As has been noted through various Web User Group (WUG) meetings, Linden Lab is engaged on a refresh and update of Second Life web properties.
This initially started in November 2021, with an overhaul of the Second Life Web Search, starting with a a facelift the the Search page before moving on to an overhaul of the ElasticSearch engine behind it as well, including the implementation of a scratch-built relevance engine.
Following this, time and effort was put into developing tools and capabilities intended to allow the Lab to more quickly refresh and update all Second Life web properties, and make them more uniformly manageable whilst affording them a newer, more modern look and feel. In February 2023, this work led to the roll-out of the new Land Portal front-end, as I reported in my February WUG summary.
Granted, and like the initial deployment of the Web Search update, there was not really anything behind the initial update – it initially just offers (at the time of writing) a fresher, cleaner portal by which to access the various Second Life web pages dealing with all matters of Land – Linden Homes, renting land, buying land, etc. However, it gave a feel for the direction the Lab is taking with its web properties, and work is apparently in progress (or about to start) in overhauling the Linden Homes pages to bring them into line with the styling of the Portal Page, and we will doubtless be seeing the results in due course before the work moves on to other land-related pages.
In the meantime, the Destination Guide has also gone through a facelift, with the new look being quietly deployed in the last week(ish) to present a new look Destination Guide with improved features. This new design follows the broad brushstrokes of the Land Portal in terms of layout – menu bar with logo to the top, large corporate footer area, user sign-in / log-out / sign-up links to the top right, the use of the new colour scheme, and use of large(r) images (than the “old” DG), etc. At the same time, it retains some of the look and feel of the “old” Destination Guide: the left sidebar with its list of categories, with the right side of the page used to display information on locations within the various categories. It also includes a plethora of navigation options and small touches. For example:
- Clicking on any category name in the left sidebar will refresh the right side of the page to display locations in that category, and adds the category name to the small navigation bar at the top of the sidebar, between the top menu bar and the Search field.
- Clicking on the HOME icon on this navigation bar will return you to the main Destination Guide page.
- If the Category has sub-categories with in – indicated by the presence of an arrowhead – these will be exposed within the sidebar on the main category name, with the details of locations in the first sub-category/ies being displayed on the right of the page.
- Alternately, clicking on the arrowhead will display the list of sub-categories below the main category name without moving you to a display of destinations with the category, allowing you to then display a list of destinations for that sub-category by clicking on the sub-category name.
- Those items in the category list which have sub-categories of destinations will also display a small navigation bar at the top of the main page display, allowing you to move back and forth between the sub-categories of destination by clicking on their names.
In addition, clicking on the image, name or descriptive text for any destination location will move it to the top of the right-side list of destinations of the given category, together with:
- A full description of the location, as provided by the owner.
- A teleport button for visiting the location.
- A Share/ embedded option button for creating a widget for the location which can be embedded in web pages.
- A list of clickable Destination Guide categories and sub-categories in which the location is currently listed – clicking on any of these will move you to the category / sub-category.
Other touches include a little tick mark in the top left corner of the picture for any location currently featured in the Editors Picks section; a much clearer option for submitting locations for inclusion in the DG (Got A Favourite Spot?, at the bottom of every page); the ability to order the listings for a category by newest first, or alphabetically / reverse alphabetically, etc.
The new layout also has some irritating features I hope LL will address:
- No option to view a location on the World Map. I find this a personal irritant because:
- The Map gives locations within the DG / Second Life a sense of place, that they are part of a world and not just individual environments separated from everything else, suggesting they are stand-alone environments (a critique often levelled at Sansar).
- Being able to view a location on the Map can answer some basic questions for the SL explorer: is it a standalone region? Is it part of an estate that might be further open to exploration? Is it on the Mainland? If so, which continent, and what might it be close to?
- Similarly, seeing a location on the map can help determine whether or not it is accessible by means other than teleporting – such as by air, water or road – thus allowing people options in how they visit and (again) offer that sense of interconnectedness between places in Second Life.
- The menu options at the top of the DG pages – What Next? Shopping, etc., – open pages in a new browser tab.
- This stands in contrast to the Land Portal, when the options open in the same tab (and so the Back button can be used), which many users likely find preferable.
- It is also annoying in that one can end up not only with multiple tabs being needlessly opened, but with tabs themselves chomping at a computer’s (potentially limited) resources.
The above grumbles noted, generally, I like the approach taken with the new page format for SL web properties. Fonts are reasonably large and hopefully a lot clearer than the “old” (/current) pages for those with vision impairments, and the use of colour is pretty reasonable as a well – certainly, the use of a lavender pink for the buttons on the pages does allow them to stand apart and be seen as buttons whilst not being as in-yer-face as the orange which has previously been used. That said, the Destination Guide is there for you to poke and decide for yourself as to whether or not you like it.