Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 World Intraverse awards and thinking about usability

Last week I had the interesting pleasure to be invited into an event in Second Life celebrating the winners of the 2009 World Intraverse Awards.

Our 3D Fashion Game for Girls, Frenzoo was one of the winners, awarded a Special Mention of the WIVA jury as the "most global 3D fashion centric achievement", and we were one of two companies from Asia in the winning group and addressing the crowd, the other being China virtual world - HiPiHi

"Frenzoo's achievements led us to believe that soon it will turn into one of the most efficient 3D platform in the world" - Gilbert Reveillon, President of the Jury

The award was certainly an honor but also an interesting experience to be attending the ceremony in world. There were several technical hitches, 2 changes of locations involving confusion around teleporting vs trying to follow the ceremony leaders in walking there. One of the speakers was speaking too soft for anyone to hear, another way to loud and triggering the red on the UI speech icons.. many couldn't get their in-world speech going at all. It was all rather lighthearted and amusing at the time but highlighted a key point of usability.

Second Life is a particularly deep and powerful open experience and deserves its success - but is it mainstream for those who are not at the upper end of technology proficiency? In it's current state, I would argue not. For all the possibilities, many typical people would give up after a short attempt, confused by the whole experience. Which is no doubt why they are putting effort into revamping the interface this year.

It's something we also grapple with in our own community - how can we make it easier to get people into the front door? whether they come in direct, through our avatar blog. And make it easier for them to have their first interactions in a painless and fun way that's easy to pick up for a new or returning member...

Not easy at all to get a newbie friendly interface - and we're learning valuable lessons from our experience and constantly improving. However it's vital - the the most important thing to get right in a virtual worlds product, and rightfully at the top of the priority list...

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