Tonight I read about a new First Look Viewer for Second Life, Dazzle, downloaded it and played around with it a bit. (Picture to the right by Torley Linden.) First Look clients are not Market Research. All of the features, Linden Lab releases with First Look Viewers so far, have been incorporated into the main version later. Scary ... read on!
I was very much excited to test this out, as this new version was announced with words like:
We’re pleased to announce First Look: Dazzle, a “refresh” for the Second Life viewer’s appearance which makes the UI (User Interface) more accessible and pleasing.
It is my strong belief, that the shortcomings of the current user interface of Second Life are one of the major issues leading to the extremely low user retention especially in the first 30 - 90 minutes. Learning Second Life is NOT easy for the average internet user. ANY improvement of the client's usability would be extremely welcome to me. Alas ...
... after playing around with Dazzle for 30 minutes I can only say: deeply disappointing!
What has happened is basically nothing more than the application of a new skin and color scheme. Cosmetic changes. Pure facelifting. Some icons have been changed. The style of windows, buttons and other interface elements is now basically that of a "polished Windows NT/XP" and everything has been made a little brighter.
Nothing else was changed in a substantial way! The illogical grouping of commands into menus with arcane or misleading names is still the same. Some important commands are still well hidden, rarely needed ones appear in the menu top levels. I wonder, how one can say, that any of these changes improved usability or accessibility at all (some texts are more readable maybe; stronger contrasts).
This leads me again, to question the way this company, Linden Lab, is doing user experience design. I honestly wonder
- Have the interim versions been tested with real users (especially newbies) in a controlled environment?
- Was there any comparative testing (old and new versions with different groups)?
- What were the goals of this project?
- Which measurable performance indicators have been defined to check, if (which) goals have been achieved?
To be honest, I very much doubt that anything like this happened. This looks like a bunch of enthusiastic engineers got together and attacked some weaknesses of the current viewer/client - guided by their own taste or suggestions in publicly available literature and eager to demonstrate the relatively new feature of "XML-based customizability" introduced to the SL viewer last year. Disappointing. Deeply disappointing.