In June Rod Humble indicated that the Lab would be evaluating a “new” new user experience in an A/B test against the current Destination Islands. During a conversation I was able to have with him a little more recently*, I asked whether the new experience would include anything of the “personal touch” – getting new users more easily get to the things which interest them. He replied:
We definitely want to make it easy for Second Life users (especially new ones) to connect with the things in-world that match their interests. What we’re testing at the moment is more geared at getting new users familiar with basic controls, so it comes even before the point where they’re ready to connect with relevant content.
Given this, I’ve been curious as to what form the “new” new user experience might take – and today I had my answer.
The sign-up process itself remains unchanged, so far as I can tell. as does the first-time installation of the viewer, which I looked at back in March 2012 – although this does differ significantly to the installation process established users may be familiar with.
As I reported in 2012, when installing from the sign-up process, the viewer includes a series of panels which give various hints as to what SL is and how to get a start in it, such as the use of text and voice chat – although admittedly, the fact that these panels still feature viewer 2.x did raise a couple of eyebrows. Nothing like staying up-to-date, eh?
Once logged-in to Second Life, things are now noticeably different. New users are initially delivered to one of several versions of “Social Island”, arriving on a beach. The landscaping here is somewhat more pleasing to the eye than the older Destination Islands, However – and bearing in mind, I have no idea just how “preview” or “work-in-progress” this approach is – it tends to start to unravel from here. Just what do you do? Where do you go? What the heck is going on? There is currently no indication at all.
Well, actually, there are clues. They’re just not terribly obvious clues.
Up in the navigation bar, alongside the region name is the parcel description “Find the path”. The clue refers to one of two paths off of the beach. The first refers to on which leads up from the eastern end of the beach, under a stone arch, and the other goes through a tunnel to the island’s interior. Taking either results in the parcel description changing to “cross the bridges”. And indeed, there are wooden bridges to cross; although if you went through the tunnel, you’ll need to master climbing the rock face first (up a set of pretty obvious “steps”.
“Social Island” is perhaps well-named. There was a lot of chatting going-on when I arrived. Admittedly it was of the “Help!” variety of conversation – which included comments like, “What am I supposed to be doing?”, “Can anyone tell me what this is?”, and, “Does anyone else here use IMVU? Why isn’t this like it?” (yes, honestly, that is exactly what was being asked) – but at least people were communicating and socialising. Sort-of.
Perhaps the most disheartening thing was – again, my direct experience – trying to help a newcomer, only to have her respond, “I hate this,” before she vanished, presumably logging-off into the ether, never to return.
The path leads newcomers to a single teleport portal which uses the experience tools teleport capability to deliver them to one of the Learning Islands. Here things are, if anything, slightly more confusing – again with the caveat that it may be a work-in-progress.