Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hints & Tips for New SL Merchants - Part One

I've been in business for over a year now within Second Life, and lately I've been doing more work to improve and promote my business. I've learned a number of things from both strangers and friends that have help to improve sales, and some things to watch out for. I'm recording this information here in a series of blog posts to aid new merchants trying to get their business off the ground.

Part One: Product Signs
This is one of the first ones you need to get under wraps when you start your business. When a potential customer comes to your shop, mall space, or is browsing on xstreet, the first thing they see is the image you put on your item or product listing. Take, for example, the image below:

It's just a snapshot of a bomb resting on sculpted rock with a low-resolution rock texture. When a person is browsing in a shop, they just think "oh, a bomb". Would they guess that this is a tip jar which self-destructs when tipped? No, not unless they have a clue as to what it is. So, you may be tempted to use hovertext scripts. This, however, is not recommended, because it forces you to use up more space in your store, and the text shows through walls, which makes things look ugly and may make your neighbors angry. Some malls forbid you from using hovertext, so that makes things more difficult.

Which leads us to the right way to do it: take a snapshot of your product against a solid background, save the image to your hard drive, and open it up in GIMP, Photoshop, or whatever your preferred image manipulation program is, and work on it. Put a label on it, list the price, set the perms, and quickly state or list the products features. Make sure the arrangement is nice, and pick out a good font. So, you'll go from the vague snapshot above to the sign below:

This is a good example of a product sign. Customers will know what it is and what they're getting. The font I used is thematically appropriate to what is being sold. The permissions are listed as well. The product allows copying and modifying, and this is shown by displaying those words in medium green. However, it does not allow you transfer copies to other users, so it is marked "No-Transfer". The text is in a slightly dark red, and the text size is reduced. As well, the text is large enough to be readable when reduced in size:

Making the sign readable at smaller sizes is a good idea for a number of things. When the image texture is rezzing slowly in-world, it helps that it can be readable before being fully loaded. And believe me, this will come up quite frequently, especially on weekends or lagged sims. As well, readability at small sizes improves the sign's readability from distances, or when it's on a small prim used in a scripted vendor. Lastly, it's good for when you use the sign for product listings on xstreet, as they are reduced in size in lists of products and for the product pages as well.

Notice that I did not use "Lime Green", or RGB 0, 255, 0. It is lazy and easily spotted. That, and lime green can be difficult to read against bright backgrounds. As well, I did not use "Red", or RGB 255,0,0. Using it isn't as bad as lime green, as it is readable against bright backgrounds, but darkening it slightly improves readability, and improves the overall appearance.

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