next to the headphones. The two logically go together. I kept the media play button there as well for the same reason.
- The happy face? Gestures. Again, universal icons with obvious meaning.
- I've kept most things. I think the Viewer 2.0 changes were good up top, for the most part.
- "Second Life" has been replaced with "SL Grid Viewer", since that is the name of the app, and the "Second Life" brand is silly and escapist.
- Removed L$ and Favorites. These will appear the first time you use them / need to use them.
- The time is in YOUR TIME ZONE. Seriously, is it that difficult? If Linden Lab insists upon using the server time, then both should be displayed.
Second Life's interface is a web browser plus a 3-D video game interface. Now, fortunately the web browser is a ubiquitous standard. Features that come from a web browser, such as the location bar, the top-left pull-down menus, etc, don't need much explanation, as long as the functionality works the same way. Games, however, are still foreign to a large percentage of the population, and so even basic concepts like, "Steer your avatar with WASD, and use your mouse for interaction" need to be taught and learned.
What does a new user need to learn? I'll take this straight out of my methodology for orientation spaces that I co-designed at Involve:
- This is your avatar. It is a representation of you. You will use it to interact with the world.
- Move around with your WASD keys, or your arrow keys.
- Most functions are similar to a web browser. Click to interact.
- Hit enter to pull up a chat window. Escape to close it.
- Alt-click and hold for zoom.
- E and C / page-up and page-down for flying.
- You can teleport between places in one area via touch, and places on the map via landmark or map.
See how easy it could be to learn with a simpler interface and a more rationale orientation curriculum?