Taking stock of Inventory: LL ask for feedback

ProductTeam Linden (who he/she? is it Rhett in disguise?) has posted to the Technology Forum about a new option for presenting Inventory within the Viewer. Apparently, when the Viewer was split between the Basic and Advanced modes, moves were made to try to improve / simplify inventory presentation, but they never made it to a final cut of the Viewer.

Now they have, and Linden Lab is asking for feedback. The announcement reads in part:

For new users, managing and understanding inventory is often challenging. Drag and drop over large inventories can be problematic and daunting. New users are often confused about the meaning of certain system folders.

Today we have released a Project Viewer beta that includes this simplified presentation of inventory as an option. Before we consider any widespread changes to inventory, we want to know what you think about the Simple Inventory UI, noting that the target user is someone just starting out.  

The Simple Inventory UI offers new users:

  • A simple display presenting only one folder at a time
  • Improved wayfinding and findability
  • Faster load of inventory items

The article then invites users to download a Project Viewer which includes the new Inventory presentation, and to provide feedback (via the SL forum), with any bugs that are found logged in the SINV Project JIRA. In doing to, the article notes:

It’s important to note that Simple Inventory was intended for Basic mode before Basic and Advanced modes were merged. It is still experimental and so it is unclear how it will function with extremely large Inventories, so if you have a large Inventory we don’t recommend using Simple Inventory as your only view. 

There are also some incomplete features and some known issues, again as LL note.

So, what is it like? As I have a fairly extensive inventory that (if I say so myself) is well-managed and ordered that I’m in no mood to mess with, I tapped my CTA (Crash Test Alt) on the shoulder and took the Project Viewer for a spin.

Quick Tour

The Viewer has an initial release number of 3.2.8 (248008), and installs into is own folder but shares the standard cache and user folder locations as all other SL installations. Once started, the Viewer has the same funky blue/teal UI as the DD Project Viewer – so I assume this is to provide a simple means of recognising that you’re running a Project Viewer. Otherwise, the Viewer looks and behaves like a “normal” release.

Opening Inventory initially reveals a familiar panel (for those that use the official Viewer), but one with a new SWITCH TO FOLDER VIEW link in the top right corner (below left). Clicking this brings-up the revised layout (below, right).

Inventory: from hierarchical view to folder view

Key points of the new layout:

  • Inventory is divided into clear sections: MY INVENTORY, LIBRARY, RECEIVED ITEMS (for the forthcoming Direct Delivery) and TRASH
  • You can have more than one section open at a time
  • Sections can be resized by hovering the mouse at the bottom of an open section so the cursor changes to a double-headed arrow. Click and hold the left mouse button to drag the sections beneath the open section up/down
  • Within a section, folders and contents are listed alphabetically (so system folders do not appear at the top of MY INVENTORY by default, and folders are not sorted to the top when mixed with objects)

As the view is not intended to be hierarchical, there are no arrowheads to the left of folders or any ability to open them within the displayed panel. Instead, opening a folder is now achieved in one of two ways:

  • You can hover the mouse over a folder to highlight it with an ACTIONS option. Clicking this will displays context menu from which you can select OPEN IN NEW WINDOW (below, left)
  • You can double-click on the folder and have a new view of the contents slide neatly into the existing panel, replacing what was already there.

Note that to prevent accidents, system folders automatically have the options to move, rename or delete them disabled.

Whether you opt to open folders in a new window, or display them in the existing panel, the end result is the same in terms of what you see (below, right).

Opening folders: either hover the mouse over the folder and Click ACTIONS for a menu (l) or double-click a folder. The contacts will be displayed (r)
Inventory breadcrumbs

If you opt to drill down through your folders by opening each in a new window, then navigating back and forth is a relatively simple matter of swapping between windows and closing those you’ve finished with.

However, the system also makes it possible you to navigate up / down a set of nested folders within a single panel by adding breadcrumbs to the top of the panel (right) as you open each successive folder, allowing you to navigate back up the tree. At the same time, hovering the mouse over MY INVENTORY will reveal another ACTIONS option from which you can elect to go BACK TO TOP FOLDER.

Once in a folder, items can be highlighted and the ACTIONS menu used to manipulate them (e.g. wear, move, rename, delete) – again displayed options are context-sensitive (so if you are wearing an item, that option is not displayed, for example).

You can move items around your inventory in several ways:

  • Use the ACTION menu to select MOVE for an item / folder. This opens an additional window in which you can navigate to your desired destination (double-click through the required folders), before clicking MOVE TO SELECTED FOLDER to finish the task
  • You can also simply drag-and-drop items / folders within a panel
  • You can drag-and-drop between inventory windows
  • You can drag-and-drop between sections (between RECEIVED ITEMS and MY INVENTORY, for example) – the destination section does not have to be expanded in order to do so.

A couple of things I did notice during testing were that a) worn items are not highlighted / indicated in any way and b) there is no option to remove / detach a worn item. There also appears to be a bug, as selecting WEAR appears to ADD the selected item to your avatar, rather than replacing anything already worn – my CTA ended up clumping around in two pairs of boots….

Feedback and Thoughts

I don’t really have any issues with the functionality presented here per se. It works OK, the overall layout within a panel is fine, and (known issues and bugs notwithstanding), it all works pretty much as expected. There do appear to be some issues that do need addressing, however, and as LL asked for feedback on the system as presented (and allowing for the fact it is only an initial iteration, here’s mine:

  • Add the ability to see what is actually being worn or is attached to the avatar within the Folder View
  • As most people are likely to be moving folders from RECEIVED ITEMS to MY INVENTORY, it would make sense to move RECEIVED ITEMS above LIBRARY, to reduce the chances of a mis-click dropping items into the Library section
  • As currently supplied, the functionality is perhaps a little too limited – no ability to create sub-folders, for example, so the ability to organise one’s inventory is  restricted to drag-and-drop into whatever is already there
  • Don’t be afraid of using menu options at the top of the inventory panel (File, Create, Sort, etc.) – they are lot more intuitive for users new or established than having options buried behind obscure “+” symbols and cog-wheel icons.

Also, if it is intended provide both views (Hierarchy and Folder) within the inventory panel of the a release Viewer at some point in the future, then I’d also suggesting ensuring that the top-level folder presentation is consistent between them (i.e. scrap the “system folders to top” default in favour of an alphabetical listing for the Hierarchy View), as this will assist familiarity in switching between views.

Thoughts

Candidly speaking, this alternative presentation comes across as yet another Linden curate’s egg. On the one hand, it cannot be denied that there are issues around how the inventory panel functions (the “high-speed scrolling” that can occur when trying to move an item from one folder to another, for example), and that things could be improved in terms of presentation. On the other, this approach is perhaps a little too simplistic to make a valid judgement at this point; too much functionality has been stripped away. Looking at it in the form presented, it’s hard to see the direction in which it’s liable to grow (if any) – which I think may be the issue LL are having, hence the low-key call for assistance.

I also cannot help but think LL “misunderestimate” new users here. While people are new to SL, it’s doubtful they are new to computers and things such as file management tools like Windows Explorer and the Mac Finder. After all, they’ve managed to find their way online, navigated the web to the SL website, found the Viewer download link, downloaded the Viewer, found the installer on their computer and installed it… As such, is understanding the nuances of inventory management that big an issue for them? I’m not convinced.

That said, there are undoubted benefits in some aspects of what is presented here: a “flat file” view may well be more to some people’s liking (providing it is better integrated with a hierarchical view as well), and the use of a pop-up “move” window could be preferable to some than relying on drag-and-drop – and it’s good to provide alternatives. I just can’t escape the feeling the perhaps LL are missing an opportunity. Given most people are liable to be familiar with the likes of Explorer and Finder, why not grab the bull by the horns and make inventory more approachable by presenting it in a similar manner to those tools – perhaps a two-panel display, with scrollable hierarchical view to the left, open folder view to the right with the associated drag-and-drop capabilities?

I’m not saying it would be easy to do (or even necessarily a short-term development). but were it possible to achieve, I’d venture to suggest it would meet with significant approach from established and new users alike.

I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on this to see how things develop. In the meantime, and given feedback is being sought, if you’ve not already taken a look at the Project Viewer, I’d encourage you to do so & pass your thoughts / suggests to LL via the forum.

8 thoughts on “Taking stock of Inventory: LL ask for feedback

  1. Pingback: Convalescence
  2. I’m inclined to agree with what you say about the Inventory being essentially the same functions as the OS file management tool. It’s a complication that the Viewer spans several very different OS environments, but that UI example is there, and should be taken into account.
    Why reinvent the wheel?

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  3. Some OSes actually allow both methods to be displayed and to switch between them. I think that perhaps LL is wasting a lot of time if they intend “Simple Inventory” to become the norm, say, in a few months or so. For example, dragging and dropping between tabs on the Inventory Window (say, from Recent items into the “all” inventory) is very useful, but only the TPVs allow it — under LL’s viewers, we can only move between Inventory Windows, not tabs. The Simple Inventory seems to allow dragging and dropping between the tab-like structure, which is certainly an improvement. So there are good ideas on the Simple Inventory which would make sense on the Old Inventory, too…

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    1. I agree there are good ideas here; I just tend to have split thinking on the approach & how it could be integrated. On the approach front, it’s hard not to think along file management tool lines, as the concepts therein are going to be familiar to the majority (if not all) who enter SL, the various flavours (Explorer, Finder, etc) notwithstanding. As such, it could pretty much give the best of all worlds (allowing different views, drag-and-drop, etc., as you mention) and potentially presents inventory in a form users are more inclined to feel intuitively at home using from the outset.

      That said, there is much of benefit in the simplified approach here that bears taking forward into the current “live” presentation of Inventory within the Viewer, and I’m vertainly curious as to how the two will be integrated, should this go forward. I assume that if thing proceed, will see idea developed within the “simplified” mode and the “best” of them re-merged into the “old” presentation in much the same way as things were handled around the Basic and Advanced modes of the Viewer.

      I’d have liked to see a little more tweaking around the edges before the “simplified” view was pushed out (as per my feedback to LL, which I also dropped into the forum), but nevertheless, this is a start for potential discussions, and its good to see LL seeking feedback.

      I’ll even resist the urge to raise my usual question of, “Why no front-page blog post on this?” ;-).

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  4. “You can double-click on the folder and have a new view of the contents slide neatly into the existing panel, replacing what was already there.”

    That sounds like the ‘view controller’ UI of iOS (not the right term for it…) – where a click replaces your panel with another.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about the appropriateness of that to a desktop/laptop graphical application.

    But I dunno…

    What new residents expect and what old curmudgeons are used to are very different things. A new resident expects to hit the ‘b’ key and have all their bags open, showing little icons of objects, with a little display of their gold, er lindens, at the bottom…
    – And I don’t think it is possible for SL to do that and remain functional.

    But any other choice is a ‘re-education of expected norms’ that will be tough to get them to swallow.

    This new method is going from ‘looks like a PC’ to ‘looks like an iPhone’. Neither is better for the stated purpose.

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    1. If you think I’m joking about what new residents expect to see for inventory, see the forums. I think in the general discussion right now, there’s somebody asking why we can’t have images of what the items are in the inventory.

      New folks essentially are coming from either ‘YoVille’ or ‘World of Warcraft’. Or variations on those themes.

      (In another forum thread, a new user notes that ‘now I’m ready to bring in all my Facebook friends’ after thanking people with some basic starter help.)

      A new inventory UI targeted at new residents needs to be a smooth transition from Facebook or WoW… neither of which is ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

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  5. I am all for this. This is looooooong overdue. Its not obvious what to do. And it needs to be obvious.

    But your post is by an experienced person, the images are of an inventory that has items in it, and the comparison is not valid. Try this again with a new alt with an empty inventory. No hitting shortcut keys. No drag and drop. I’ll allow you to use drag and drop as soon as I see a screen grab of a pop up telling you you can drag and drop items onto your avatar, drag items into the world, and drag and drop to re-arrange inventory. Assume nothing. I think the comparison will be very different.

    1) First off, you have to actually find the inventory. Many new users cannot find the inventory, mainly because they have no idea what inventory is. Items come in, little chat floaters come in, they all pile up in the corner, and MAYBE they click ignore or mute or keep, then the little floaters go away after a while and then they wonder why they cannot talk to me (I’m muted), or why it’s not in inventory ( never accepted), or where did it go? Inventory? “Whats that?” is what I have heard a thousand times.

    New residents inventory should open automatically when someone gives them something and they accept it. The chat floater should stay there until dismissed. An option should pop up to let them keep it this way or to dismiss it.

    The icon looks like bacon to me. This should be a picture of a box, because when you open it you find a bunch of folders with boxes in them. Search Google for inventory Icon and you will not find a suitcase icon in the first gadzillion images.

    2) There will be 16 or so empty folder to dig thru. Left-click to open a folder ( let us know if it has an arrow) because on many viewers the folder is empty but there is still an arrow.

    Now try another folder and another until eventually you get to the library, only to find a DUPLICATE of the top set of folders, and you have to open a bunch of subfolders to see the items!

    This is just freaking ridiculous. The arrows should not be there when a folder is empty. Period. The library should be the FIRST thing they see, it should already be expanded, and the other folders should not be visible because they are empty.

    Now put on something in the library. Poof, it moves it to another folder magically. Huh?

    3) Right click? No one knows about right click when they start. Why not hover on it to expose a menu? Please? Double click? No one double clicks anything in the UI, why complicate it now?

    4) Being a new user is not as easy as it seems. A team of my friends and I spent 3 hours getting someone ( they spoke Brazilian Portugese) to wear one item. We used pictures, we drew arrows on pictures, we took turns chatting various directions (we have a lot of experience with this, over 109,000 people have gone through the sim to get this one product), and eventually got him to wear it! We all cheered, and then we realized he had it on his hand!

    Another half hour later we got it off his hand and onto his HUD. It’s not obvious what to do. And it needs to be OBVIOUS.

    I could rant on and on about inventory, but I think you get the point that anything is better than the way it is set up now, for new users.

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