Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Henrik and Heidi from the Chromia team. We discussed what makes good user experience for a blockchain platform, Chromia’s next steps and much more.
Due to the amount of detail that we went into during the interview, the full article version would not be an appealing length to read. If you would like to listen to the full version, please head over to The Daily Chain here.
However, this is approximately 50% of the interview and highlights some of the key points that were discussed during our user experience (UX) interview.
Posty: Thank you to Heidi and Henrik from Chromia for joining me on this UX interview. Were going to talk about the UX at Chromia and go through a couple of things around that. So if we could start by both of you introducing yourselves and explaining what your role is at Chromia.
Henrik: Maybe I should start then, since I’m the top level guy and I’m the CEO. I am also the Co-Founder of Chromaway the parent company of Chromia. She’s an old blockchain company that started as an open source project in 2012 and we started the company in 2014. One of the first token protocols, worked with enterprise things but now we are launching Chromia our first public blockchain.
Heidi: I’m Heidi. I’m the UX researcher at Chromia and I’ve been working with UX research since 2006. I’ve worked with both startups and larger companies and it’s been a journey from doing end to end research, from exploratory research, user testing to doing more alternative research and my career has basically been working with my own companies but also for other companies that are growing themselves. When I was looking around Stockholm and I came across what Henrik was doing. I thought this is a really nice thing that they’re building and it has been interesting getting a better understanding for how we can create something that’s central to the user.
Posty: Perfect, sounds like a really interesting pathway. For those that who don’t know, could one of you guys please expand on what Chromia is building and what the purpose of Chromia is?
Henrik: Chromia is a new public blockchain and is intended to be the easiest platform to make complex decentralized applications. How we are making it easy is we’re combining a traditional database with a blockchain, with a concept called relational blockchain. So we have a new programming language that is most powerful but also very easy to use. We have a t-shirt where we implement the basics of Bitcoin on the back of the t-shirt. For example, we are able to create the basics of tic-tac-toe app in a few hours. But we can also do more complex stuff like decentralized social networks, games with a complete game logic on-chain. Basically it’s an alternative to current platforms today.
Posty: And when it comes to user experience, there has to be a reason to why uses would choose the Chromia platform over other competitors in the space. So I know you touched on a couple of things in that area. Is there anything else that makes Chromia different from all the rest?
Henrik: User experience of blockchain applications is a very difficult subject and one thing that differs Chromia from Ethereum is that you as a user do not need to own any tokens to use an app, for example it can be a free to play game or onboarding. We are not forcing our token on the users. You can make an application with tokens that you create yourself, that’s one aspect of UX, but you are not forced to go to an exchange. You don’t have to buy cryptocurrency in order to play a game, that’s very important. We are looking at novel ways to go into applications with single sign-on from our wallet that we call a vault. We also looking at hardware features that make things easier to showcase.
Posty: I agree with you, especially the first point of not involving an exchange and not having to need your tokens. You know, it just shortens the overall user journey and user process. Making it simple is definitely a great way to go about it. You said about how you’re including everyday databases such as SQL. I noticed Chromia allows developers to write dapps in a way that is already familiar to them.Could you touch on how that works, please?
Henrik: I mean that is also part of the user experience.We have end users that are playing the games but also developers that are creating the games so we have a good experience for developers as well. SQL is a very powerful language but it is not really trendy although it is one of the most used languages in the world. But it is an old language so we are making a better version that is built more compact that has extra security features such as static typing and in general a nice syntax so it is easy to pick up. But for the user experience it is ‘can I achieve the goals that I want to achieve and create the things that I want to create?’
Posty: That leads into my next question. So we see developers building different things, in different areas and subjects and have different needs themselves. So how does Chromia cater to all of the user needs to develop? For example, you know somebody building a game is different to building a large enterprise application. How can Chromia work for both?
Heidi: Well, as any other language that one would be learning if you’re a developer, it’s really what we see is it’s your imagination and your own creativity that’s the limit right, but what we can do from our end for the user has to be very clear and look at all the different angles and perhaps like the different ways of learning that people use to learn something new. We aim to lower every single threshold for learning that so I mean, as soon as we do a workshop teaching well, we observe and talk to the user’s. I mean if we could, we would have users in the office daily, but we try to set up as many user interviews or sitting with a user and seeing how this thing actually works. Whether you are an experienced developer, intermediate or beginner, we try and set up ways of lowering the threshold for learning.
Posty: That sounds really good and it’s reassuring to hear that you’re communicating with your users frequently and taking on different ideas. You understanding that different developers will be at different levels, of knowledge, skill and experience. It’s good to know you guys understand that.
Henrik: We prioritise this quite a lot. To build better developer tools, we need that. We need example apps for us to learn ourselves but if it is going to be an attractive product we need good developer tools.
Posty: I noticed that one feature that Chromia offers is that each Dapp has its own blockchain rather than a collection of smart contracts. I was wondering how this improves the user experience?
Henrik: I mean part of it is that you can create your own tokens, in your own system; and that system is basically the application that the developer pays for hosting and its up to the developer to choose how much hardware is needed for the performance. It can improve performance and the user aspects and it’s a little simpler for the developers because you can also offload the application itself due to governance. Maybe you’re in a democracy or anywhere you can implement certain levels of governance.
Heidi: So what Henrik has just described is that if you’re living in this world, you kind of get it and have a very clear idea of that concept. Coming in from the sidelines, I tried to use empathy but also sensibility to like, kind of get it but I could only try and explain this to either my mom or my best friend and that’s what I try to realise that most people don’t understand this and if we are going to grow this company we need to adapt. We need to take this larger concepts and try and make them as feasible and understandable as possible and that is a challenge that comes with the job. How do we make this simple? It’s so easy to make things complicated or speak in an expert language… Which is not bad because sometimes you need to do that to push things forward but there is all these layers that we need to make digestible for people who are new to this.
Posty: I agree, looking in from the outside, even if you have that tech background it can still take a bit of getting used to and you have to do some research to completely understand it and as you say, actually explain it to someone quite clearly and confidently.
Heidi: Making make it less dramatic, as some people actually get frightened and it’s only human nature. Users might experience ‘If I don’t understand this, it might be dangerous so I will avoid it.’. We then explore questions like: How do we make this approachable? How do we make this nice? How do we make it attractive in a way that makes somebody interested and want to know more. It’s definitely a challenge but I’m thinking how do we do this with a lot of humour and openness so people feel like they can approach us without consequences. I think that’s the way to go about introducing very complex systems.
Want to listen to the rest of the interview?
For the full version of the interview, head over to The Daily Chain and catch the audio version. If you want to listen to the audio version from this point onwards, select from 16 minutes and 30 seconds.
You can find out much more about Chromia, directly at their website here.
This article has been brought to you by elevateUX.
Follow me on Twitter 🙂
- This article has been sponsored by Chromia.
- This interview was recorded on 30th August 2019.