Sounds confusing and counter-intuitive, but sometimes designing virtual collaboration tools in 2D can lead more to 3D thinking & adoption. Hear me out…
A few months back, I worked with multiple clients to run a brainstorming event within Second Life® using the Ideaographer mindmapping tool. When we demoed it for them, they just didn’t “get it”. They asked if we could flatten it so they could see it better. They wanted something familiar, like a whiteboard they use in physical world sessions.
My lesson…never underestimate how overwhelming a virtual environment can be for a new user. Sometimes having a bit of familiarity in the environment and the tools can breed comfort and ease acceptance. These new users couldn’t effectively navigate the space, they couldn’t ALT+Click to control their point of views, and they were relatively unfamiliar with the client interface. They lacked the skills necessary to benefit from the use of the 3D tool.
Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that to be new-user friendly, tools must always be 2D. But for broader adoption and ease of acceptance among new users, I’ve found using a somewhat familiar 2D approach is effective. (However, never allow your design to be limited by the 2D. Always identify the core need and working outward from that, pushing the envelope of the expected and commonplace.)