Investigating the Usability Issues Non-Crypto Savvy Users Encounter When Setting Up Desktop Wallets for Staking (D)PoS Cryptocurrency

Conducted by: Geoff Robertson and Kennedy White

Chockablock
chockablock.io
Published in
6 min readDec 31, 2019

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PART 1: OVERVIEW

1.1. Abstract

We tested five desktop wallets for staking (D)PoS cryptocurrency with fifteen non crypto savvy users to better understand the usability issues they face when entering the decentralized / crypto world for the first time. Our findings revealed particular problems with this demographic’s ability to:

  • Secure a wallet application appropriately (i.e. comprehension and actions involving wallet encryption, private keys, and/or BIP39 passphrases)
  • Fund a wallet (i.e. comprehension and actions involving the transfer/sending of cryptocurrency to the wallet)
  • Stake cryptocurrency within a wallet (i.e. comprehension and actions involving configuring the wallet application so to earn rewards on cryptocurrency funds held by the wallet).

The issues surrounding this demographic’s ability to secure the wallet application appropriately are the most concerning and, perhaps, most in need of industry-wide attention. These issues will most likely be exhibited by other first-time users entering the space and, we believe, are the result of the novel UI elements / mechanics they encounter not aligning with their existing mental models for how such things should work.

Here, a new user’s mental model will be based on past experience with elements / mechanisms found in the UI of applications built to accommodate the architecture of a centralized system. Whereas the novel elements / mechanisms found in the UI of crypto wallet applications are built to accommodate the architecture of emerging, decentralized systems.

For example, users are familiar with user-generated, single-string passwords which they store mentally but are retrievable if forgotten — NOT unretrievable, system-generated, multi-word (12–24) passphrases which must be stored physically and/or digitally.

1.2. Importance

The importance of this study centers around the notion that in order for cryptocurrency to reach mainstream adoption, it must become relevant, consumable, and easy to use by a demographic group defined in the Technology Adoption Life Cycle as the Early Majority.

Cryptocurrency is still very much in the Early Adopter phase. Diagram based, in part, on information provided in Moore, Geoffrey A. (1991). Crossing the chasm: marketing and selling disruptive products to mainstream customers. New York, N.Y.: HarperBusiness.

The Early Majority, unlike Innovators and Early Adopters, are not likely to use things that are overly technical and complicated to use. Therefore, it’s imperative that anyone pushing the development of cryptocurrency and relevant technology understands the needs of this target demographic.

1.3. Methods

For this study, we recruited 15 participants matching the target demographic of not crypto savvy but crypto curious. Meaning, they had never interacted with cryptocurrency before but were interested to learn what it was all about.

All participants were run individually between the dates of June 13th — 19th, 2019. Session times were set for 1 hour. During which, participants were tasked with the primary objective of using a provided testing device (2017 13" MacBook Air running MacOS 10.14.5) to set up one of the five wallet applications (selected as testing material for this study) in order to stake its respective cryptocurrency and earn rewards.

The selection criteria for the wallet applications used as the testing material in this study were as follows:

  1. They provided staking functionality for a specific PoS / DPoS cryptocurrency
  2. They required a (relatively) low minimal investment in order to earn staking rewards
  3. They held comparable feature sets / functionality but with variations in their UI / UX design

The participant to wallet applications assignment pairings for this study were as follows:

  • Participants 1–3 interacted with the Lisk desktop wallet (v 1.18.0) in order to stake Lisk.
  • Participants 4–6 interacted with the BlockEQ desktop wallet (v 1.0.1) in order to stake Stellar (XLM).
  • Participants 7–9 interacted with the ARK desktop wallet (v 2.4.1) in order to stake ARK.
  • Participants 10–12 interacted with the Neon desktop wallet (v 2.2.1) in order to stake NEO.
  • Participants 13–15 interacted with the PIVX desktop wallet (v 3.3.0) in order to stake PIV.

Disclaimer:

We were not asked or paid to use these wallet applications in the study

We do not endorse these wallet applications or their respective cryptocurrency

We are not critiquing these wallet applications or their development teams — rather exploring the design paradigms presented within their interfaces

1.4 Analysis

Participant screen interactions, verbal commentary, and body language were recorded for analyses. Here, analysis centered around seven pre-established Areas of Focus:

  1. Download: The participant’s ability to find and download the wallet application.
  2. Install: The participant’s ability to install and launch the wallet application.
  3. Add: The participant’s awareness of / ability to add a new wallet within the wallet application.
  4. Secure: The participant’s awareness of / ability to secure the private key / wallet application appropriately with provided options.
  5. Synchronize: The participant’s awareness of the synchronization process between the wallet application and the network.
  6. Fund: The participant’s ability to fund the wallet with cryptocurrency.
  7. Stake: The participant’s awareness of / ability to configure the wallet / wallet application to stake and earn rewards.

During analysis, qualitative data coding was used to effectively place each participant into one of three categories for each (applicable) Area of Focus based on their behavior and verbal commentary. These three (color) categories were as follows:

  • (Green) The participant was able to complete the relevant task(s) /deduce the system’s status / understand the underlying concept
  • (Yellow) The participant struggled to complete the relevant task(s) / deduce the system’s status / understand the underlying concept
  • (Red) The participant was unable to complete the relevant task(s) / deduce the system’s status / understand the underlying concept

PART 2: FINDINGS

The matrix below depicts our categorical findings for each Participant x Wallet Application x Area of Focus. However, for the more detailed findings regarding each specific Area of Focus, please watch the videos in the corresponding sections below.

2.1. Findings for AoF 1: Download

The study’s first Area of Focus, Download, regarded the participant’s ability to find and download the wallet application.

This Area of Focus was applicable to all five wallets and therefor all fifteen participants. 8 out of the 15 participants demonstrated and/or conveyed issues with their ability to find and download their respective wallet application.

2.2. Findings for AoF 2: Install

The study’s second Area of Focus, Install, regarded the participant’s ability to install and launch the wallet application.

This Area of Focus was applicable to all five wallets and therefor all fifteen participants. 4 of the 15 participants demonstrated and/or conveyed issues with their ability to install and launch their respective wallet application.

2.3. Findings for AoF 3: Add

The study’s third Area of Focus, Add, regarded the participant’s awareness of / ability to add a new wallet within the wallet application.

Four of the wallet applications in the study’s lineup had some form of this specific functionality. However, only three required participants to use it in order to progress towards their primary objective.

Therefor, this Area of Focus was applicable to three wallets and subsequently nine participants. 3 of the 9 participants demonstrated and/or conveyed issues with their awareness of / ability to successfully add a new wallet within their respective wallet application.

2.4. Findings for AoF 4: Secure

The study’s fourth Area of Focus, Secure, regarded the participant’s awareness of / ability to secure the wallet’s private key and/or wallet application appropriately with provided options.

This Area of Focus was applicable to all five wallet applications and therefor all fifteen participants. 14 of the 15 participants demonstrated and/or conveyed issues with their awareness of / ability to secure the wallet’s private key and/or wallet application with the provided options presented within their respective wallet application.

2.5. Findings for AoF 5: Synchronize

The study’s 5th Area of Focus, Synchronize, regarded the participant’s awareness of the synchronization process between the wallet application and the network. Here, synchronization refers to the act of downloading and verifying a full copy of a respective blockchain.

This Area of Focus was applicable to one wallet application (PIVX was the only full-node wallet application in the study’ lineup) and therefor only three participants. 3 of the 3 participants demonstrated or conveyed issues with their awareness of the synchronization process.

2.6. Findings for AoF 6: Fund

The study’s 6th area of focus, Fund, regarded the participants ability to fund the wallet application with cryptocurrency.

To simulate this we pre-loaded a second testing device, an iPhone X running iOS 12.3, with five corresponding mobile wallet applications — each funded with their own respective cryptocurrency.

This area of focus was applicable to all five wallet applications and therefore all fifteen participants. 12 of the 15 participants demonstrated and or conveyed issues with their ability to fund the wallet with cryptocurrency.

2.7. Findings for AoF 7: Stake

The study’s 7th and final area of focus, Stake, regarded the participants awareness of / ability to configure the wallet / wallet application to stake and earn rewards.

PART 3: SUGGESTIONS

The following video contains a brief review of the study along with our design suggestions for UX improvements.

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Chockablock
chockablock.io

Chockablock is a UX research and design consulting group helping those working with blockchain technology create more user-friendly products.