The Future of Blockchain - Why User Experience matters
The Future of Blockchain: User Experience!
The future of Blockchain undoubtedly lies with a good user experience. This may sound like a bold statement – and it is! However, the challenge we are currently facing is the practical usability. Currently, there is only a miniature of the global population engaging with blockchain services, many of these are cryptocurrency apps that require a degree of know-how to use them.
You only need to look at the simplicity of Google Maps, Airbnb and Uber to understand good UX design. Understandably, to get to this point it takes lots of ideation, user testing, and iteration to arrive at an elegant simple to use app. Therefore, the future of blockchain development will need to follow a similar path to their tech giant foes to make today’s latest innovations less complex to use.
Fortunately, there is a field of expertise to help solve this problem – The User Experience Designer. In this article, we are going to try and explain the broader topic of User Experience Design as it relates to how people interact with Blockchain UI.
Today, what we call the internet of value currently is captured on this application level. Applications such as Netflix, Apple IOS and Facebook concentrate heavily on UX to attract users. To clarify, user experience (UX) relates to the customer journey of getting from point A to point B of the ‘said’ thing, whether it be using a blockchain, surfing the web or purchasing an iPhone. Whereas, user interface purely relates to the digital touchpoints, such as an iPhone app, a website, or a cryptocurrency app.
Considering blockchain, the value capture occurs mostly through the network adoption. However, without a great user experience on the user interface, then how is the network going to replace the likes of Google, Amazon or Facebook? Blockchain engineers and UX designers need to be both adept with the technology, and competent design thinkers – or be in constant collaboration.
In the early days, to interact with the blockchain required a high level of technical knowledge, and this was not for the faint-hearted. Nowadays, as the adoption of blockchain technology rapidly increases, the demand for good design, easy to use applications, and fail-safe mechanisms are not only required, they are a must!
Blockchain Start-Ups Need to Validate
Great product design solves a problem. With this in mind, we should state that blockchain technology does not solve every problem. But, for the problems that it does solve, it is hugely disruptive. And, as UX designers, our role is to define the problem and make valuable products that solve real-world problems.
Therefore, good blockchain design can be broken down into a few key areas. First, there needs to be a real-world problem to solve. Secondly, you need to create value. How can a blockchain startup find this out? Easy, a UX team would go through a discovery phase and create a Business Model Canvas.
The blockchain technology stack comes in many forms, as does its coding language. Also noting, blockchain developers are very enthusiastic and the disruptive nature of the technology can encourage the incentive to overdevelop instead of innovating with design thinking.
Therefore, the first step is to validate the core problem with solid user research. We believe this to be true because when development teams move away from a business model that HAS been validated with user research, it has an adverse effect on platform adoption. This is also common for products not yet validated through a UX design process.
It's then, that the technical parameters can be clearly defined with validated solution driving development.
In most cases, when designing a blockchain, the end goal remains the same – disintermediation. Put simply, removing the reliance on third parties to do everyday things.
Therefore, these problems can be clearly identified and the solution idea formulated, to be validated through user testing. Most important, all of this can happen without the need for complex coding. This is the beauty of starting with UX design.
(Video: ROI of User Experience Design)
Unfortunately, due to the hyper-bubble of 2017 (and with the current 2021 meme coin explosion), anyone can throw the word blockchain onto a half-baked business model and attract the attention of the public (s' money) without the need for good design. It goes without saying, that fly-by-night Ponzi schemes hinder the future of blockchain, but these half baked businesses would not invest time nor money solving real-world problems with user experience design in the first place.
This type of hype is not good for the future of blockchain. For a revolutionary technology to have the ability to change our world for the better, we need to validate genuine business ideas as a first measure. Fortunately, there are more legitimate initiatives the help fuel the future of blockchain including Web3 community grants [GitGrants] as well as government initiatives such as the National Australian Blockchain Roadmap. Because of this, we see a clearer pathway for true innovation to flourish with human-centered solutions. That is the power of user experience.
Blockchain User Experience - Dave
For me personally, it has been a solid 4 years now since being absorbed into just about every blockchain related announcement. In the beginning, at least for my journey the user experience was pretty terrible. Moreover, there was a long learning curve to understand the underlying technology before I was able to ‘interact’ with the blockchain. Specifically, I had to follow a series of learning processes before I was comfortable enough to become self-sovereign with my transactions (as there is no room for error). For the most part, these learning procedures had been created by bleeding edge technologists - the smartest computer scientists on the planet. Not an easy undertaking for a layperson.
Granted that blockchain is bleeding edge technology, one could be forgiven for not understanding its use case. In light of the recent events of 2020, it has become ever more so important for humanity to pull together, and create value in a way that benefits the wider population - not just the top percentile. Fortunately, blockchain technology might have the infrastructure to provide solutions to many of the problems we are facing - if only more people could use it!
In my humble opinion - User Experience will be the key that enables the greater population to adopt blockchain technology, regardless if they understand it or not. That is the whole point of good user experience design. Creating something so elegant and intuitive that the person using it can do so without thinking. For instance, just consider how easy it is to book an Uber, watch Netflix, or rent an AirBnB. That is the power of great user experience. So easy our parents can use it... That's the goal!
Designing for the blockchain - a challenge!
To clarify, we are not referring to the technology stack when designing a blockchain solution. Moreover, we are referring to the user experience (UX) of blockchain applications and user interface (UI) that enables the interaction with a blockchain. One of the biggest challenges projects might face is lacking the time and expertise to follow design process that involves usability testing to make informed decisions about product development.
Blockchain UX - Once the business model has been discovered (endless opportunities here), it is recommended that a prototype or MVP is ideated, created and tested on real users. Without a doubt, there would be dozens of projects that have gone straight into developing the technology without first - properly validating the idea. This, among other reasons, can lead to wasted time and resources and inevitably cause the project to fail. For this reason, following the user experience design process at the beginning of the blockchain design, will most certainly provide better onboarding experience and more probable success.
Good Blockchain UX/UI Design
Despite there being many tales of complicated processes, web apps and wallets, there has been great strides with blockchain UX design. Specifically, these examples primarily are the landing pages to learn about the Blockchain and not the blockchain interface (Dapp). However, these examples still illustrate great user interface design, which we believe was the result of focusing on UX design.
Ethereum is a blockchain network (complete technology stack) for other business and start ups to develop decentralized apps on. Whilst this only the Ethereum website page, and not the blockchain itself. Clearly, it shows the elements of great UX in terms of a website design. These include:
- The value proposition is front and center, clear and concise.
- Information architecture is well organized.
- Navigation is simple to use.
- Cool micro interactions (mouse hover effects)
- Great colour scheme & text contrast.
Elrond specifically claim to be UX focused and this shows when browsing through their landing page. Compare this to the previous landing page (Ethereum), both are packed with information but purposefully lead the user to discover the value proposition as well as engage in the call-to-action. We think Ethereum's landing page is more elegant with more white space. This helps the reader/user focus on what's important.
Supperrare is a digital artwork marketplace on the blockchain that auctions NFT's (non-fungible tokens). Whilst the UI is not mind-blowing. The web interface is elegant and simple. Moreover, the plain white background serves a purpose as not to detract from the main focal points of sale - the artwork. Not only this, in terms of interacting with the blockchain, it is a very intuitive 4-click process from arriving at the landing page, to purchasing artwork.
- Elegant landing page. Minimalistic. No distractions
- Clear value prop with a single CTA to direct you to connect a wallet (connecting to the blockchain in 1 click)
- Very simple to navigate and interact with the blockchain*
*Providing you already have the Metamask extension. To test this out for yourself, you can install Metamask by following this guide
Bad Blockchain UX/UI Design
Whilst the user interface on the landing page appears to be very cool with the micro-interactions. There are a few things that do not align with a good user experience.
In this screenshot we have circled 6 different interactions. Some of these are unnecessary, lead the user nowhere or don't serve a functioning purpose.
- Value proposition not clear.
- Confusing micro-interactions.
- The colour-contrast of text and background is a little difficult to read.
This is either really poor UX on purpose or perhaps there is no real development team or business model in mind. Granted that this began as a joke project, it actually has a real community.
- Video thumbnail does not work (click it and see).
- Colour palate has no consistency, colours do not compliment each other.
- Call to actions are inconsistent and some do not even look like CTA's (could mislead user).
EDIT: Since meme-coin spring 2021 (aka #Elongate) seems that the community upgraded this landing page. Fortunately, we can still see this disregard for user experience by visiting the archives.
The CEO of this project is supposed to be a marketing genius. Clearly the Tron landing page does not reflect this.
- Small font for menu navigation and text body.
- Font contrast too light for a white background.
- Drop down menu (ecosystem) appears to have strange behaviour, however a difficult to see triangle is the intended hover effect.
What is Good User Experience Design? - Freda
Good user experience design is evident when things just work, and they work well. This translates into more than just a digital platform, app or blockchain. The same principle's apply for physical products as well. How does something feel when you use it? Does is work how you expected? Is it effortless? Is it simple? Even the experience of walking into the Apple store, purchasing a iPhone, the unboxing in your home (and for some reason keeping the box), the way the cables are wrapped, all have been designed for the experience of the user. Hence why Apple have dominated user experience and captured market share in their industry. It is important to take a lesson from the pioneers of UX in the traditional marketplace, and apply it to blockchain technology. Then, everyday people who don't necessary care for what under the hood can benefit from what it provides. Few are the people who know how the Netflix platform was built, but millions can use it! Even our grandparents!
One of the tools we use at JustGo.Design is the business model canvas. This is where combining user experience design with your blockchain strategy can become a powerful combination for tomorrows next innovation. Something we are proud to be working on developing within our own consulting toolset.
Why did we create this 5 part series? Well it just made sense to us to join our creative ideas together. We have a passion for design and creative thinking, we have worked with different business models, technologies and ideas from around the world. The next logical step is to create a place where design thinking can be applied to blockchain methodology. For those wondering how these two topics align, this series is for you.
Read Part 1 - Trust and the Simple Concepts of Blockchain Technology
Read Part 2 - Blockchain Explained - An easy to digest technical guide
You are here > Part 3 - Blockchain Design - Why user experience matters
Read Part 4 - Is Blockchain the future? Uncovering the blockchain business model
Read Part 5 - The Blockchain Generation - The path to adoption
Did you know?
The Australian Government has engaged with industry and researchers to develop the National Blockchain Roadmap to highlight blockchain’s potential and some of the opportunities that exist. Blockchain technology is predicted to generate an annual business value of over US$175 billion by 2025 and in excess of US$3 trillion by 2030.