I started talking about the Second Life new-user experience from the perspective of ‘Jane’, an amalgam of many, fairly ordinary new users. A prototypical example of how users new to Second Life experience it. That’s a story that begins quite some time before they ever log in, and the first part is here.
Now Jane has gotten to the point where she’s aware of Second Life, and has a reason to try it out.
The next step in Jane’s story is the Second Life Web-site.
There are two problems here. For one, if Jane doesn’t like what she sees, her story ends right here.
For the second, well, the intro video on that “What is” page looks more like a trailer for The Sims series. It’s slick and carefully choreographed, and gives a whole pile of false impressions about Second Life, showing all sorts of things working smoothly that don’t work smoothly in Second Life, or that are just impractical. It may be great machinima, but offers a completely inauthentic experience, and if Jane expects the sort of experience she sees depicted here, she’s going to drop out fairly quickly after logging in.
Most notably, this page that is supposed to tell you about ‘what Second Life is’ doesn’t actually tell you anything about Second Life. If Jane follows the link expecting to find out more about what Second Life is, she’s going to feel a little cheated that the page doesn’t deliver. Jane’s not likely to look at the official blog or forums, and statistically, she’s actually never likely to do so, unless something seriously breaks.
Nevertheless, we’ll assume she makes through to the next stage: Registration.
The registration process has certainly been slimmed down over the years. All Jane needs now is an account name, an email address, a date-of-birth, to set up a security question, and to pick one of a dozen preset avatars to start off with. Oh, and she also must make a legally binding promise that she has read and agreed to somewhat in excess of 30,000 words of legal contracts, terms, and policies before she clicks the Create Account button, most of which are not written in plain-language.
Actually, registration is a place where Facebook integration could be looked at as a positive thing. With a couple of mouse-clicks, much of the registration information could be pre-filled from a user’s Facebook account (if any), along with a suggested account-name. Registration’s certainly easy, but there doesn’t seem much harm in making it even easier for those that want it – and a number of online services do just that. Any connection to Facebook could be thrown away after that. Even so, streamlining registration at this point isn’t likely to help retention, because … well …
What’s Jane up to now?
She’s signed up for an account on Second Life, about which she knows nearly nothing – and much of what she thinks she knows is probably wrong. Until she got to the download page – after registering – she was likely unable to readily discover whether her computer would be able to run the Second Life viewer. That’s the first page on which any system requirements are linked to.
Actually, she might still not know. Not many people know what’s inside their computer cases. Those of us who do and are able to compare are a rarity.
She’s preparing to log in for the first time and still doesn’t know what a Linden is, or a Linden Dollar for that matter, or where/how to get help. She might or might not recognise the name “Linden Lab” even.
That’s the second part of Jane’s story as a new Second Life user. Soon, we’ll move on to the last part.