During SXSW 2010, Linden Lab's User Experience designer Erica Firment gave a fun and insightful talk,"Failing Our Way to Victory", which revealed a lot of behind-the-scenes details on the development of Second Life Viewer 2. (As her title suggests, she's a key figure on the software's deep revamping into something much more intuitive and user friendly.) I hope to blog my favorite highlights from her presentation later this week (hint: Jay Leno is involved), but one point deserves its own post now:
During the Q&A period, I asked Erica about the user reaction to Viewer 2. As my reader forum suggests, despite a concerted effort by the Lindens to make the viewer enjoyable to use, a lot of established Residents find it aggravating, annoyed for example that features and commands they've counted on in past versions have been moved around or hidden, seemingly arbitrarily.
"Change is frustrating," Erica acknowledged, and said that she's seen this level of user vitriol over the viewer before. But for the first few times, it came from Linden Lab's own staff.
That's because during internal testing of Viewer 2, it was the Lindens' themselves who complained about the viewer changes, ranting about them on the company messaging systems. Over time, however, the complaints waned (evidently as the Lindens grew accustomed to the changes, while gradually finding the old viewer more frustrating.) This pattern of anger and acceptance repeated itself with the first rounds of private user testing, Firment told me. Or as Erica put it in her uniquely charming Erica-ish way, the tenor of the complaints on the Viewer 2 forum slowly went from "RAWRR!!!" to "rawrr?"
Erica Linden hopes history will repeat itself with established Residents who still aren't happy with the new viewer. "I feel we need more time to let the reaction shake out," she told me.
Pic of Erica Linden's frog princess avatar via the Librarian Avenger's Flickr stream.