Tuesday, August 3, 2010

so maybe the only choice we've ever gotten is how to take the fall

There are several of us blogging in the multiverse who seem, at least on view from the outside, to be gluttons for punishment. I loathe the 2.0 viewer, for instance, yet I downloaded 2.1. (Loathe that as well, but at least I loathe it a little less? I only want to kill it with fire, not napalm and spent uranium rounds, so...yay?)

Zha's Virtual Musings is another such blog, but there are some damned good points there. First, read this to bring you up to speed on absolutely everything that's wrong in viewer 2.0, including:
"Good user interfaces try to avoid “modal” behavior, where things behave differently based on where you are in the interface. The 2.0 interface is modal in a number of frustrating ways. The Camera widget is painfully modal, requiring clicks to change the effect of clicking on the arrows within the widget. The Audio controls are obscure in similar ways."

"One of the major new elements in the 2.0 beta is the right hand dock. One stop shopping for a lot of information? Perhaps. But at the moment its also a highly modal tangle of user interface elements. The tab slides away to clean up the screen while holding context, which is nice. But, the tab can’t be resized, nor can it be torn off. This means that all the uses of the tab are forced to share a vertical format. It also means that you get to see one, and only one type of information in the client at a time."

"Making the dock unsizable makes it painfully hard to use nested inventory folders, as you’re never able to see all of the names of nested folders without constant mouse motion. Making the dock modal means you end up constantly clicking between things in the dock and losing any context you had in a task"

"Notifications are a promising element, but they don’t quite work. For one, the things being shoved into the notification box are of several types. Some are group notices. These are rarely items you need to address in a hurry. Mixed in are events from scripts, teleport offers, texture offers and online/offline status updates. online/offline updates are especially bizarre. They go away without a trace. If you are not at your screen, you will miss them. They do not go to the chat history, they do not go to the IM history they are gone."

"The 'This group has traffic' chiclets rapidly end up with a hard to notice scroll bar and useful element out of sight. Yes, you can resize and float these, but again, it tends to end up with scrolling and active window management."

"For added difficulty, the very hard to notice update of IM tabs while you’re looking at text chat makes it very easy to totally miss someone speaking to you in IM."

"When you close a floater/window in the current 2.0 beta, its destination ranges from stacking up in very transparent boxes on the upper left, to docking with the bottom chat bar to just vanishing. How you restore a window you had up is equally variable."

"The current 2.0 beta search tool fails in almost every way imaginable."

"Profiles, Profile Pictures and the whole use of the right hand dock to present these elements in the current beta is just a mess...Putting both first life and second life profile components side by side makes each seem less important. The phrase 'real life' muddies the water significantly, especially as there is no actual validation of any of the real life information."

"Groups are shoved into a list of links flowed into a very hard to read hodge podge. If you click on a group to see what it’s about, you don’t get a floater, instead the profile is overlayed by the group information. At this point, clicking back takes you to… Umm. The friend’s list. Exploring a persons profile groups is remarkably painful."

"Picks are similarly mangled. Tiny postage stamp photos, 'more' buttons hiding most of people’s text, and painfully small fonts. Classifeds get the same treatment, with a small entry at the bottom of the screen to clue you into their existence. Picks and classifieds retain a link to a location. You might expect this to be a clickable field. It is not. You cannot click it. You cannot drag it to your landmarks or the favorites bar. This is a direct violation of the web metaphor."

"When you have several windows up in the beta, you will be faced with a lovely selection of icons to dismiss a window. Some things have tiny little circular (x) tags. Some have more traditional boxed [x] elements. Some have little '_' elements which minimize them. Two almost identical items, the Conversation float and the chat history share the same element, but use totally different hiding mechanisms, and require a different way to restore them."

"Those with even slightly long memories will recall much unhappy howling when the labs reskinned the client a while ago. One of the loudest complaints was that the lab imposed a color scheme which was very low contrast, thus making it hard on older eyes, or those with visual challenges. The lab seems to have fully forgotten this outcry. The beta client is full of low contrast elements. "

"In the 1.23 client, an unfocused floater becomes transparent. Transparent floaters allow you to see more of the actual world. The 2.0 beta doesn’t include this feature."

"Tabs on the conversation box are just odd. No matter how much screen real estate is available they don’t show full group names. Nor do those tabs act as link elements. They also blink in an incredibly soft and easy to miss fashion and highlight new content very poorly [.]"

"The list has lost its direct access to tick boxes for 'see me', 'map me' and 'modify my objects.' This makes managing these properties much harder, as you can no longer sort by them, nor quickly see them. These status bits are hidden, two clicks away, inside people’s profile, on the 'status and notes' tab."

"Having to constantly click between pan, tilt and zoom is just baffling. Its modal in the very worst sense of modal."

"The tiny little play and speaker icon are subtle beyond redemption. Second, I think they include the densest mix of overlapping elements in the entire new user interface. If you hover over the little speaker icon you get a little drop down master slider. If you click it, it mutes/un mutes the master volume. If you hover in the area you get a dark gray tiny bar with a button, a cog/tiny down triangle button and a 'More>>' button which hovertips 'Advanced controls' and gives you another complex little box."
And that was what M~ Zhaewry thought was wrong before the rebuild. These are all good, strong points that the Lindens should have listened to, the hundreds of times their beta test group mentioned these points. They should have taken notes, and gone back into making 2.1 the better version.

M~ Zhaewry's list of recommended fixes, by the by? Include:
"Fix the right hand dock. Make it sizable. Make it tear off. Don’t try to cram stuff into the straight jacket of a single fixed sized bar. "

"Fix notifications. Stop letting some information vanish without a trace. Lower the click count needed to do routine tasks with notifications."

"Fix the chat/IM separation. People use chat and IM at the same time. Forcing people to mouse between them breaks immersion and complicates everyone’s life."

"Allow serious, easy skinning of color. Allow easy font adjustments. Package at least one high contrast scheme. Avoid tiny window controls. They are hard to see, they are hard to mouse over and they are a nightmare to describe to people."

"Avoid effects which blink. Avoid things you cannot turn off which are likely to trigger migraines and worse. Run the client on laptops. Run it on small screens. Find some testers with older eyes. Find some testers with less than 20 20 vision."

"Look hard at the various controls such as camera and moving. Simple is good. Modal is bad. Getting down to as few elements as possible is good, but not if it requires constant mouse motion to switch between modes."

"Listen to the community and your users about search. It doesn’t work. Look at search in 1.23 and make sure that what replaces it works as well or better. Search is an important part of the process of connecting users to users, and users to events. Broken search is really bad."

"Make sure profiles, groups and the various things users see on a regular basis look pretty and polished. Pictures need to be big enough to see nicely. Text should be easy to read."

"Anything which simply can’t be done at all in 2.0 but can in 1.23 ought to be sorted out before the code is considered done."
There is nothing wrong with these suggestions. Nothing wrong with the original list--which is far more exhaustive on that particular blog entry--of problematic areas in viewer 2.0.

Instead, we arrive here, where M~ Zhaewry has taken out 2.1 for a test drive.

A test drive of total fail.
"I had hoped that one of the clear messages in that post was that the 2.0 approach of making people click more to do the same things is bad. I also hoped that 'the sidebar is way overloaded and way too modal' message was pretty clear."
Yeah...that didn't so much work, no. I could have saved some time; unless there is a radical new vision with Philip Rosedale's return, the Lindens don't listen; the Lindens don't respond; and the Lindens doing work with the world we live in in mind, because they don't live in their world. Flat out.

Being as there's no straight pie menu-to-drop-down menu equivalency (because NOTHING is in the same place you think it is in 2.0-structured viewers) from 1.23 to 2.1, it turns out there are a ton of unnecessary digging stops through various sub-menus just to get to the bare ability to change one's shoes. And even with that, one's shoes are no longer presented as a set unit anymore. One's shoes are now presented as system-layer shoes for X shoe form in one tab; prim shoe covers for those system-layer shoes in another tab; and, if one is wearing coordinated hose, that's presented on yet another tab. It's insane. IN. SANE.
"Let me be blunt. Let me make this simple. Until you fix the basics, don’t add new stuff in the same style. The modal nested, click 5 times to do anything style is totally broken. Fix that. Fix it now, and fix it fully. Fix it with help from your users because you’re proving with every code drop of this client that you don’t actually understand your product at all."
Let me go back to the baseline point--The Lindens don't caaaare. They don't care that only a fraction of their userbase uses 2.0. They don't care that they're making their own product unwieldy, cumbersome and difficult to use. "Fast, easy and fun"? In what goddamn universe?
"If 2.1 is the answer then the question would appear to be 'How can we make the user experience even more appalling than it was in 2.0[.]'"
And again, the Lindens don't seem to think that matters much.

Let's see if "Fast, Easy and Fun" makes any change in design in the next few months. My bet? It won't in the least.

In related news, how much bitching can one conceivably do if one is upset over a product that potentially violates another artist's IP rights...when one is violating another artist's IP rights?

To further explain this, this gun apparently is based on this gun from Deviantart. There's been a bit of controversy that even showed up (briefly) on the discussion page for the Breach gun. But where the section of talk originated for me? On a dark RP sim a friend is on, talking to a friend of his who mostly RPs as...characters from Star Wars.

Savor the irony.

Finally, from Fitch Lekvoda's profile:
"Dominance is not about force or aggression.

"One should merely tell their submissive their desires, with the expectation that she will work to fill them.
There should be no need for forcing factors, if there are, then she is not truly yours, nor are you truly her dominant."
Good point. Especially considering when I pulled her profile, she was standing in Nightshade Designs making a (male) friend of hers try on corsets he'd won standing near the Lucky Chairs.


Rhianon Jameson said...

It's a little bewildering as to how the 2.x client can be so bad. I've spent a grand total of perhaps two hours with it because I hate it so much. Yet in those two hours, nearly all of the complaints M. Zhaewry noted were evident.

I don't design software, but I'd think that those who do would do at least two things: one, see what's out there that works and what doesn't work; and two, get feedback about the current work-in-progress, both by using it yourself and by asking the opinion of others.

Regarding point one, one of the things I detest about Office 2007 is the ribbon bar, not because it's an intrinsically bad idea to put functions on it, but because the bar changes with context. I hadn't heard the term "modal" before in this context, but that's exactly the problem with it. Office users screamed about it. This episode couldn't have escaped the attention of the designers of the 2.x client.

Regarding the second, if it takes all those clicks to change shoes and stockings, then it's clear that whoever designed the interface doesn't change shoes and/or stockings with any frequency, nor did the team listen to the feedback from users who do use those features.

It's such a miserable experience, I'm bitterly clinging to client 1.23 as long as I can.

Emilly Orr said...

I've actually downloaded the 2.1 beta, at the urging of a love, who keeps telling me the problem is I expect it to act like the 1.23 viewer, instead of as its own viewer. "Think of it like learning a new game," he tells me, over and over. "Because it's a different client entirely."

I get what he's trying to tell me, but I can't think of a single instance where I had this much trouble learning a new structure. Downloaded Runes; their browser makes sense. Downloaded the ATLUS Steampunk game--their browser makes sense (I just don't like the game). Downloaded games from Steam--The Path and Team Fortress 2--their browsers make sense.

I'm even thinking over things that aren't quite browsers independently, like CSS--I know HTML, and yes, there's some expectation that things will function in the same way in CSS, and they don't, quite, which means I'm not fluent in it yet. But I do understand the basic concepts, even if I don't automatically know how to code, just from knowing HTML.

The problem with 2.0 is that none of the connections make sense. Chat windows are all independent--why? Inventory doesn't function either completely alphabetically or ordered by system folders first--why? Lines of chat are doubled; first the user's name and then what they're saying. Why?

Between 2.0 and 2.1 they fixed camera controls--instead of being on two opaque large squares, they're now on one opaque large square--but they still cannot be resized or made translucent, and I think I'm one of maybe fifteen people total who uses the camera controls to move anyway.

And the inventory thing is just baffling. The ability to mark outfits, like landmarks, is invaluable. But not keeping items in the folders I'd already put them in makes me tear out my hair. I know one person who stores everything in alphabetical order, and even she keeps things in the folders they came in. And she'd lose her mind using 2.1 too, because it would muck up her careful alphabetizing.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Geez, the things we do for love, eh?

Emilly Orr said...

You aren't kidding.