Posted by: Peter Quirk | June 16, 2008

Second Life widgets, dashboards and Section 508

I was thinking today about an idea in my last post about providing cues about the timezones of the avatars one is interacting with. I wondered whether the info should be displayed in the label used to display the avatar’s name and group. Then I thought about my HUDs and the various bits of junk displayed by the advanced menus and it dawned on me that the Second Life client needs a standard dashboard or sidebar where all of these optional 2D components can be plugged in. A widget to display the timezones of avatars in my field of view would be something that I could install from a widget gallery. Developers would offer competing implementations of timezone widgets. My slTweets HUD, my blogHUD and my Zhao II AO HUD would be reimplemented as widgets that plugged into one or more toolbars that could be locked down, or torn off and floated outside the client window. Like the auto-hiding toolbars in Visual Studio, these toolbars could also roll up when not needed.

Most of the required functionality probably exists in the integrated Mozilla browser. All we need is some of that snappy Javascript functionality to pick visual elements from a toolbox and lay them out the way we want. One advantage of formalizing support for the dashboard/sidebar would be decent, fast support for text where it’s needed. Another could be consistency of user interfaces if done properly. A third advantage might be better support of screen readers for the visually impaired. I could even imagine automatic closed captions being an option in this area of the screen. In that vein, it makes sense to add the inventory and communication widgets to the same framework so that the screenreaders would on them too. Section 508 compliance will become an issue for Second Life sooner or later. 

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