Blockchain Design - Why User Experience matters
Blockchain Design: Why User Experience matters!
Blockchain design may sound like a super complex topic - and it is! However, the challenge as a designer is to make today’s innovation less complex to use. Fortunately, there is a field of expertise to help solve this problem - and that is the job of a User Experience Designer.
At the moment, there are a handful of really good UX designers that understand blockchain technology, but they are few and far between. Therefore, in this article we are going to try and explain the broader topic of User Experience Design as well as Blockchain UI design.
It is important to note that the internet of value currently is captured on the application level. As illustrated above, applications such as Netflix, Apple IOS and Facebook concentrate heavily on user experience to attract users. Now, with blockchain the value capture occurs mostly through the network. However, without a great user experience on the application layer (what a person interacts with), then how is the network going to grow to the proportions of the Googles, Amazons, Facebook?
Blockchain designers need to be both adept with the technology, and competent design thinkers. In the early days of bitcoin, to interact with the blockchain required a high level of technical knowledge, and this was not for the faint-hearted. Nowadays, as 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 UX should be first, not last!
Good blockchain design can be broken down into a few key areas. First, there needs to be a real world problem to solve. There is no use trying to make a square peg fit through a round hole. Unfortunately due to the hyper-bubble of 2017, any pseudo startup could throw the word blockchain onto a half-baked business model and attract seed investors without even validating a business idea as a first measure. Fortunately, as regulators cracked down, and government initiatives began , there is now a clearer pathway with more defined rules for true innovation to flourish.
Great product design solves a problem. With this in mind, blockchain technology does not solve every problem - but for the problems that it does solve, it is hugely disruptive. As designers, our role is to define problems, and make valuable products that solve real world problems.
Therefore, the first step is to validate the problems with solid user research. Moreover, problems must be identified clearly and concisely to formulate a ‘solution idea’ to be validated. All of this can happen without the need of complex coding. This is the beauty of starting with UX Design (See the ROI of User Experience Design)
Secondly, the technical parameters need to be clearly defined. Blockchain coding language comes in many forms, and compared with mainstream software development, there is not a huge pool of talent to choose from should an enterprise need to hire a development team. Blockchain developers are an enthusiastic bunch and the disruptive nature of the technology encourages great incentives for innovating thinking, but left to their own devices can result in over development (aka scope creep) which may have an adverse effect on the overall platform adoption. This happens when development teams move away from a business model validated through UX design.
It should be noted that the JustGo.Design team at its core are Blockchain enthusiasts (Dave) and UX Designers (Freda). That being said, this article will share the opinions of two people and their respective professions as well as provide examples of good Blockchain UX and bad - which there are a few!
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!
Blockchain design - the challenge!
To clarify, in this article we are not talking about the technology stack of blockchain design. Moreover, we are referring to blockchain user experience (UX) and blockchain user interface (UI).
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 for the Blockchain networks and not the blockchain itself. However, these examples still illustrate great user interface design - which we believe was the result of sound UX design.
Eos is a blockchain framework (technology stack) for other business and enterprise to develop on. Whilst this only the landing page, it shows elements of great UX in terms of website design. These include:
- Value prop front and center, clear and concise.
- Great colour scheme, text contrast.
- Important information is well organised and delivered in a simple to navigate user flow.
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 yourself install Metamask by following this guide
Bad Blockchain UX/UI Design
Whilst the user interface on the landing page is very cool with the interactions. There are a few things that do not align with a good user experience. The screenshot attached we have circled 6 different possible interactions and some of these are not clear and lead the user either nowhere or don't serve a functioning purpose.
- Value proposition not clear
- Confusing micro-interactions
- Colour contrast of text and background is a little difficult to read.
Do I need to say more? Granted that this began as a joke project, it actually has a real community. There is a a YouTube video link front and center of the page that disappears as soon as you click it. This is either really poor UX or perhaps its a hint to the user that getting involved with Doge is dodge - You funds may disappear!
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!
This is where combining blockchain strategy with user experience design can become a powerful combination, and we are proud to announce that the JustGo.Design team is working in both these professions.
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.