Category Archives: Design Best Practices

A compendium of “Do’s” to improve design in Second Life

Tall Grass House on the River

Tall Grass River 1

This is Tall Grass, nestled into a site along a river. I changed some of the interior materials to feel more at home in the Pacific Northwest setting, but you can’t really tell from the outside.Columbia west_013 edited

The parcels along this river are flat, and they encourage tenants to align their houses straight along the river, in a straight east-west direction. It is so much more interesting if you don’t do that. Angle the house so that when you stand inside your view is directed along the river bank – the view is better if it is directed up and down the shoreline. The shoreline is the interesting part. There is no law that says your house has to be aligned on  the compass points, but I rarely see houses in SL that aren’t.

Many boats sail up and down this river, and planes land here, too. I really enjoy watching them.

Tall Grass River InteriorI was only given a few hours to terraform the land. So I had to do the best I could, and then maneuver the house and the landscaping to fit what I had. I think that’s a good thing. In the real world you need to make the house fit the landscape. It’s expensive to sculpt the land to fit the house, so it’s better to start with the land, and then design a house to fit. I think much better results are obtained when you go with what you have, rather than trying to change the land fit a preconceived notion of a house. Columbia west_015


Entry – Doing it Right

One of the best examples of how to do a good Second Life store entry is Kitties Lair.

When you teleport to Kitties Lair, you land facing east. And this is what you see:

Couldn’t be more perfect. The store, the sign, the obvious door, straight ahead.

As you walk to the entry the door is already open. There is no reason in SL to place a closed door in front of a customer,  and to make them stop and figure out how to open it. If you must have doors, strongly consider leaving them open.

At the very front of the store is a display of the most popular items for sale, the Best of Kitties Lair. The rest of the store is one story of well organized, concisely edited and arranged clothes and shoes.

Babette Ultsch is the designer responsible for the clothes, shoes, and buildings. For some reason she doesn’t get as much recognition as she should. Her shoes in particular deserve to be included among the best in Second Life, and she has much to teach other merchants (and commercial prefab builders!) about how to design and build functional commercial spaces for virtual worlds.

SLURL to visit Kitties Lair:

Facing East

Today I was seized with a sudden loathing of my hair. Short, white and choppy, I had always imagined it to be “tousled.” Today I realized it looks like it was styled with pruning shears.

As much of my hair (or “hairs” as some endearingly call it) was lost in the Great Inventory Sorting and Storage Catastrophe of 2010, I had nothing suitably long and flowing in my inventory. I pulled out a landmark and headed for a hair shop I hadn’t visited in a while.

When the smoke cleared, this is what I saw:

The shop was gone! Although it happens all the time, it’s unsettling. And annoying. And starts to crush the urge to fling Linden dollars from your pocket.

As I fumbled through my landmarks, thinking about where to go next, I caught a flicker of movement at the edge of the screen. I turned around.

The shop was back! Or rather, it had always been there. In the wrong place. Or I was in the wrong place. Or the teleport landing zone was in the wrong place… Something was in the wrong place, because my book Shop Design 101 (when I get around to writing it) will clearly state “Always bring your customer to the front of your store, a quick-rezzing area where they can instantly see the business name and how to get inside.”

I was at the front of the store, it was quick-rezzing and the door was obvious. But I was facing east. The store was to the west. I remembered something the elusive Mr. L told me many months ago:

When teleporting, you always land facing east.

What does this mean for design in virtual worlds? In Second Life, you can’t always put the people in front of the store. You have to put the store in front of the people.

I hear you talking. “But…but, but,” you are saying. “My store faces east, and there is a road in front, and the door can’t be anywhere but the west side of the street because my slumlord refuses to change the whole sim around…”

M’kay. What can you do?

  • Plan from the beginning. When shopping for a store in a mall, a parcel to build on, or a prefab, you now know the questions to ask yourself. What direction does the door face? Where will the TP landing point be? When a customer rezzes, will they see your shop or the competition across the street?
  • Put something in front of the arriving customer to let them know they are in the correct place. A fast-rezzing sign, some samples of your work. This will also block the customer from walking ahead, and encourage them to stop and look around.
  • Put the TP landing point inside your shop. Keep in mind that designers design more than things. They design experiences. too. So don’t just plonk your customers in a pile in the middle of your displays. Design a place for them to land where they can move out of the way of incoming traffic while they rezz.

When I arrive somewhere, I tend to turn to the left. I use my arrow keys to control my avie, and my right index finger rests on the left turn arrow. So I turn to the left. Does this hold true for you? If so, perhaps important things such as a TP board should be to the left of the arriving customer.

Lets look at some examples of good teleport arrival experiences.

G Field Mainstore

Cerberus Noel has followed all the rules here. The entry is right in front of you when you land. There’s a nice big sign on the ground where it is easily visible. Inside the door you can see the directory and tp board. Perfect!

Nicky Ree

When you arrive at Nicky Ree’s flagship store, you are facing east, and the store entrance is behind you to the west. Wait a minute! Didn’t I just waste precious moments of my life telling you this was all wrong? And now we see that one of the best designers and most successful merchants in SL doesn’t know Shop Design 101?

Ahhh, but wait. When you arrive at Nicky Ree’s flagship store, you are in a spacious landing zone, facing an information kiosk which (because its practically the only thing there) rezzes quickly. The kiosk gives you information that Nicky thinks is important, such as the location of her bridal showroom (she has a bridal division – I didn’t know that!) and who to contact if you need help in Norwegian. Meanwhile, her large and complex store is beginning to download behind you. By the time you turn around the store has rezzed and the vendor textures are on their way. A smart way to handle both customer arrival and texture-heavy download.

And lastly,

You would think the Lindens would know how to handle teleport arrivals. But….when you tp to the Orientation Island LM included in your Library, you’re presented with this:

On that note, I’m outta here!

SLURL’s to places mentioned in this post:

G Sloan –
Designing Nicky Ree  –
Orientation Island –