Linden Lab continues to work on key areas of importance for our Residents, and alongside performance and stability is usability. 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. They say pictures are 1,000s of words, so have a look:
Is Dazzle just a color change?
No. Dazzle includes a new color scheme, and also has revised icon art (e.g., the build tools and Inventory window) and under-the-hood changes/cleanup which will make future customization easier.
How is making stuff look better going to improve my experience?
Aesthetics matter. Seemingly small changes make a big difference. A simple psychological exercise: think about eating a steak in a prison cell with harsh fluorescent lights. Then, think about eating that very same steak in a posh restaurant by candlelight. Which experience would you prefer? And which would you regard as the higher quality?
In a similar way, even if actual inworld content looks the same (like the steak), if the environment you use to experience it — the user interface — looks awful, you’re likely going to feel uncomfortable and annoyed, even if you can’t describe exactly why.
We’ve already had numerous instances of small changes clearly making big differences: some of you may remember when no-modify notecards were difficult to read because they had dark gray text on a somewhat lighter gray background. Changing the colors, a straightforward tweak, helped a lot. And in Dazzle, it’s even better.
What’s this mean for me?
Dazzle is especially beneficial if you’re new to Second Life, but its increased legibility will also help veteran Residents enjoy extended inworld sessions with more fun, and less fatigue.
Some history behind this: over the years, we’ve heard a lot about how difficult SL can be to use, notably how scary the “old-style” UI looks. Cryptic icons, low contrast, and “things you click on that don’t do what you expect them to do” are all frustrating to newcomers, and at last — Dazzle’s here, because we want to make it easier for you.
What’s a First Look?
A “First Look” is an optional download which tends to be a technology preview of a “themed feature”: in this case, it’s a better user interface. Over the next stretch of weeks, we’re giving you time to try Dazzle out and share your feedback with us, so we can improve it before it’s included in the main viewer.
What if I don’t like Dazzle?
This is understandable, particularly because Second Life’s UI has basically been the same for several years. Change can be hard if you’re accustomed to the way things currently look and have been with us for awhile. (We appreciate it!)
We recommend trying Dazzle out and giving it at least a week to get used to — don’t just glance at screenshots, use it in your everyday Second Life — and let us know your feedback. As part of the “First Look” cycle, we’ll pay attention to your constructive criticism and use it to refine Dazzle further.
(And to be fair, there are a few Residents who prefer the viewer UI when it was green years ago!)
Will I be able to revert to the older UI?
For now, First Look: Dazzle is not the main viewer, so you can run them side-by-side.
When Dazzle is in the main viewer, then no, you won’t be able to revert easily. If you’re so inclined, you can manually change the .XML files, but this isn’t user-friendly for the uninitiated. Context: before this easy-to-install First Look, Dazzle was available as a patch-it-yourself demo, and we got great help from some enthusiastic and technically-minded Residents. Now, we’re opening Dazzle up for our whole community.
Does Dazzle mean I can easily add my own skins?
Not yet. But as a first step in that potential process, Dazzle paves the way for improvements to come. For further technical details, see our User Interface Roadmap.
Does Dazzle have any major functionality changes?
Beyond user interface aesthetics, not really. Second Life looks and feels better, but doesn’t behave radically different. We hope it’ll be pleasantly seamless for you.
But since Dazzle affects the appearance of the whole UI, these changes support and complement usability projects in related areas, which we’re also working on. (Stay tuned for more news on that.)
What can I do to help?
Glad you asked! Please report Dazzle-specific bugs on our Issue Tracker so we can fix ’em.
- Go to jira.secondlife.com and login.
- Create a new issue in “Project: Viewer” and “Issue Type: Bug”.
- Make sure to set it to “Affects Version/s = First Look: Dazzle” or else we won’t see it!
Thanks in advance. 🙂
Need more help? We’re here for you. Watch the “How to report a bug” video tutorial.
What’s next? Where can I learn more?
Team Dazzle will be following up on Dazzle issues and releasing revised First Look versions, so look for updates on this blog.
We’ve also got the Dazzle info-page on the Second Life wiki, which we anticipate expanding over time.