Linden lab, as pointed to by Daniel Voyager, has overhauled the new user sign-up pages, making them cleaner and more direct. Gone are the old static pages, instead, a newcomer clicking on JOIN NOW is taken to a page that displays the new default avatars, which can be previewed in motion (to some extent) prior to selecting the most preferred one.
Once selected, the avatar slides over to a page requesting you assign it a user name, before sliding over to a third screen where the rest of the default information required to create an account is displayed (password, e-mail addy, etc. – all of which are mandatory).
Michelle Leckrone has produced a nice little video of these initial steps, which can be seen below.
Following these screens, you’re given the option of going for a free account, or a Premium, as shown on the left; once selected, you reach a screen inviting you to download and install the Viewer, as “Your avatar is awaiting you!”
Overall, it is a clean, slick approach to the sign-up process, although it does have a few teething troubles right now, and it again demonstrates the mistake LL made in doing away with the first name / last name format for avatar names.
The problems are in the fact that – once again – Linden Lab seem to have shot themselves in the foot when it comes to testing and QA: many users are reporting issues with the new sign-up system across all flavours of browsers. These are as minor as the selection bar on the first screen appearing OVER the avatars themselves, right up to the screen failing to load any avatars at all.
This isn’t really very clever, and needs fixing quickly. For my part I rant the process on the latest Chrome and Opera iterations, and found the selector bar issue in Opera, while Chrome displayed everything faultlessly.
The loss of a last name for an avatar is more of an issue inasmuch as it severely limits the choices available to users – hence the massive rise in names like “Jodie1234 Resident”. While it can be argued that the use of Display Names overcomes this limitation, the removal of the last name option – even when using a pre-selected list – has potentially lessened the external view of Second Life as being a digital “reality” and moved it closer to being viewed as just another game.
That said, this is overall a good move in cleaning up the user sign-up process – assuming the idiotic browser compatibility issues are rapidly sorted out (and for which there is simply no excuse). I certainly hope that the rest of the sign-up process is similarly revamped in a positive manner. As it stands, it still suffers from the bland (and misleading) videos and slide shows that do very little to entice new users or offer an actual meaningful explanation as to what SL is and what people can do within it. Hopefully, these will be addressed in the near future, and replaced with something more vibrant an appealing.