Blockchain is often pitched as the next big thing. However, when it come to design, it’s a totally new realm of challenges. Blockchain acts as a thick layer of complexity on top of traditional products. If you’re a designer, blockchain is a space that needs your help! Here’s the basics to get you up to speed, and what you should be thinking about as a designer.
1. 🚫 No Jargon
Blockchain and cryptocurrency is a formidable space to get involved in. The result is a core group who are passionately involved. But to the average person or designer, outside of the hype bubble, it’s really hard to get excited. There’s so many new and abstract concepts. There’s no easy way to get involved. The industry has a bad reputation as being a get rich quick scheme.
Looking from the outside, you’ll see terms like DLT, Dapp, and altcoins being used. They’re overcomplicated jargon!
As a designer, my mission is to make blockchain technology accessible in the mainstream. The first step in this is removing jargon. I encourage a no nonsense, no jargon, approach to everything. That means ruthlessly reviewing and simplifying copy (unexplained acronyms are enemy #1!).
Nobody cares what software Netflix runs on. Users only care about what a product lets them do. Focus on value, not jargon.
We want to get more people involved, so we need to make products that are really simple to use and understand, in layman’s terms.
2. ✂️ ️️️Ruthlessly Break Down Barriers to Entry
When I tell my friends and family about cryptocurrency or blockchain, it’s often a blank look staring back. The market is full of people inside the bubble, people who understand. But to outsiders, it’s an unwelcoming, impenetrable bubble.
Unfortunately, if you want to get involved, you really need to be determined. You’ll probably have to battle through terrible UX, and a complete black hole of knowledge. There’s nobody to easily explain core concepts, or walk you through the daunting process. It’s like the first generation of the internet. Where it’s technically there, but not very usable.
Products like Coinbase are really focusing on great and simple user experiences.
The next wave of blockchain will be to make it useable in the mainstream.
Be ruthless. Radically simplify at every point. Make it so that your parents can understand and use it.
3. 🔒 Added Security or Added Friction?
There’s a lot of risk when you’re dealing with cryptocurrency. Funds often live in a digital wallet. If those funds get stolen or hacked, there’s no way to get them back. No bank or central body to file a claim with. So security is crucial, particularly in making users feel safe, and trusting your product.
In my work on Etherparty’s product, Rocket, we offer 2 factor authentication (2FA) to keep accounts secure.
We strive for a balance of security and a seamless experience. We encourage users to activate 2FA, but we don’t force it for new users. That’s a lot of friction up front to ask of a new user. Instead, we designed the product to require 2FA only for important, or security sensitive activities, such as moving funds. This gives our users peace of mind when needed. Security is always a priority with blockchain and digital currency.
4. ✨ Be Transparent With Users
When you deploy something to the blockchain, it takes some time before it is finalised. As an example, you might deploy a Smart Contract. (A smart contract is a piece of code that can execute when certain conditions are met.)
That length of time it takes to make this change public depends on how busy the network is. As a designer, we can’t be sure if processing that action will take a two minutes or two hours. To compensate for this, you should always be transparent. Users are accustomed to near-instant actions, so we have to set and manage their expectations.
Don’t leave users waiting around. Tell them to come back in a few minutes, and communicate the current status as best you can. Better yet, send them an email when it’s complete.
5. 🎯 Design Thinking For the Win
Blockchain has been touted as the saviour for every industry. Sometimes it’s an industry looking for a problem to solve. It has a lot of potential.
As designers, our role is so important in defining problems, and making valuable products, that solve real problems.
Educate your company, advocate for research and user testing. Fight past the hype, and get real user insights. Strive to make products that makes people’s lives better.
👋 Should you get involved?
Yes! Blockchain presents many tough challenges for a designer. As a Product Designer, I often describe my real job title as Problem Solver. These challenges are hard, but they’re really exciting problems to solve. For me, they’re some of the most interesting in my career.
Until now, blockchain has been largely development driven. The UX on so many blockchain websites and exchanges is frustratingly bad. If blockchain is to become mainstream, we need an army of designers to work on radically simplifying everything. Designers are key in bringing usable and valuable blockchain products to the real people and organizations.