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Usability testing for SL


animats
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Everybody talks about SL's usability problems. It's not clear that SL has ever run a proper test on this. We know that far more people sign up on the web site than appear in world.

The idea is that you recruit some new users and pay them to run the test. Set things up so the screen, user audio, and maybe the webcam of the user's face are recorded. Not many users - 5 to 10 are usually enough.

For SL, a first task would be:

  • Sign up for Second Life. Download and install the viewer. Go through the new user experience. Leave the new user experience and go someplace else.

Someone then reviews each video and makes a timeline. This is the time-consuming part. It's sometimes outsourced to psychology students. What they're looking for is:

  • Check off steps along the way (signed up on web site, downloaded, first time in world, etc.) and when those were achieved.
  • What stopped the user from achieving a goal?
  • When did the user have to back up and try something else?
  • When the user appear to be frustrated or angry or confused?
  • When did the user give up completely?

The last three are the important ones. Those are pain points that need to be fixed. Often, they're not where developers or experienced users expect. The people reviewing the video should assemble a "highlights reel", of places where users were happy, frustrated, angry, or gave up. Management, the dev team, and the marketing team watch that.

Here's the process, as done in-person by a consultancy.

User testing, the classic way.

There are tools for doing this remotely. (They tend to be a bit too focused on web site ad clicks, though.)

Another useful task would be "Inworld meeting". Complete the first onboarding task. Put together a human avatar in business casual clothing. Go to a meeting room such as Boardroom region. Watch a short presentation. Discuss the presentation with the others present. Leave and log out.

 

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53 minutes ago, Drakonadrgora Darkfold said:

I don't really ever seeing this done for various reasons...

It's the sort of thing the new owners might want done. They may be be dissatisfied with underperforming management.

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3 hours ago, animats said:

It's not clear that SL has ever run a proper test on this.

I don't know either but I have looked at this several times in the past and I've not been able to find any indication that Linden Lab has ever performed any usability testing or any other kind of market research for that matter. They certainly haven't done much of it and that's really surprising for a company as big as LL.

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As far as the viewer is concerned, usability testing went down the drain ever since LL commissioned a Ukrainian company to design a new interface for it. As a result, what could be done in one click in the old viewer 1-based interface, can now only be done in at least two or three clicks. Not for nothing do 90% of all SL users use Firestorm, which, at least to some extent, brought back viewer-1 usability.

It's tons of stupid little things like clicking on a username. In v1, this would bring up the profile. In v2, this brings up a horrid little dialog window that will give you two options: add friend or open profile. It seems minor, but a complex program such as the SL viewer literally has hundreds of annoyances like these. So many, that it discouraging to even start to give proper feedback.

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From what i have seen all the years that i have been using Second Life, Linden Lab tends to work like a public sector company (or fictional Government if you prefer) so don't expect much, imagination and creativity is not their strong business card so it's normal to say that when it comes to usability there will also be many flaws.

Take for example Belissaria it took them 14 years to make something sort of attractive for Linden Homes when some of us who were in the Rentals business although having much less financial resources and most of the time it was just a one man show were building similar or much better multi-region projects since 2011.

Or let's see the avatars, regardless how many times Linden Lab renewed them they always looked old.

Regarding the Client software the LL Viewer was always a disappointment (and even abandoned when it comes to Linux) regardless if V1 style or whatever that's why we used other 3rd party client's with more interesting UI's and features such as Emerald, Phoenix, Firestorm, CoolVL, Singularity,Black_Dragon etc and even Lumiya on Android , once again made from people who had much less financial resources than LL and some of us even made our own UI's based on our preference when we had some free time.

G4quRna

That's the way it has always been when it comes to Second Life and personally i don't expect much to change.

Edited by Nick0678
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4 hours ago, Arduenn Schwartzman said:

Not for nothing do 90% of all SL users use Firestorm, which, at least to some extent, brought back viewer-1 usability.

Don't confuse familiarity with usability, Arduenn. Or to be more precise, don't confuse usability for experienced users with usability for new ones.

What new users want and need is an interface that is easy to learn and as similar as possible to what they know from other environments. Experienced users have already learned the quirks of the interface and what they want and need is continuity - as little changes as possible to the "good old" structure.

The original SL viewer was very good by the standards of its time but the first few years of the 21st century was very much the low point of gui design. The three pioneers in the field (Atari, Commodore Amiga and the pre-OS X Mac) were all gone, Apple had barely started reinventing the wheel from scratch and Microsoft and the Linux/FreeBSD communities had yet to really catch up. Today the standards are much higher.

BlackDragon is interesting because, if I understand correctly, it's very much targetted towards one specific user segment and has done a lot to simplify the use for that specific segment. I don't think it's particularly suitable as a general purpose SL viewer though even though the fact that its UI seems to be better organised than any other viewer's might be helpful to everybody once they get used to it. UKanDo was another interesting case. It seems to have an attempt to clean and simplify the UI of the official viewer without reducing the familiarity aspect for experienced users too much. It never got far though and is long gone by now.

Apart from those three I don't know of any SL viewer, current or previous, that has really made a good attempt at being user friendly. Firestorm certainly hasn't.

 

2 hours ago, Nick0678 said:

From what i have seen all the years that i have been using Second Life, Linden Lab tends to work like a public sector company

The way LL manages SL is a curious mixture of official government, commercial business, and volunteer based open source development. There is nothing wrong with that as such, it's actually a very good idea if you can pull it off. If you plan carefully, are very well organised and are very conscious about how you do it, you can get the best of all three models. But if you slip, you'll end up with the worst of all instead.

Edited by ChinRey
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3 hours ago, ChinRey said:

Don't confuse familiarity with usability, Arduenn.

I'm familiar with both v1 and v2, (I had to force-relearn SL by using the v2-interface) so I'd like to think I'm making a fair comparison. The UI of any v2-based viewer is plainly bloated.

Another example:

hardly anyone reads offline group notifications anymore when they log in. They are all hidden in that little icon at the top that stubbornly and persistently obscures the drop-down menus on the top right.

In v1, upon login, all group notifications were thrown in your face so you missed nothing. In v2 people suddenly did. And it showed. I've heard many community managers complain that no one of their group members ever seemed to read their notices anymore, and users repeatedly say: 'I never saw any notice?' or 'what notice?' Of course, you can send notices to e-mail or be more proactiev about the notices, but it's not what you can do, it's about what actually happens.

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7 hours ago, Nick0678 said:

Linden Lab tends to work like a public sector company (or fictional Government if you prefer) so don't expect much, imagination and creativity is not their strong business card.

That's a good thought. Linden Lab does a decent job of running a medium-sized municipality. They don't overmanage. The property-rights system gives users enough control to stop most local trouble. LL only has to deal with serious incidents.

Linden Lab is underpowered on the tech side. The team that maintains the server side is very small for what they're doing.

Now, if, say, Epic, the Fortnite and Unreal Engine company, ran SL, it would work better technically, but would be run like a fascist state. In Fortnite, user customization is limited by policy and tightly controlled. "Creators" can create levels and skins which have to be pre-approved and are made only from standard parts. (What Fortnite people call "creating skins", we call "getting dressed". It's just mixing and matching existing clothing and avatar items.) Fortnite's in-game store takes upwards of 90% of creator revenue. (It's hard to figure that out, because they have more than one internal currency.) People have reportedly been auto-banned for simply going in and sightseeing instead of fighting. (That "disrupts the game".)

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48 minutes ago, animats said:

Now, if, say, Epic, the Fortnite and Unreal Engine company, ran SL, it would work better technically.

I believe if they did now Second Life would be considered an obsolete application due to those corporations having different strategies on how to create profit.

Even Linden Lab for more than 5 years focused it's efforts on something newer the well known by now "Sansar" regardless how the whole project ended up which actually it was expected from some of us.

Anyway we can't compare Second Life to Fortnite  due to the fact that Fortnite made US$1.2 Billion (in revenue) / 125 million players within its first year and later by entering the Iphone app market about US$2 millions per DAY.  Second Life revenue numbers could never be so high, it's a totally different thing.

Edited by Nick0678
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56 minutes ago, Nick0678 said:

I believe if they did now Second Life would be considered an obsolete application due to those corporations having different strategies on how to create profit.

Right. That's what happens when Google acquires companies with minor products. If the product can't be grown to "Google scale", it's killed off.

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On 8/9/2020 at 3:07 PM, animats said:

Everybody talks about SL's usability problems. It's not clear that SL has ever run a proper test on this. We know that far more people sign up on the web site than appear in world.

Pretty sure this came up recently in the Open Development user group and the response was that it had been looked at and some changes made but not enough to make much of a difference. I just sort of got the idea they just didn't have a lot of interest in taking it any further beyond what is already in place.

Even a suggestion to be automatically registered to an S/L viewer group like the FS viewer does, seemed to be too much bother. Maybe the best answer is that LL should simply put a download link to a TPV that has a better support structure then the one they have. 

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I think LL had the right idea when they tried having a "basic" version of the viewer for new users. However, they executed it poorly because they didn''t understand what new users want. Nobody wanted to use the basic settings because they couldn't customize their avatars, so new users would change to the advanced version as soon as they could figure out how. If LL did something similar again, but paid attention to what features new users want, I think it could help.

I recently made an alt just to see what the account creation process was currently like. It was the same as it's been for years. You make up a username, and, if it's anything that would be reasonable to have as a name, you see, "username exists." The is no help, like a suggestion for similar names that are available like some sites have. There is also no hint that it will be anything other than a login ID, or that it will be as visible inworld as it is. It seems that scripts always use usernames. Would it be hard to have them use display names? Then, we wouldn't have to figure out that maddog1228 is the avatar we know as John Smith. How could it be hard? Both the server and the viewer can know  display names. Maybe eventually Firestorm will have an option to "replace usernames in chat with display names."

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6 minutes ago, Jennifer Boyle said:

Would it be hard to have them use display names

It's not hard at all but 2 avatars can have the same displayname so when it come to LSL it should always be avoided, only usernames are unique.

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9 hours ago, Nick0678 said:

It's not hard at all but 2 avatars can have the same displayname so when it come to LSL it should always be avoided, only usernames are unique.

Yes, two avatars can have the same display name, but I'm pretty sure that I have never seen two avatars that were in the same sim at the same time who did. If scripts used display names when they referred to avatars in chat, the number of times it would cause confusion would be non-existent to minuscule, and it would very frequently make things easier to understand, and more pleasant.

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If the official viewer got rid of that awful "lets have all conversations in one window" mess and ditched web profiles then the main reasons for me not to use their client over others would vanish.

There is a massive learning curve and sadly LL, despite having far greater access to resources than 3rd party viewer developers really dropped the ball by going for form over function.

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32 minutes ago, Kade Huntsman said:

If the official viewer got rid of that awful "lets have all conversations in one window" mess and ditched web profiles then the main reasons for me not to use their client over others would vanish

about conversations.  All of the chat windows can be undocked and floated from the Conversations docking control

about only able to have web profiles. Linden are currently working on this with Second Life Project Legacy Profiles 6.3.2.530836

 

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4 hours ago, Jennifer Boyle said:

Yes, two avatars can have the same display name, but I'm pretty sure that I have never seen two avatars that were in the same sim at the same time who did. If scripts used display names when they referred to avatars in chat, the number of times it would cause confusion would be non-existent to minuscule, and it would very frequently make things easier to understand, and more pleasant.

Me and one of my SL ex's for example have the same display name , it's blank on purpose but not empty (SL default).

If you set your viewer to show display names only (or lsl script) you will see 2 avatars without name and i am sure there are other's in SL like that.

Something that isn't common where a person spends it's time doesn't make it a rule of what's happening everywhere and we used to go to many places together,  those who had trained their brain to identify a person by displayname usually were very confused. Username is the safest and less confusing way to identify.

Screenshot_2020-08-12_15-35-58.thumb.png.1a9ceca85ef89d9d9b4400e7982c7827.png

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On 8/10/2020 at 9:04 AM, Arduenn Schwartzman said:

As far as the viewer is concerned, usability testing went down the drain ever since LL commissioned a Ukrainian company to design a new interface for it. As a result, what could be done in one click in the old viewer 1-based interface, can now only be done in at least two or three clicks. Not for nothing do 90% of all SL users use Firestorm, which, at least to some extent, brought back viewer-1 usability.

It's tons of stupid little things like clicking on a username. In v1, this would bring up the profile. In v2, this brings up a horrid little dialog window that will give you two options: add friend or open profile. It seems minor, but a complex program such as the SL viewer literally has hundreds of annoyances like these. So many, that it discouraging to even start to give proper feedback.

I generally use the LL standard viewer for SL and I use Firestorm for OpenSim because it's not possible to use the LL viewer for that.  I occasionally use Firestorm for logging in to SL if the LL viewer is going through a bad patch.  I can't say that Firestorm is any better or worse than the LL one.  It has a few extra functions, which I don't use anyway.  And I if I'm an un-rezzed cloud, I slightly prefer being a white cloud to being a red cloud !

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