Monday, May 21, 2007
Wayfinding in Second Life - An IA Puzzle
The founders of the Nonprofit Commons sim in Second Life asked me for input on how to improve navigation for visitors to this 3D environment. The sim houses the virtual offices of more than 25 nonprofits, including CARE, Alzheimer Society of Ontario, AngelAID, Transgender Resource Center, Missouri Humanities Council, Techsoup, and the IA Institute.
What fun! The discussion is taking place on the NPSL wiki. Following an IA approach to a SL buildout, I suggested we determine the key scenarios, articulate factors that affect wayfinding, and then brainstorm possible solutions.
For instance, a first-time visitor might arrive at a main teleport site looking for a particular office; a return visitor might come just to explore; or someone could be at one office and want to get to another one.
Factors affecting wayfinding include signs that rez slowly and that visitors don't even recognize as signs; low awnings that obscure the storefronts from a flying position; and an orderly grid of buildings in which all places look very much alike.
Possible approaches include big navigational gestures that will register to new visitors even in a slow-rezzing environment (fortress-of-solitude arrows? a compass rose?); some way to distinguish the quadrants of the sim in a broad fashion (particles of color? memorable monuments?); and providing detail where called for (business names only on the main signpost, but logos on corner signposts?).
Other brainstorms include a single teleport hub to channel visitors through a designed wayfinding experience; a Welcome Center; street names; wearable HUD (heads up display); robot guides; and more.
Visit the discussion and please offer your own suggestions.