There’s always a lot of noise and opinion around Second Life and virtual world viewers.
Importance of the Viewer
Virtual worlds are typically seen through a viewer. Above all, this viewer is the most important part of your virtual experience. To enjoy your virtual time to the max, your viewer must be easy to use. Viewers will soon include wearable devices such as Oculus Rift.
As with everything else online, usability is the single factor for mass adoption and the spread of technology (See Browser comparison below). After all, no one wants to spend hours and hours just figuring out ‘how it works’ – they simply want to use the thing, as fast, cheaply and easily as possible.
We did a survey of Londoners to find out the viewers they use and like best. So what are the options?
Created by Jessica Wabbit, this viewer stands above all others. It even has anti-crashing and anti-lag features built into it. Griefers are becoming more and more common these days and a viewer that cancels out their activity is a must. Many of the London team use Wabbit because of these features and its easy use look and feel. Simple to use and to personalise with powerful features for the more experienced user. This is my personal favourite.
One of the more popular viewers for experienced users. Firestorm has a full set of features and will allow you to back up your prim models and convert them to mesh. It also has a lot of building and sim management tools.
If you’re looking for a very low impact text only viewer with no graphical functionality – this is the one for you. It has many features that mean it is ideal for low spec computers and allows people to chat with their friends while away from their main PC. The biggest criticism is its biggest strength – no graphics!
It’s now being supported by Casper of CasperRent and CasperVend.
One of the most popular viewers in Second Life, Singularity has become a standard with many people. One of the criticisms is that it doesn’t have an up to date look and feel. For existing users used to the old Second Life viewer, this is a plus. Singularity does a lot of what Firestorm does too.
This is the viewer Second Life chooses for you. It’s the first viewer you will ever install as a new user. One down side is that you can only access Second Life and not other worlds like Avination and Open Sim.
For a full list of viewers and their merits, look at Builders’ Brewery where each is scored against the others. Unfortunately they missed out the Wabbit viewer. I hope to see it there soon.
Traditionally WYSIWIG technology and intuitive tools have succeeded. Windows superseded DOS, Cloud appears to be superseding Windows all down the ease-of-use path.
An example is with the popular browsers. In July 2010 Firefox has 47% usage, while Explorer has 31%, Chrome 17%, Safari 3% and Opera 2%.
From these figures it can be seen that Firefox is the most popular – but why?
All these browsers are free, connectivity is at the same internet speed and some alternatives, such as Explorer, even come inbuilt within the system. So why do more people choose Firefox?
I am a Firefox user, I find it easy, intuitive, and I can handle plug-ins easily and control how it works for me. That is why I choose Firefox.
Search Engine Choices
Intuitively is important, makes it easy to use – the same goes for search engines: Google has 71% of market share, Yahoo has 14%, Bing has 9% and others share the rest. Why do people choose Google? – Arguably it is the easiest to use.
What I am trying to point out here is that ease of use is everything.
To View or Not To View?
Ease of use includes the right ‘intuitive’ name. A ‘viewer’ implies passivity simply by the choice of word. To the untrained mind, the user is perceived to be no more than an observer. Traditionally a ‘browser’ is understood to be simply that, a tool with which to browse.
Virtual worlds are based on interaction therefore a better word should be used to describe the interface. The interface name between the real user and the imaginary world should be sexier and more appropriate for this product type.
Ease of use starts at basics as fundamental as this. Any ideas?
Back To Basics for Creators
‘Viewer’ creators have to get the basics right first – or people will go elsewhere for a faster, easier and cheaper solution – which may also mean another virtual world. Simplicity first will gain a loyal following, additional functionality can always be added later.
The message I want to end with is for creators of ‘viewers’. Firefox and Google made products easy to use – add-ons like adverts came later.