Monday, June 15, 2009

Issues with Second Life

Virtual worlds (VWs) must take user experience seriously. Are these VWs usable? Let us look at Second Life. This is based on my experience and are only thoughts (not expert opinions). I wish Second life would relook at the following:
  • Navigation: Why does the user have to spend time learning how to use the controls? Why isn't the navigation intuitive enough? Why is the Search option so confusing? As a new user, what do I search for? How do I decide where I would like to go? How do I know how big the VW is?
  • Editing Appearance:
  1. Privacy: What is the first thing a user does? Most users edit their appearance. Why is this visible to the rest? I can see another user editing the appearance. The stance is weird and the appearance and disappearance of clothing items is downright funny! Can't the user have the privacy to change their appearance?
  2. Filtering: Like other social networks, I wish SL provided the option to view a user's profile. This helps understand more about the person. This may help avoid awkward conversations and situations.
  3. Usability: The slider widgets used to readjust length of clothing are not efficient. Removing a part of clothing is tricky. I had trouble getting rid of a skirt my avatar had on on top of her jeans. I have also seen my friends struggle to with hair, clothing, shoes, and so on.
  • Conversation: Why should avatar's type as you type on your keyboard? Let's admit it looks very funny. Is there no other intuitive way of letting another user know that you are typing?
  • Actions: It is hilarious to watch a user master the art of sitting at SL. Most times, they face away from us or just run around the place. :) This is a usability issue. A user need not have to practice several times to sit to get it right.
In terms of SL for learning, I like the thought of letting the learner create something. But, most objects in SL (atleast those I have come across in my brief time there) are PPTs. SL also has virtual classrooms. When we avoid making the learner read lengthy notes and sit through lectures, why use it in SL? When the fancy of the VW wears off (as it did with me), learner motivation is bound to dwindle. What then? Is there no other interesting format? Check these posts by Karl Kapp on how VWs effectively.
Examples of usaing virtual world 3d spaces learning
Virtual Hospitals Protocol
Three Virtual World Learning Best Practices


Rupa Rajagopalan said...

Hi Archana

Great post.

I totally agree with you. Even I think usability wise SL is really bad.

They have orientation island where there are instructions on how to use SL. Well I am not sure how many have the patience to go through the instructions carefully. Atleast I didnt :)

Archana Narayan said...

Thanks Rupa. :) The orientation island has several 'read' information. Ir is like reading a manual before you use a product. How many people actually read a manual? :) Even then I tried reading it, and it didn't help. I spent ages doing a single task. Finally, I learnt through trial and error.