Designing Toshi for the next 3 billion

How might we improve Toshi’s user experience?

I originally wrote this as a design mini-project for Coinbase in December 2017.

Toshi’s promise is to onboard people in emerging markets to the world’s open financial system. That means looking beyond our comfortable, crypto-enthusiastic community. Yes, we want Twitter cards integration and a Cryptokitties bot, but we are not the user.

The user just needs to get things done. Payments, remittances, savings. Removing just a bit of friction and reducing small confusions for every new user can go a long way toward making this novel way of interacting with money easier to use.

Rather than designing in the blind, I did some user research to find potential problems for the early majority.

Guerrilla usability testing

Three friends who had little interest in fancy blockchain tech agreed to try out “a messenger app that lets you transfer money to anyone”. I observed and took notes while they thought out loud. They installed Toshi, talked to ToshiBot, made transactions and toyed around. Here are the raw notes with some early sketches, and here’s a Trello board with the insights from those sessions.

A Trello board of discoveries and ideas inspired by interviewing cryptonewbies.

UX Improvement: Solve misleading balance display

After cleaning up the qualitative data, one problem stood out: the hierarchy of UI elements is causing some people to think their balance is tied to a specific conversation!

I sketched a UI element that could always sit on top of the tab bar or the message bar, a global balance element.

A first iteration of the global balance concept.

It’s tempting to get creative and design lots of flashy variations, but Toshi has to be compatible with all platforms everywhere. Toshi’s developers can save time by re-using native UI components instead of rolling their own.

Here’s how the global balance concept would look when implemented on iOS.

Better, huh? It’s now clear that the user’s balance is a global, app-wide quantity. I also changed the icon for the “Me” tab.

The user is most likely a person, not a wallet.

Bonus: two easy wins

I tagged two items in the Trello board of insights and ideas as easy wins.

More specific wording

Using the active voice and the appropriate verb tense makes payments much clearer.

Make “Chat” the primary call to action in user profiles

“Chat” sounds more casual and friendly than “Message”. The big green button invites the user to start a conversation.

There’s still room for improvement: the gray buttons below the user’s description look disabled. However, coming up with a comprehensive button system is outside the scope of this project. Next time, perhaps!

Thank you!

This is just the start. We’ll need to address really complex problems to welcome the next 3 billion people into cryptocurrency. Formulating and applying general design principles, like “start with small transactions, ease into larger transactions” can help. Send feedback to the Trello board!

Since we’re living in the future, you can also send me comments (or ether!) within Toshi –“@ale” is my username.