Recently I have been releasing many user experience (UX) reviews based on specific products or services that are being built by teams using blockchain technology. However, I think it’s important that I address some of the underlying issues for the cryptocurrency space as a whole when it comes to UX. Although I believe a number of the points I am going to make apply to many areas of the industry, I am going to use exchanges as a reference and an example for the purpose of this article.
Who is the average user?
Who exactly am I talking about when I say the average user? When we often talk about mass adoption, we build up a picture in our head of anybody in our lives being able to use a cryptocurrency based service or product. Whether this be your Mother, your boss or your Grandad. The point I’m trying to make is the average user could be anyone, regardless of their background, their technical expertise or anything else. The fact is, it could be anyone.
Therefore we need to build products and services that absolutely anybody can use with no prior knowledge or experience. Granted, this is easier said than done but I believe this is where we need to be before we see mass adoption.
We have joined the cryptocurrency revolution as early adopters. Due to this I am going to make the presumption that you have enough technical ability to understand how to use an exchange or at least had the willingness to learn. The simple fact is that the masses don’t want to learn or even think about how to do this. They just want it work, quickly and easily. Just like buying something on Amazon nowadays, its quick, seamless and even my Gran can do it. However, I am aware this wasn’t done over night. Amazon improved their user experience over a number of years and I expect many of these blockchain products to take time as well.
Right now you could argue that 90% (if not more) of people who use exchanges are investors/traders but if we want adoption it will have to be a much lower rate. There are a number of tokens out there which have a genuine use case and the easiest way to get hold of these tokens is via an exchange. An example could be the many tokens that have created alternative methods of payment which can be sent across the world quickly with minimal fee’s. Getting hold of these tokens has to be more accessible and a less intimidating process than using an exchange for the average user to adopt.
Let’s put ourselves into the average persons shoes for the rest of the article…
The exchange interface
I remember seeing an exchange for the first time and what I seen was a chart in the centre with some numbers flashing red and green in a number of columns down the sides. I had to watch numerous YouTube tutorials to get my head around what to do and most importantly to make sure I was doing it right. People don’t want this hassle, nor the responsibility of doing it themselves.
From speaking to traditional investors in stocks and shares, they will often use a broker if they are not comfortable using a computer or more specifically an exchange for themselves. In crypto we would argue that we don’t have to pay as much of a fee and we have much more control of our transactions whereas when using a broker this isn’t the case. The truth is that a huge chunk of the population don’t want that responsibility and they would rather pay the fee and let somebody else take control of the situation. We need to lower the barrier to entry for these people to make it easier to complete these purchases themselves.
I personally think that Coinbase is the nearest solution to this at the moment despite the criticism it gets. It’s easy to buy crypto with fiat and is trusted by many. However, if the average user wants to purchase a specific erc-20 token either as a store of value or to use in a real world situation, that’s a whole different ball game.
Wallet addresses are one of the most talked about issues when it comes to adoption and isn’t just an issue for exchanges. When the user sees an address for the first time it can be quite an intimidating and overwhelming string of characters that initially makes zero sense.
Seeing a name attached to a bank account can be seen as the equivelant which instantly puts the user at ease. We often emphasise that if you use one wrong character your funds are gone forever which for anybody can be an extremely worrying thought. Equally as worrying is the thought of sending funds to a different token address which can also cause the funds to be permanently lost.
For me there is too much risk attached to the wallet address right now for the average person to be comfortable using it. I do believe that this issue has been recognised and is currently being worked on by many teams as we speak.
Security and storing funds on wallets
We all know that the best thing we can do is store our funds on cold wallets as it’s the most secure, right? However, is it really that easy to set up a hardware wallet and how long does it take for your BTC to transfer to this wallet? The waiting time for your transaction to be confirmed can be a worry in itself as you sit there refreshing the screen, waiting anxiously. Unfortunately people don’t have patience and this is because everything in the real world is so instant now. Why would people wait even 2 minutes for a transaction to be confirmed when their back account can approve a transaction instantly?
The point I’m making is, people would rather leave their tokens on an exchange if that suits their situation. Not having to move the tokens is essentially one less job for the user to do and makes it easy and cheap. However, if they wanted to purchase the token so they can utilise it elsewhere in a real world situation, they will need to send it to another address/wallet and that waiting time is not going to go down well with the masses.
People are aware that if your security is slacking then you are at risk of being hacked with no insurance and it is your own responsibility. This is another issue as people want reassurance that everything is 100% safe. “You mean if I get hacked I will never get my funds back? Why would I risk that?” The average user wants to be able to make transactions on-the-go using their phone or card (the latest Coinbase card being an example of adoption) and rest assured that their funds are safe. It really shouldn’t be that big of an ask but right now it is and we need to continue to develop a solution.
I am aware that people adapt and every child of today knows how to use an iPad better than most of us. Using blockchain technology will be seen as normal for the upcoming generations. Using the internet is second nature to us all these days and I’m sure blockchain will get there in time. This article is highlighting some of the issues that we currently face and what we need to consider if we would like to speed up mass adoption. By addressing these issues we can help people get to where they need to be in 5/10 years rather than in 20/30 years which will quite simply, benefits us all.
I am also aware that not everybody is going to need to use an exchange but for the people who will need to, it could be a big task. Fiat to alt coin pairs are not a feasible ask right now, but imagine an interface where you can purchase BTC and press a simple ‘swap’ button to then choose which token you would like to swap your BTC too. Without having to look at the scary interface of an exchange. This may have already been created by a team somewhere but it definitely isn’t the standard practice right now.
I for sure don’t have all the answers but I am aware that as a community we need to make many changes. Eventually we will see our old english teachers from high school making a quick and simple erc-20 token purchase in order to get a 15% discount off their next flight, but it isn’t going to happen in the current environment.
The current environment would consist of us telling these people that there is a token burn going ahead and these are the complex instructions to follow if you would like to keep your tokens. If you don’t do it by a certain date, they’re gone forever. I strongly believe that this cannot be a thing, we need change.
Whether we want investors to adopt crypto as an alternative store of value or the everyday person to utilise projects for their unique use case, it isn’t going to happen in the current conditions. We are making progress everyday, but we still have a long way to go.
Thanks for reading…
This is a brief introduction to my current thoughts around mass adoption and the average user using crypto and more specifically, exchanges. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter and I would be more than happy to discuss this further.
I have not been paid to write this article as it is a free piece of content for the community. Any tips are greatly appreciated!
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- All opinions and views within this article are my own.