Update #2: I’ve further been informed that the testimonials are intended to the express the sentiments of SL users and are based upon feedback. expressed by SL users. Similarly, the images are in fact stock Internet images. A footnote to the effect that “The consumers above are not actual consumers of the advertised product.” has now been added to each of the landing pages.
Update #1: I’ve been informed by various third parties that the testimonials on the landing pages may not in fact be genuine. I’ve therefore revised this post until I hear further on this matter.
On Monday, December 28th, Friestorm announced the arrival of their Gateway landing pages, and asked Firestom users for their assistance in helping to spread the word about Second Life.
The Landing pages are an integral part of the Firestorm Gateway, which itself forms a part of the upcoming trail Gateways Programme I previewed back in September, and which hopefully will be officially announced as up and running by the Lab in the near future.
In all, six landing pages have been produced, each one of which is intended to showcase a specific aspect of using Second Life, and encourage those new to Second Life to sign-up and log in to the platform. To help with this, Firestorm is asking SL users to share those pages they feel their non-SL friends and contacts would find to be of the most interest and thus sign-up. The six pages have the following topic descriptions:
- Roleplay Introduction
- Decorating / Design Introduction
- Socialising Introduction
- Exploring Introduction
- Creating Introduction
- Music Introduction
While one might quibble over the subject titles (role-play and exploring might seem to exhibit a high degree of cross-over, for example), the pages themselves offer a crisp, clean approach to present Second Life, including endorsements from (and photos of) actual SL users.
Each of the pages includes a series of sign-up buttons which carry those interested to the initial phase of sign-up: creating an account – providing a user name, etc.
It’s probably worth pointing out here, and before the conspiracy theorists reach for their tin-foil hats, that this sign-up process uses an API supplied by Linden Lab. This means that, just like all third-party TPVs, none of the gateways in the programme – Firestorm or anyone else – is storing or accessing the sign-up information a new user provides. The information is strictly between the user and the Lab. The only part of the sign-up information which can be accessed is the e-mail address: and that only for as long as it takes for an automated welcoming e-mail to be sent.
Providing the fields are correctly filled-out – error messages will be displayed at the foot of the input fields, although you may have to use the vertical slider to bring them into view thanks to the API – clicking Get Started will move you on to the next page, intended to step the user through downloading, installing and launching the viewer.
To me, this page presents some issues which perhaps need to be dealt with if it is to be as effective as might be hoped – I’ll come back to this a little later.
One thing established SL users are bound to note is that nowhere is there any opportunity for the new user to select an avatar.
This isn’t an oversight on the part of the Firestorm team – it is a result of having to use the “old” user sign-up API, which doesn’t have any hooks into the Avatar Picker seen on the Lab’s own sign-up pages. Thus, the first opportunity new users get to picker the gender of their avatar is after they have logged-in – and even then, they only initially get either the male or female default Character Test avatars which (a long while ago) replaced the infamous “Ruth”.
Obviously, this is far from ideal. First impressions count, and many people seeing their avatar for the first time and comparing it to the glossy images on the landing pages could end up feeling a tad bit aggrieved or disappointed and might even simply log off.
This issue has already been raised with the Lab, so hopefully, something can be done about it, either by providing the updated API with the avatar picker to those involved in the gateway programme, or by the Lab finding the means to present new users coming into SL via these gateways with at least one of the new “Classic” avatars instead of the Character Test versions.
Once they have selected their gender and have seen their avatar appear, the new user will find they’re starting at the start of the Firestorm’s orientation island, where they can start learning to use the viewer, before progressing on to finding out more about Second life in general through the various activities and events operating within the Firestorm gateway regions.
Given that new users are confronted with the Character Test avatars on first logging in (and allowing for the fact this will hopefully be changing), I did find myself wondering if a short lesson couldn’t be provided showing the new user how to access the Avatar Picker and quickly create an alternative look, just to reassure them that avatars in SL really don’t all look like they first see themselves.