Making design better for crypto apps: Abra UX Case study

Kagayaki "Kaga" Kawabata
5 min readJul 14, 2018


Cryptocurrency investing simplified


Through this article I’ll describe my UI/UX design sprint process I went through for Abra, one of the oldest cryptocurrency app in the States. After my design sprint, users were able to buy coins within 10 seconds where before it took them over 20+ seconds.


I will explore the human-centered design process by evaluating the usability of apps.

I chose to do a case study on Abra. Abra is cryptocurrency wallet and exchange intent to be the simplest place to invest in cryptocurrency. I am not affiliated with Abra. I am just looking for ways to challenge myself as a designer.

Problem & Hypothesis

While working in blockchain industry for over 3+ years I realized there are many unintuitive apps that are difficult to use. As I had difficulties buying coins using the Abra’s app, I assumed other users also have same issues. Through this UX case study, I will help pursue Abra’s mission statement “cryptocurrency investing simplified.”

User research


As a starting point, I created a proto-persona based on my own experience I had at cryptocurrency exchange company and by conducting a brief online interview with my friends who have invested in cryptocurrency before.

Ryan — Proto-Persona

Job Story

I created a job story to prepare for the usability test.

Guerrilla Usability Testing

Over two days I’ve tested 7 strangers at blockchain related events and cafe in San Francisco. Based on my proto-persona, I checked if they qualify as test users. Following is a simple user demographic of our test users.

After validating test users, based on job story I conducted a guerrilla usability testing. Before the tests, I asked all the participants to imagine the following scenario.

Scenario: A friend you trust recommended you to buy XRP. Hearing the fact, you are considering buying XRP.

All participants were given the following tasks:

  1. How do you check the price of XRP?
  2. How do you add new cryptocurrency to the home screen?
  3. Let say you decided to buy XRP. If you want to add money to your account how do you do that?
  4. Now you have a balance in your account, how do you buy $5 worth of XRP?

Analysis — Identify and prioritize pain points

Affinity mapping

I categorized the results of user interviews by pain points using a spreadsheet. Following are the analyzed key results.

Affinity Mapping — Color coded by user
  • 0/7 able to buy crypto smoothly where some users gave in the middle of the test.
  • 1/7 able to check price of new cryptocurrencies.
  • 2/7 able to find button back to the home screen.
  • 3/7 able to add new coins to the portfolio.

2x2 Matrix

After categorizing the pain points I prioritized them using 2x2 matrix.

Business Goals: Direct users to buy and sell many cryptocurrencies as possible.

As a result, I decided to focus on the improvement of features that relates to buying and selling.

Task Flows

I created a task flow to identify at which points users are struggling to buy cryptocurrency.

Sketching Design


I explored an UI design of an existing fintech and cryptocurrency apps (Coinbase, Robinhood, Acorn & Mint) to find if best practices that solve my pain points already exists.


Based on my research, I sketched out Lo-fi mockups to explored the best possible solutions that will solve identified pain points.

Lo-fi Design

Hi-fi, Prototyping & Validation

After exploring Lo-fi mockups I used Sketch to create Hi-fi mockups and working prototype to test my solution with users. Following are the changes I made to the app.

Portfolio (Home screen)

All users had difficulties checking the price of coins or buying them. I rearranged the home screen, removed a screen and changed wordings for some buttons so users can complete their tasks with minimal steps intuitively.



Most users were confused by the arrangement of navigation and buttons on wallet screen. I re-arranged it and removed some buttons to keep the overall organization simple.


Buying & Selling (Exchange)

Every user had a problem buying and selling coins (in Abra app it’s called an exchange). I changed the exchange flow to buying and selling flow so the feel of the app is closer to a typical shopping app.



Prototype (Marvel)

Prototype (Marvel)


This was an enlighting exercise in experiencing design sprint in a short period of time. While this article only focused on buying and selling feature of the app, I hope to propose another design revision in the near future. Any comments or opinions are welcomed. Thanks for reading!