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The Onboarding Experience - March 2021


Chic Aeon
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I guess YOUR AVATAR is as good a spot as any for this. I'll paste in a photo for prettiness.  

I made my first new avatar in seven years tonight. There were lots of surprises and things to think about as "onboarding" goes.  I am not sure if any of my experience is newish or not, but it does seem like there are various ways people come into SL now -- where they get plopped and possibly even steps before they reach their destination.  I came in through the Firestorm Gateway. 

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I wrote a detailed account on my blog but here is what I came away with.  

 

  • The actual making of an account was very easy with little info required.
  • The avatar I was given was very stylish but also very WASP-like, tall, thin and pretty --- something SOME of us appreciate but others likely no so much. I was VERY surprised that there was no choice of avatar whatsoever. 
  • IMO the freebie area at Firestorm needs some refreshing -- especially the second one further down the path. And the exit destination that I picked was so very ugly it had me transporting to a sandbox as fast as I could open the map. 

So pluses and minuses for sure. 

 

From what @LittleMe Jewell posted a couple of weeks or so ago, her experience was VERY different from mine. Hers was apparently a traditional Linden Welcome Area.  Are there other ways that people enter SL now?  

 

I have to admit that I kept thinking that the Sansar intro was much better -- this looking at my journey tonight as well as what LittleMe posted. My head was spinning before I reached the social area and "I" knew what I was doing.  So I can definitely see the problem with getting people to stay. 

 

Any input on this is appreciated. I really would like to know more but I am not going to make a bunch of avatars in hopes of getting a different onboarding method. 

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I have forgot almost all from last July when I made an avatar. I think I came in a Linden gateway because it was not like your pictures at all.

As I understand it, all who register as female get that avatar and it is a bit strange, isn't it? No selection first.

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The female default isn't that bad. The male default is often '70s Disco Guy With Radio.

Starting at the Firestorm gateway is a good user experience. There's usually someone on duty.

New Resident Island has a walkthrough tutorial that gets you a Ruth or Roth mesh avatar, the open source avatars. You also get some clothing basics. Then they have a shopping area where there are some free items and some items for sale from the designers who contributed the freebies. Ruth and Roth sort of fit classic avatar clothing, but not quite. Too much fussing, tweaking, and alpha layer creation is required.

The White Dove has something similar, but their mesh avatars are mostly off-brands for which there is little clothing available.

Ideally, new users would start with a mesh avatar and some fitmesh that Just Works.

 

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I created mine a year or so ago and thought the whole process past making the actual account was confusing. There's very little in-world guidance on how to change up your avatar or the different avatar types. (In fact, I still don't have a paid mesh avatar because I'm not 100% sure how to choose.) It would be nice to get a mesh avatar as soon as you start, one with decent compatibility to help you get the hang of things.

I only vaguely remember the old SL (from the 00s) and didn't use it much, but I think the avatar creation process was a lot more intuitive. Even figuring out how to change your face right off the bat helped.

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On 3/2/2021 at 7:41 AM, Marianne Little said:

As I understand it, all who register as female get that avatar and it is a bit strange, isn't it? No selection first.

   Hm, isn't there? I can't remember what exactly went down when I made my last alt as I was in a bit of a hurry to just get her in-world before the Maitreya sale ended, but I do have a vague memory of having an avatar picker shoved at me either at the website on signup or the first time I logged in ... Either that or I just opened it myself immediately because wish-they-were-dogs in handbags are practically no better than cats.

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6 hours ago, Orwar said:

   Hm, isn't there? I can't remember what exactly went down when I made my last alt as I was in a bit of a hurry to just get her in-world before the Maitreya sale ended, but I do have a vague memory of having an avatar picker shoved at me either at the website on signup or the first time I logged in ... Either that or I just opened it myself immediately because wish-they-were-dogs in handbags are practically no better than cats.

Sometime in the past few years, you did pick an avatar from the web page - not that the choice was very large - but not now.  Even though I just went through the process with a new account, I can't even remember if they mention the other default avatars that you can choose from inworld.

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3 hours ago, LittleMe Jewell said:

Sometime in the past few years, you did pick an avatar from the web page - not that the choice was very large - but not now. 

   May have been when I made my first alt then ... Or when I first signed up ... Meh. Yesterday, a few years ago, I really can't tell much difference. Still go 'Twenty!' when people ask my age, before it dawns upon me that it's just that 20 was the last birthday that sort of mattered for anything. It has occasionally been almost immediately been followed up by me going 'No wait, what year is it again?'. 

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Hey Chic. I made an alt recently and found the same as you: onboarding was pretty easy. Yeah, I hear you about the default avatars... uggh. Maybe they reflect the demographic of most new users these days: women who lived large in the 1980s, and guys who lived large in the 1970s. Thankfully there is the Avatar > Choose An Avatar option, which opens up 30-40 avatars to choose from. "Back in the day" I used to choose a half dozen avatars, save each as an Outfit, then mix and match bodies, clothes, and hair to make something unique and totally free. 

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23 hours ago, merpunk said:

I created mine a year or so ago and thought the whole process past making the actual account was confusing. There's very little in-world guidance on how to change up your avatar or the different avatar types. (In fact, I still don't have a paid mesh avatar because I'm not 100% sure how to choose.) It would be nice to get a mesh avatar as soon as you start, one with decent compatibility to help you get the hang of things.

I only vaguely remember the old SL (from the 00s) and didn't use it much, but I think the avatar creation process was a lot more intuitive. Even figuring out how to change your face right off the bat helped.

Hey Merpunk, that's a great point. Changing up to a mesh avatar was a terrifying, frustrating, and ultimately expensive process. And now BOM is the latest reason to be terrified, frustrated, and broke 🙂 It all makes system avatars look much friendlier.  BTW, there was a post in here recently about the most popular bodies and heads, and those will likely have the best support options. Good luck!

 

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The Lab was doing A-B testing of the on-boarding process and I suspect still does. With the up-lift going on we didn't hear much about anything else. Nor did the Lab do much new stuff and likely won't for a time as they complete the up-lift.

I think it is a good thing they start people off with mesh BoM bodies and avoid the applier thing. But, we still have so much applier stuff in the promos and scattered around the tutorials in the on-boarding should say something.

@animats yeah, if SL just worked... Since we have so many choices and options, I doubt SL will ever be something people can 'just' do without having to learn a bunch and do it their selves.

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The whole point of Fitmesh is that it either Just Works or it's no good. Because the user can't fix it with shape sliders. If the clothing cuts through the body, shape sliders won't help. This moves the fit problem from the user to the creator.

So start out new users with a mesh avatar and a half dozen good fitmesh outfits that fit it.

7 minutes ago, Nalates Urriah said:

But, we still have so much applier stuff in the promos and scattered around the tutorials in the on-boarding should say something.

"Your new avatar uses the latest Second Life character technology. You can wear clothing labeled as "Fitmesh for █ █ █ █ █ avatars", and it should fit. You can also wear "texture" clothing; that's just a picture painted on your avatar's body, so it's for close-fitting clothing such as T-shirts and leggings. There are also older types of clothing available which may not fit your avatar. You can try those, but there is no guarantee they will fit. Just like real life."

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   It's been a discussion in its own right, whether LL should make a new system body that's up to snuff in terms of technology and graphics. There have been good arguments both for and against. For: break the current state of body creators getting to pick who gets to have creation kits to make clothes that actually fit, make SL more attractive to new users. Against: infringes on the spirit of the free market of SL by having LL compete with the current market, the style/shape of the body will inevitably not be in everyone's taste (too skinny, too curvaceous, don't like the feet, etc). 

   Personally I'm not really opposed to it, but at the same time I fear the Linden Avatar would be as poorly optimised as the Linden Homes .. 

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I think Orwar points out the major issues. I think content creation, a generalization of body creation, is a major thing in SL. So, while the Lab could compete and make a new body, I have the same concern Orwar does. I survived the mesh creation days, which I think proved the Lindens were out of touch with what residents wanted. They have blind spots. For instance we were telling them mesh would primarily be used for clothes. They didn't think so. So, it took a couple more years to get to Fitted Mesh for clothes.

Leaving things to the free market will give us the best of the best.

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what Linden could is rework the existing Library (Mesh) models to fitmesh BOM and offer them as starter avatars. Making fitmesh outfits sets for each. Like pick Alicia, and for Alicia can also wear the same outfits as Delilah, Lucy and Marissa. Same if pick any of the others

edit add. Able to mix 'n match

Edited by Mollymews
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35 minutes ago, Mollymews said:

what Linden could is rework the existing Library (Mesh) models to fitmesh BOM and offer them as starter avatars. Making fitmesh outfits sets for each. Like pick Alicia, and for Alicia can also wear the same outfits as Delilah, Lucy and Marissa. Same if pick any of the others

edit add. Able to mix 'n match

Decent idea.

But, this is where the Linden engineers miss the point. They don't see SL as we do because few of them use SL the way we do.

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On 3/1/2021 at 11:19 PM, animats said:

Ideally, new users would start with a mesh avatar and some fitmesh that Just Works.

I can already read the post about unfair competition, and even see the name of the poster... where that to happen.

That noted... at this point, I think it would be perfectly sensible to log in every new account that chose female with a copy of Maitreya. Male is less certain - I think the 'war over which avatar will win out' is still going on over there - I have my thoughts on which should win (to help with lag - signature gianni), but the game isn't called yet.

They could even have Maitreya make a 'basic' avatar that had 90% of the features missing. Maybe unscripted, no HUD (so you'd need to wear alpha masks to hide parts), only one foot shape (flat), one nail size, one neck fit, BOM only - etc. Ie: here's what will fit most clothes you buy (except for the flat feet thing - I feel this is logical but if they want common fit they'd go high), but it can't do anything else.

And then the head... the head could stay as a system head or a very simplistic bento BOM only head with no features.

 

And then... queue all the unfair competition remarks... but come on... "everyone" ends up buying that body eventually anyway... A 'basic' version of it might as well be the standard female SL body now.

 

I'm highly disappointed that what they did choose to do was go full tilt on 'white girl default'. At the least, they should have a choice of ethnicity.

 

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On 3/8/2021 at 5:04 PM, Nalates Urriah said:

Leaving things to the free market will give us the best of the best.

It may, or may not, give longtime users something better, but it certainly doesn't give new users a better experience. Free markets are great much of the time, but one circumstance in which to don't work very well is when there's a tradeoff between immediate rewards and rewards in the distant future. Creators focus on near-term rewards, which mostly come from established users, instead of the distant rewards that could come from expanding the market by attracting more new residents.

On 3/8/2021 at 5:58 PM, Nalates Urriah said:

But, this is where the Linden engineers miss the point. They don't see SL as we do because few of them use SL the way we do.

YES!!!

Years ago, LL had a great idea for making the new user experience better---multiple levels of viewer complexity, but they totally botched the execution because they didn't understand what most people want to do immediately, which is customize their avatars. I think they had only two levels,, which was too few. The basic level was too basic, so people usually changed to the advanced level right away. At the time, I was a volunteer helper at Help People Island, and we had a constant stream of very new visitors who wanted to know how they could customize their avatars.

I still think the idea was a good one and could be valuable if input from users were taken into account during development, and if there were several levels.

One complicating issue now is that practically everyone uses Firestorm, so it's hard to get much help with the LL viewer from experienced friends.

Edited by Jennifer Boyle
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39 minutes ago, Jennifer Boyle said:

One complicating issue now is that practically everyone used Firestorm

This right here should tell them what needs worked on first.

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21 hours ago, Nalates Urriah said:

But, this is where the Linden engineers miss the point. They don't see SL as we do because few of them use SL the way we do.

i think that historically it was less about the engineers and more about the visionaries within the company. Visionaries in senior positions who had a vision of what they wanted SL to be, and by secondary association us. World first, people second. There were notable exceptions in the early days in senior positions who pushed back on this, but authority power dynamics and all that 

since Ebbe Linden came, this has changed. His guiding philosophy has always been: That which works for the customers works for the business. Product drives Engineering, not the other way round. And he made sure to action this with senior retainments like Grumpity, Patch and Oz

i am also encouraged to see that the new Linden Executive Chairman Mr Brad Oberwarger has been reported to have said (paraphrasing): What works for the residents, works for me

the thing about this from a Engineering pov, is that is about what actually works technically from the list of all customer wants

and the SL leadership team over these last few years, not only get this but have gone about it consistently, methodically and progressively. Product to the fore. And for me, my inworld today is a whole better than it was. My SL is like SL but better

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6 hours ago, Mollymews said:

...my inworld today is a whole better than it was. My SL is like SL but better

Mine, too, but I have had 14 years to gradually learn how to use the current SL. I think I would give up in despair if I tried SL for the first time today. There have been some good ideas posted in this thread for making it easier to get started.

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1 hour ago, Jennifer Boyle said:

Mine, too, but I have had 14 years to gradually learn how to use the current SL. I think I would give up in despair if I tried SL for the first time today. There have been some good ideas posted in this thread for making it easier to get started.

with new people coming to SL then is my experience that the things uppermost in their minds today are the same things that were uppermost in the minds of new people all those years ago

1) how do I play this game ?

2) where are all the people at ?

3) how do I change my avatar ?

with 2). The provided answer thru the UI is Destinations. Which does literally answer the question. Where are all the people at?

with 3) the UI  provided answer is Avatars. To change pick another one from the list. Which again literally answers the question, even if rather primitively

1) is not fully answerable without delving deeper into what does the person mean when they ask this. When pressed to explain then it can mean different things to different people. And because so then there is no way to provide a standard answer thru the current UI that will satisfy a majority of people (in the same way that a typical 3D game can). If there was then the viewer UI would reflect this, but it doesn't so there isn't

i think that what the UI could do is change its configuration based on what the resident is doing in the moment. I see that Linden have started on separating UI rendering from the inworld viewport rendering. This is a good start, which can lead to different viewer UI configurations for different needs. Which then provides a way to give multiple answers to the multiple meanings of the question: how do I play this game ?

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13 hours ago, Jennifer Boyle said:

Mine, too, but I have had 14 years to gradually learn how to use the current SL. I think I would give up in despair if I tried SL for the first time today. There have been some good ideas posted in this thread for making it easier to get started.

 

11 hours ago, Mollymews said:

with new people coming to SL then is my experience that the things uppermost in their minds today are the same things that were uppermost in the minds of new people all those years ago

1) how do I play this game ?

2) where are all the people at ?

3) how do I change my avatar ?

with 2). The provided answer thru the UI is Destinations. Which does literally answer the question. Where are all the people at?

with 3) the UI  provided answer is Avatars. To change pick another one from the list. Which again literally answers the question, even if rather primitively

1) is not fully answerable without delving deeper into what does the person mean when they ask this. When pressed to explain then it can mean different things to different people. And because so then there is no way to provide a standard answer thru the current UI that will satisfy a majority of people (in the same way that a typical 3D game can). If there was then the viewer UI would reflect this, but it doesn't so there isn't

i think that what the UI could do is change its configuration based on what the resident is doing in the moment. I see that Linden have started on separating UI rendering from the inworld viewport rendering. This is a good start, which can lead to different viewer UI configurations for different needs. Which then provides a way to give multiple answers to the multiple meanings of the question: how do I play this game ?

I think right now it is confusing for those coming into SL for the first time. We have had a couple of years of mesh and appliers. I think that was/is a confusing departure from the basic system avatar prior to mesh and post-BOM. We have new people trying to sort out mesh bodies, appliers, and BOM, which is just a return to how classic avatars work, much simpler. But, all the promo stuff in SL is talking about which appliers, Omega relays, Classic compatible items, and BOM things are made to accommodate whatever we are buying. It might be simpler if all the body applier stuff could go away. But, I want my applier stuff for my head. I like it better than system layer makeup. So...

None of that was actually the Lab's doing. I think they were adapting to what we were doing as quickly as they could. I think they greatly simplified things with BOM. Of course if you came into SL in the middle of the applier-era and applier-tech is what you learned, BOM doesn't seem so simple. It seems lots of people are still confused and sticking with appliers and high-ACI bodies. Eventually That will die down... I think.

Item #1 - game? This has been and remains a problem. All the time I have been in SL whether SL is a game or a platform has been a debate. I find the explanation that SL is an Inventory Game the most humorous and intellectually amusing. Of course, that makes no sense to new people.

SL was originally planned as a quick-development gaming platform. When I came in in 2008 with a number people from the Myst community, most us were learning to build and make stuff. Almost everything was made in-world and in Photoshop/GIMP. That complexity has increased. Blender and other 3D modeling programs are in use now. I think that has gained us more pro and advanced hobbyist modelers. But it definitely upped the learning curve.

I am not sure how you explain the tech behind building an avatar in a simple way. Without that tech understanding much of what we see in the MP is confusing. Without it people are stumped when things go wrong with their mesh body stuff.

I am reminded of when Karl (aka Qarl Fizz former Linden) was working on the Mesh Deformer (2012-13 Deformer History). People could not understand why what was ultimately to be Fitted Mesh was so difficult to impliment. He was literally asked why we couldn't just write 'Pants' in the item description and have the deformer make them fit? (If you don't do 3D model rigging this makes little sense to you. Watch a YouTube 'How to Rig a model' video.) That is how I see the "just work" idea. I understand what people mean. I just know it is never that simple. And that is nowhere as complex as creating a good on boarding experience. Consider. The number of languages: 7,000 with 230 spoken in Europe. The number of nationalities where each people think of the world in drastically different ways. Consider the different levels of technical knowledge just in the US population. 3D modeling is simple by comparison.

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2 hours ago, Nalates Urriah said:

 

I am reminded of when Karl (aka Qarl Fizz former Linden) was working on the Mesh Deformer (2012-13 Deformer History). People could not understand why what was ultimately to be Fitted Mesh was so difficult to impliment. He was literally asked why we couldn't just write 'Pants' in the item description and have the deformer make them fit? (If you don't do 3D model rigging this makes little sense to you. Watch a YouTube 'How to Rig a model' video.) That is how I see the "just work" idea.

is a pretty interesting topic this

i like to think that one day we will get a inworld extrude/weight editing tool for mesh attachments

as you say and I agree that Qarl Linden was on the right path to achieving this with the mesh deformer

the issue with this method (as reported at the time) was that this would be a real-time function performed publicly. And being a public function it would stress the region server. Every deformer action being broadcast to everyone else present on the region every time a mesh garment was worn

at the time there was quite a bit of discussion on the forums and boards. I was (and still am) in the camp of making it part of the Edit process. As when so then when a garment is worn/attached and edited then the process of weighting a rigged mesh can be localised. In the same way that avatar shape editing is already done. Being localised the avatar is still able to be inworld
 
Right-click on the garment, go into local edit mode. Run the extruder Weight tool (mouse pointer) over the garment moving the mesh toward or away from the body (set of bones) - the weights being auto-calculated. Mess it up, then Undo the changes back to the origin. Origin being the weights when the garment was attached/worn

the Edit Deformer (ala Qarl) tool being a way to conform an unweighted or differently weighted mesh in a close enough way to the base avatar shape being worn. Then we use the extruder Weight tool to manually fit the garment from the newly-deformed weights base. (To the base avatar shape, not to the mesh body being worn because potential IP issues in automagically ripping body weights, even as reference points, from existing proprietary mesh body products and moving them to another product owner)

i would love to have a Weight editing tool that would allow me to edit the fit on some of my clothes So would a lot of other resident consumers who want to fix body peek-thrus on themselves. So too I think would mesh creatives, them being able to touch up their meshes while inworld prior to sale/distribution

i also think that if we ever got this then the use of peek-thru masking alpha textures would decrease

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19 hours ago, Mollymews said:

is a pretty interesting topic this

i like to think that one day we will get a inworld extrude/weight editing tool for mesh attachments

as you say and I agree that Qarl Linden was on the right path to achieving this with the mesh deformer

the issue with this method (as reported at the time) was that this would be a real-time function performed publicly. And being a public function it would stress the region server. Every deformer action being broadcast to everyone else present on the region every time a mesh garment was worn

at the time there was quite a bit of discussion on the forums and boards. I was (and still am) in the camp of making it part of the Edit process. As when so then when a garment is worn/attached and edited then the process of weighting a rigged mesh can be localised. In the same way that avatar shape editing is already done. Being localised the avatar is still able to be inworld
 
Right-click on the garment, go into local edit mode. Run the extruder Weight tool (mouse pointer) over the garment moving the mesh toward or away from the body (set of bones) - the weights being auto-calculated. Mess it up, then Undo the changes back to the origin. Origin being the weights when the garment was attached/worn

the Edit Deformer (ala Qarl) tool being a way to conform an unweighted or differently weighted mesh in a close enough way to the base avatar shape being worn. Then we use the extruder Weight tool to manually fit the garment from the newly-deformed weights base. (To the base avatar shape, not to the mesh body being worn because potential IP issues in automagically ripping body weights, even as reference points, from existing proprietary mesh body products and moving them to another product owner)

i would love to have a Weight editing tool that would allow me to edit the fit on some of my clothes So would a lot of other resident consumers who want to fix body peek-thrus on themselves. So too I think would mesh creatives, them being able to touch up their meshes while inworld prior to sale/distribution

i also think that if we ever got this then the use of peek-thru masking alpha textures would decrease

An in-world mesh editor has been talked about. As you point out there are several benefits. I think the hold up is figuring out a UI for it that work for non-modelers.

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