The Case for Human-Centric Design in Blockchain

Technology companies often lose sight of who uses their products. Humans tend to be drawn to nature and things that respond well to them. Blockchain projects need to start dedicating more time towards their users and borrow concepts from the traditional web to solve their needs. Without a human-centric mindset, mass adoption will become increasingly difficult. This is the largest pain-point to date for the blockchain industry to solve.

Source: Cryptokitties

Much of this problem comes down to where interests lie. Talents are being focused tremendously on building protocols — and for good reason. Building the next Etherium is 1000x more lucrative than creating the next Crypto Kitties. Within the scope of developing economic incentives, engineers think directly about problems in front of them. Human-centric design requires a big-picture mindset encompassing both performance and aesthetics.

From key management to network performance, there are dozens of projects who are successfully borrowing from the centralized web to solve real-world problems. The majority of end users will never open a command line terminal in their lives. This is why designers should always follow the grandparent test. Give your device to an elderly person, who has a basic understanding of how to operate a cell phone. Then say nothing other than how to open your prototype, and what the end result should be. If they can figure it out within a reasonable amount of time, your app is ready for deployment. In the world of blockchain, key management has proven to be the most difficult part of passing this test.

Honey, I’ve Lost the Keys

I’ve lost my car and house keys too many times to count, and it’s never a fun or cheap process to have them replaced. But when you lose the keys to your home, it’s not going anywhere. There’s always a way in. When it comes to blockchain, you’ve already lost if there’s a backdoor.

Source: Culver City Crossroads

Key management issues have been around since the dawn of the internet. Passwords are impossible to remember with 8 characters, let alone 50. Losing your private key is a death sentence if fund retrieval is important. This is where Universe Labs fits into the mix.

Universe Labs is an open-source, blockchain agnostic UX solutions community working on removing blockers that are impeding growth and mass adoption of dApps. The Universe community is focused on solving the key management problem by providing a one-time setup and key management app that allows users to sign up and stay connected easily. The first stage in attacking this problem is to build the key management app followed by offering an always on, open source node device to give users ownership of their keys.

Given the vast potential of this technology, blockchain is a deep science that only a handful of people across the Universe truly understand. Solving human-centric design in blockchain requires a village — that’s what they’re going to do. However, the issues of scaling blockchain into the web 3.0 stack require much more than a clever way to keep track of private keys. A major part will include managing the infrastructure itself in a decentralized manner.

Distributing Around Real-World Infrastructure

Forecasters predict there will be 29 billion internet-connected devices by 2022. The ongoing trend has been migrating from on-premise servers to the cloud. Edge computing is finally at the point where it is ready to take off. This is designed to help decrease latency, and boost performance overall as distance shrinks in a decentralized fashion.

Source: Openfog Consortium

As telecom providers sink millions of dollars into 5G networks, antennas will become closer to the devices connected to them. The need for new network infrastructure starts with the exponential growth of devices requiring connectivity. In today’s world, everything from phones to drones are connected to the internet. But WiFi and 4G enjoy open spaces, with minimal noise blocking signal strengths. They also have much more centralized points of failure. According to RCR Wireless, AT&T has only one cell tower in all of NYC. This is not conducive to a decentralized economy. That is why they are leading the charge, by becoming the first major carrier to go live with 5G later this week. Let’s hope that the Verizon/Sprint spokesman will never lose reception again.

Dead zones are common around the world, and if driverless cars are to gain traction, they cannot lose connectivity to the grid without dire consequences. One blockchain project that has been focused on automakers is IOTA. Their focus has been in finding ways that driverless cars can function in a decentralized economy through partnerships with Audi and Volkswagon. What they have focused on is IoT transactions, as well as edge computing within industrial environments. The larger the machine, the greater the risk that network failure can produce. However, they have a long way to go until Qubic is ready to untangle the tangle of IOTA for mass adoption.

IOTA is a technology that may be a little bit ahead of its time. Edge computing should be solved on the traditional web first, where there is a larger talent pool of engineers before it can be solved with blockchain. M-87 is one community that is dead set on changing the way the world connects. What they are doing is shifting power over to mobile devices to find the best routing algorithms themselves, while creating a quasi P2P network that becomes more powerful as the network grows.

Their platform is a software-only solution, working with both Android and iOS. This is advantageous because there will be lower barriers to entry for global adoption, requiring very little need for end users to change their habits. In some tests, their network performed 400% faster than LTE alone. A tremendous incentive to join!

Browse With Confidence

A decentralized web requires a decentralized browser. One that gives users what they want most. Brave is a browser that gets control of your data back.

Brave is everything a user wants in an internet experience. Fast, sleek, secure, and free from ads everywhere you browse. The user experience is unmatched, with little to no compromise. One great feature of it is that it also operates as a digital wallet for BAT tokens. Basic Attention Tokens are native to Brave. They serve as a vehicle for tipping content creations on the decentralized web, eliminating costly middlemen.

Source: Brave

The best part about Brave is that it beats the living daylights out of other browsers when it comes to performance. News websites overload the users with ad downloads. In today’s world, speed is everything which is why it is Google’s most important factor in search ranking. Data-intense ads not only cost users but companies as well. This is often transcribed through heavy risks of ad fraud. This is why Smarty Ads, a full stack ad tech company says that the future of programmatic advertising is also on blockchain. All of this, while putting a strong focus on user experience through their ad delivery mechanisms.

When Google released Chrome, they made it faster than what was on the market to collect more data on user browsing habits. Brave’s approach is similar to their’s, doing what Google couldn’t do by removing data-heavy ads. For decentralized browsers to take off, they should continue with the same value propositions as their predecessors, without marketing their blockchain capabilities.

Borrowing from the centralized web

The internet is made up of thousands of open source frameworks. When leading with speed, developers must look at their UX bottlenecks. Most front-end developers know the pain of the infamous Google PageSpeed Insights error: “minify javascript.”

A javascript framework I like is Marko.js. It was recently made public by eBay about a year ago. The framework combines CSS, HTML, and javascript into a single intuitive environment. By going open source, they now have the entire GitHub community at their disposal to assist with maintaining and expanding their libraries. Blockchain projects should be following their lead, by open sourcing their development while putting a strong emphasis on codability and browser performance. Instead of optimizing for Chrome, they should be optimizing for Brave. Using font libraries that are conducive to their platform.

Blockchain’s future is cemented as a transactional protocol. Not only monetarily, but with digital signatures as well. By focusing on emulating marketplace centric UI such as eBay’s, projects will begin to reap the benefits of mass adoption. This will require the mainstream net accepting cryptocurrencies as a medium of exchange, with seamless mobile experiences to streamline the process of discovery to checkout. Piggybacking off eBay some more, they would not have grown into what they are today without their acquisition of PayPal in 2002.

PayPal is the equivalent of an effective key management solution for fiat. It is safe, secure, and easy to use. To date, PayPal has over 17 million merchant partners worldwide and counting. With its recent spinoff, PayPal can now focus on doing what it does best by dominating the FinTech space for fiat. Their focus on users has made them a deciding factor as to where people shop online. The process of filling out credit cards and billing information is long and laborious. Any eCommerce site without Paypal integration loses users at checkout faster than with it.

Final Thoughts

The case for human-centric design in blockchain is simple. Until singularity is upon us, human users should be the most important factor when building a project. While PayPal currently has the best UX solution for managing financial keys, blockchain must beat the status quo for users to be willing to change their habits. This will stem from the dust settling around lucrative token rewards, as enthusiastic engineers channel their passion into ways they can use an open source blockchain structure, to beat existing processes on web 2.0. It will be exciting to see what 2019 has in store as the blockchain industry begins to borrow more from the traditional web.