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How Can UX Designers Help with the Mass Adoption of Blockchain Products?

It’s been a decade since the blockchain hype began and started disrupting the world of technology and finance. Blockchain attracted numerous engineers, financial experts, and investors who built the technology from the ground up. However, during that time, UX remained pretty much the same. Today, as more and more people opt to use new technologies, the necessity for a better UX design is inevitable. In order to introduce the general public to blockchain technologies, we need to keep pushing the boundaries of said technology while focusing on the user experience design.
In this article, we will try to point out some of the issues regarding the current state of blockchain, and also figure out in which ways UX designers can help us with the mass adoption of blockchain.

Issues with Mass Adoption

Many people compare blockchain to the Internet due to its impact on society. The Internet radically transformed some major industries like music, publishing, transportation, and advertising. Blockchain is doing the same, but mostly with financial businesses. However, unlike the Internet, blockchain hasn’t become as global yet. One of the biggest problems that prevent the mass adoption of blockchain is the way in which current blockchain products are built. It feels as if they were designed for engineers and tech-savvy experts only, just like you needed to know all about the underlying protocols of the Internet in order to use it. If you take a look at real use cases of blockchain products, you can see that they are complex and challenging. In addition, there are also some security and compliance issues to keep in mind. So how do we move from here to mass adoption? How do we make blockchain products seamless and interactive? Well, it’s rather simple — we eliminate the need to mention blockchain.

The Best Blockchain Is No Blockchain

Blockchain should be invisible — let’s be honest, customers don’t bother with PHP, MySQL, or anything of the sort nor do they care about what’s going on behind purchasing stuff from Amazon via Alexa. We don’t think much about how voice recognition, instant online payment, or supply chain management work. Instead, we are only interested in the value they provide. The same should apply to blockchain. It should be hidden in the back, providing value to users without them being aware of it. The only thing users should focus on is the benefits of blockchain like transparency, enhanced security, and efficiency. However, these benefits can receive recognition only when they provide a seamless experience. Blockchain will be successful when it becomes invisible and when we don’t have to mention it anymore; in other words, when it becomes the killer app that everyone is talking about. However, in order to design or make that killer app, we have to focus on users and understand which values underlying technologies like blockchain can bring to those users. For now, there are a couple of things that can be done to make the journey of early adopters easier, which can be seen in the few following topics, problems, or obstacles users face when they use blockchain-based products.

“I’m not really sure what you’re talking about”

Communication is one of the main obstacles that prevent blockchain from getting to a mass market because it mostly affects new users. Namely, the blockchain community developed jargon (e.g., GAS, Tx Hash, etc.) which has spread even on interfaces. While jargon makes people do additional research and self-educate before proceeding further, it is also a part of the problem. As pointed out by Taylor Monahan in The Future of Ethereum Doesn’t Have Wallets, the new book by Andreas Antonopoulos and Gavin Wood — Master Ethereum — captures what a wallet is alongside the confusion it creates. “A common misconception about Ethereum is that Ethereum wallets contain ether or tokens. They are actually stored on blockchain. So an Ethereum wallet is actually a keychain.” Because of this, users can have wrong expectations, which can cause them to make mistakes or interpret blockchain poorly. Since we perceive two separate realms, the real world and the digital world, it would be better to focus on the latter while shaping communication towards our users. For that reason and to ensure that there is no miscommunication, we should use common terms like “fee” when referring to “gas”, for example, as that will make users more familiar with the product.

Leave everything behind the curtain

Quickly building products to show their value, technical functioning, and proof-of-concept created a sort of “from an engineer for an engineer” trap for the teams working on blockchain products. When you add the already mentioned jargon to various required data for the user to input, it can all become hard to digest and remember. To make things worse, users are continuously bombarded with unnecessary information. Instead, all data displayed to users should be actionable, or if that is not an option, it should give them additional value and provide them with a sense of trust or help educate them. We should also present the data in a manner that is easy to understand and memorize. One of the solutions for memorizing addresses or vital info are QR codes. Instead of copying or typing out the full address, you can just scan the codes. Ethereum foundation even went one step further and introduced us to ENS (Ethereum Name System) that is based on the logic of internet domain names. It allows you to display the address in a form that’s easily readable to humans. Instead of having to remember 66.220.144.0 or 5x4cbh55k4904 or something like that, it is much easier to remember information like Facebook.com or yourfriendsname.eth.

What to do with difficult onboarding?

If you are a regular user set on creating an account on dAPP (decentralized application), going through the process of KYC (Know Your Customer), or getting some ETH to participate in ERC-20 token transaction, chances are that you may experience quite a few obstacles that will deter you from getting involved in blockchain. Some of those obstacles may come in the form of technical difficulties. Also, some users can simply be worried about the safety or legitimacy of blockchain. Creation of a user profile or account on decentralized applications differs from “regular” applications in only one crucial point — storing your credentials. The “regular” way of storing your credentials online is to store them on a central server that already possesses all the data you provided, like your email, password, and so on. When it comes to decentralized applications, they don’t store your information, which means that there is no way for your credentials to get stolen. However, at the same time, it also means that if you lose your credentials, you permanently lose your account and everything related to it. There is no password reset via email because your credentials are not being checked against their match in some database, but rather against the cryptographic algorithm, solely on the front-end. People got used to relying on a password reset button, so it’s essential to emphasize the importance of keeping their account credentials safe. We can take Bitbay as an example. This web wallet doesn’t store your account credentials anywhere on the server, making it impossible to restore your account if you forget your login details. In order to prevent the user from making a mistake when choosing a username and a password, Bitbay wallet requests the user to confirm every input field. However, while trying to make the whole process a lot more secure, they’ve also made it a lot more confusing, especially when it comes to the multi-sig option that requires the user to input information in six different fields. On top of that, the password requirements are way too complicated. For example: Your password must contain at least 12 characters and must include at least one number, one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, and one special character such as [email protected]#$%^&*()_+.=,;:!-[]}{/?><^}, which increases the chances of forgetting your login credentials. The need for a backup/restore option produced a couple of different solutions, such as printing your public/private key combination, JSON key file, or mnemonic phrase. However, as is the case with Bitbay web wallet, each of these solutions comes with its advantages and pitfalls. Ink can fade, paper can get wet or burnt, or you can simply lose that piece of paper. The same can be said for your USB device — losing one is quite common. When it comes to your computer, note that each PC connected to the Internet is already at risk. That’s why it is important to emphasize this piece of information and educate new users in order to help them realize that they are a lot more responsible for their credentials when it comes to dAPPs. Naturally, it will take time for new users to get adjusted to this, but during that time we can find different ways to deal with this trade-off.

Reminder of immutability of blockchain

Another thing that’s important to emphasize is that every transaction made on blockchain is irreversible. Once made and validated, changes cannot be made. There is little chance that the user will notice any kind of disclaimer or warning unless they get in their way. This means that despite it being a bad thing, friction flow can be an excellent tool that will make the user pay attention. For example, a confirmation modal, repeating input for validation, explicit clicking on the check mark, or 2FA confirmation can all be used to grab user’s attention without frustrating them too much.

Hide transaction time or make it transparent

Compared to one-click purchases on Amazon, or online payment processing, completion of blockchain transactions can seem like an eternity. We could cover up waiting time with some UX attention stealing magic like the iPhone 1 shutter animation, for example. However, that would save us only a few seconds. Luckily, everyone is aware of this flaw, and there are already projects dedicated to solving this issue, one of them being Stellar Lumen. Currently, the best thing we can do is to make the transaction status always visible to the user and to explicitly communicate any changes in the status, which should increase users’ trust and confidence of using blockchain transactions as part of everyday interactions with other entities.

Designing for trust

Many designers like to point out that “designing for trust” is something crucial in the blockchain design process. However, trust should be included as a primary design principle in every digital product design process — not only in blockchain. Even though blockchain is promoted as a “trustless technology”, technology of distributed trust may be a better expression. It eliminates the need for any intermediating entities such as banks, for example. That’s why users may need some time to figure out what they have to sacrifice to come closer to a more trustworthy environment. In the world of blockchain, trusting a product is of utmost importance. People are usually afraid of unfamiliar or unknown things. Users confirm that an idea, a product, or technology work by making sure that their peers are using it, and that it has real value to them. This is especially true when the learning curve is steep. The truth is that users need to share a lot of personal information to be able to use any blockchain product; this is why they need to be sure that their data is protected and their transactions painless to track. Here are a few ideas that can help us achieve trustworthiness:
  • Make the environment familiar. Standardize design patterns, and use logic and analogies the user is already familiar with. Make input fields, process steps, and feedback unified and standardized.
  • Educate users for your own good. There are concepts that users need to understand before they become able to use them properly and at full capacity. Not only that educating users will prevent them from making errors that can make them feel insecure and lose trust, but it can also make them realize the real value your product is providing.
  • Guide them. Onboard your users, let them know what they can expect and teach them about mandatory things and rules of the game. In addition, never make your users feel lost or uncertain of what is happening — they should always know where they are, what they can do, and how to go back.
  • Certainty reduces anxiety. Certainty also causes less fatal mistakes because it allows the user to focus on the task at hand. As a technology, blockchain is introduced to people through businesses related to money, identity, etc., all of which contain sensitive information. There is a lot at stake, and users can easily make mistakes when they find themselves in an unknown environment. By communicating to the user that a task is complicated or irreversible, you will make them feel more confident in the product and themselves, which will reduce tension.
After gaining users’ trust and getting them interested in blockchain-based products, all that is left to do is to bring your UX friend to the game.

Industry verticals need more designers joining blockchain space right away

As you can see from everything we’ve talked about, one of the main holdbacks of the blockchain mass adoption is its complicated structure and the overall lack of a well-thought-out user experience.

Look at Coinbase, for example. There is no big secret behind their success — they are simply the first ones to provide a non-horrible user experience in blockchain. In order for the blockchain community to grow, we need more UX designers who will help everyday users easily access and use blockchain-based products.

As mentioned previously, these issues can be improved by educating users about the basics, such as how to meet the initial conditions required for starting their journey, all the way up to completing their tasks. This can also be achieved by improving overall transparency of ongoing actions and losing blockchain geek jargon.

However, the most important thing is to make sure that your blockchain product is bringing real value to users. Only then will the users be ready to learn and engage themselves through new applications.

Are UX designers (and UX design principles in general) one of the key factors for widespread end-user blockchain adoption? Share what you think in the comments.

This article is part of our blockchain awareness posts where we try to help newcomers and people interested in blockchain use cases enter the space more easily. Follow us and subscribe for more upcoming articles such as this one, and feel free to join the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

For free business consultation about how blockchain can impact and change your business model, or anything else related to the technology — get in touch with us.


How Can UX Designers Help with the Mass Adoption of Blockchain Products? was originally published in MVP Workshop on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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