I registered over a year ago on Avatars United with great enthusiasm. It was positioned as a site that allowed you to bring together avatars from multiple virtual worlds and create a central web-based home for information sharing and social networking. Unfortunately, after spending the time to add a half dozen of my avatars to their site, I couldn't figure out anything useful to do there. The problem wasn't that there weren't enough users in the network. What still makes the site almost unusable is a combination of poorly executed features, kludgy information design and no apparent workflow direction to accomplish obvious common use-cases.
I think having a Beta graphic on a site that's almost two years old testifies to the relatively sorry state of affairs.
I would love Linden Lab to invest the time, money and resources to actualize the great potential of an integrated transworld avatar social network. So here are a few suggestions:
- Create a home page that makes it easy to find the information that we are likely to care about. I'd love to see new blog posts and photos from my friends, but unless I've logged in within a few minutes of the posting I'm out of luck, unless I go hunting from friend to friend, which would take a lot of effort. And do you really need to ask for my birthday at the top of the page? Does half the screen real estate need to be related to friend suggestions and acquisition. If you can't figure out what is most important to your users, why not let them build the content of their own home page, like Ning? And/or filter the type of information that appears as Facebook supports.
- Figure out something useful to do with the option to associate avatars from different worlds. Okay, I get that I can have a single sign-on that allows me to quickly go from one of my avatars to another. But you're assuming that each world is a ghetto. What if I want my Second Life friends to see content from my Twinity avatar? Do I need to separately friend each one of them with each world's avatar (or the same world's alt)? Maybe I'm an unusual case, but I have one named identity that expresses itself across multiple worlds. Check out our Transworlders site. I also have another identity that is in the same position. Please give us granular options to associate our manfold avatars and RL identities as we choose.
- Make it easy to import content from other sites. Let us bring in our content from Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo in some automated fashion. Your embedded media pop up has potential, but it has an interface that is way too complicated and begs for either integrated help or an additional level of abstraction. You do have one of the most comprehensive sharing lists I've seen. Why not turn that around and support importing from external sites as widely as you support sharing to external sites.
- Realize that community members don't want to feel like we're walking around with "Will Consumer-Whore For Coins" signs around our necks. WTF is up with a "Offerpal"? We realize that you need to create revenue, but save the 14 day free trials for late night cable TV stations.
There are other aspects of the site that are in great need of revision, but I'll stop here for now. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being and keep an eye out for improvements over the next few months. Stay tuned for future reports.