Who am I? This is my first thought. I don't mean "what do I look like in Real Life." I mean, who am I, when I'm inside my head? Am I old, young, male, female, outgoing or shy? Am I old-fashioned or modern? Assertive or agreeable? I want my avatar to say something about who I am.
On the other hand, maybe I intend this avatar for a specific roleplay purpose. In that case, the question becomes, "Who do I want to be?" This could be formal roleplay, in a group with rules, and maybe even some sort of scoring system. Or it could be informal roleplay, simply presenting myself as a winged faerie, or a sultry vampire, or a jolly, overweight, donut-breathing dragon and riffing in character with the people I meet.
But roleplay isn't a general thing with me. I might "put on a costume"...wear an unusual avatar for a short time, for fun or for a specific event...but usually I am "myself", my main avatar. While I change clothes, hair, makeup and even eye color frequently, I'm still recognizably Lindal.
Do I look good? My Lindal Kidd avatar was not made in an hour, or a day. I worked on my shape off and on for oh, probably about six months, tweaking it until it was just the way I wanted. And even today, I might make minor changes now and then. Skin was another thing that I altered, over the course of about five years. My first purchased skin was hideous, although I thought at the time that it looked good. That could also be said of my hair. Over time, as I found better products, my appearance improved.
|Early Lindal. Ewww.|
|Fast Forward About Four Years|
A subset of that might be, "Do I look good to the sort of people I want to attract?" Perhaps I want to have a high fashion, haute couture, polished look. Or if I am interested in SL's adult activities, maybe I want to look sultry, lush, and provocative. One wants to look a part of one's group, even while looking unique.
Do I look human? Of course, this only applies if you are using a human avatar. But so many human avatars don't look human! With some, this is glaringly obvious...women with enormous breasts and hips that won't go through a doorway, avatars with short little T-Rex arms, eight foot tall men with biceps as big around as sixty year old oak trees and tiny heads. It's possible to keep your avatar within human proportions and still look handsome or beautiful, and unique, but you have to have a gentle touch on those Appearance sliders!
The advent of Mesh avatar bodies has made it easier to get Instant Beauty and sensible proportions, although they have also made it harder to look unique.
Now, I consider "making your avatar" to consist of the process of making (or buying) your shape, and finding a suitable skin, or set of skins for it. Everything else...hair, eyes, clothing, manicure, jewelry, shoes...is simply "getting dressed."
Getting dressed can take a good bit of time every day, unless I have an Outfit already put together and ready to go with a single mouse click. I'm declaring "getting dressed" to be outside the scope of Ht241's question...but shopping for new things, trying them on, putting together a Look...is a big part of Second Life's attraction, at least for me! Oh, all right, it's an adult version of playing with dolls, if you insist. But it's still fun!