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Crafting an effective new-user experience for Second Life starts long before the user logs in for the first time. The Second Life viewer user-interface is not the most important part of a new user’s story.

Jane’s story involves a number of phases. At every phase, some number of users will drop out, and not be retained to the next phase. Getting each phase right and integrated with its predecessor and successor will minimise that attrition.

The new user experience is an end-to-end, holistic process, where work on any single phase in isolation will not provide large improvements.

Here, then, are the first two phases in Jane’s story.

Awareness

The new user – we’ll call her Jane – first has to be aware of Second Life. Like any other service or product, you don’t become a user if you don’t know it exists.

Something we all forget from time-to-time is that many people haven’t actually even heard of Second Life yet. Many have, and have forgotten even its name.

The first step in Jane’s journey is discovering that Second Life exists, and that it is something that she could participate in, if she chooses.

This is basic brand-awareness, and that comes down to marketing.

Reason

The next step in Jane’s journey is having a reason to try Second Life. Whether that is out of curiousity, or to see or experience something specific, or an invitation or encouragement from a friend.

If Jane has no reason to try Second Life, she won’t.

Additionally, if it isn’t a strong reason, Jane just isn’t going to get to the end of this story.

In order to acquire that reason, Jane needs to know more about Second Life. The odds are that she’s not going to visit the Second Life Web-site prior to this in order to find out what Second Life is and isn’t. That information must be exposed to her some other way.

We’re back at marketing again.

Linden Lab is – forgive me – rubbish at telling its story; the story of Second Life. Almost everything that Jane sees, hears and reads about Second Life will be incorrect, and have little correlation with what she experiences should she get so far as to try it out. Much of it wildly so.

Linden Lab tries to promote particular highlights and (rather less often) to indirectly refute incorrect reporting, but just doesn’t tell any coherent story that puts information about Second Life into perspective, let alone into digestible material that might make someone think “I’ve got to get me some of that!”

That means that the best Jane can hope for if she moves on past this stage is that she’s proceeding with false impressions, and that she is most likely to be confused, frustrated and disappointed on arrival.

For the first two parts of Jane’s story, marketing is critical. Marketing that cannot be said to be effectively happening.

There’s more in Jane’s story, of course. She’s not even signed up yet. In the next part, we’ll follow more of Jane’s story, and continue to compare it with present realities.

(Part two continues Jane’s story)

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