Sunday, August 06, 2006

Store aesthetics, or "Mommy, the gray squares scare me."

I'm a gamer and one thing I know through playing lots of 3D games is:

One of the things that will bog down a 3D engine are wide, large open spaces. They'll stutter and the frame rate will drop and it will jerk.

Well, in SL there's a heck of a lot of open space in those warehouse sized stores, and it makes for abad experience for this user. It's also bad 3D gaming design, bug of course, the people designing these stores probably aren't seasoned 3D level/environment builders, they build what works for them and what looks nice.

My advice would be to instead of being a warehouse, switch to a multifloor design, like say a real world department store. You want to reduce the number of polygons that need to be drawn and textured at any one moment to as small as you can get it. You'll want to use interior walls to reduce this further. Yes, that will mean that those that sit in the middle of the big warehouse and shop from there won't like it, but for everyone else the user experience will be better.

It will also help you organize your inventory better. For example, Everday wear on level 1, evening gowns on level 2, shoes on level 3, etc. For something like hair it could be, casual styles on one floor, bedroom styles on the next, club styles on the next etc. That would also help users actually find what they want. For my sake I don't want to have to hover my mouse over dozens upon dozens of gray squares (that's what tends to make them rez for me) to find what I'm looking for.

Another idea for stores is PDF catalogs. Suppose one had a PDF showing pictures of every item and it's location in store. That would save time, I wouldn't have to check every grey square to see if it was what I wanted, I could just go to "section 3 of floor 2" and look for it there.

Another idea is to make more use of signs and in store orgamization. Imagine a first time customer, they don't know where anything is, so do you want them to see first? A sign, that will give them a map to the store. "click here for map and landmark"

Another idea is to hire CSR's, not to directly sell the items (let the boxes do that) but to answer questions and to help the customers. Even a huge open warehouse would be easier to shop in if I could go up to someone and say, "I'm looking for a chic professional hairstyle to wear with my career wear" and they could point me to it.

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