How Bad Developer Experience Leads to Poor User Experience in Web3
A dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly of web3 developer experience
A trustless and transparent blockchain infrastructure allows developers to сreate dApps that push the frontiers of the digital economy, open up new types of products and enable the birth and development of novel markets.
Despite dApp development being a rapidly growing field with the potential to revolutionize the Internet, the adoption has not been as fast as many of us had hoped. One of the primary reasons for the current state of affairs is that building and maintaining dApps is, well, very hard.
The immaturity of development tools, combined with the complexity of decentralized technologies, directly leads to a bad user experience and ultimately to reduced adoption.
So, why is creating dApps such a challenge exactly? Look no further to find out.
This article aims to provide an overview of the major issues when it comes to bad developer experience in web3 and outline possible solutions. We will dive into the following issues:
- Intro to dApp development
- Debugging smart contracts
- Automating smart contract execution
- Integrating smart contracts with off-chain logic
- Developing cross-chain capabilities
- How Nerif improves developer experience in web3
1. Intro to dApp development
One of the main obstacles limiting the adoption of web3 technologies is the complexity of the development process. To get a full picture, let’s take a helicopter view of the overall developer experience in web3.
In a nutshell, assuming developers have identified a problem or use case, the high-level workflow for builders looking to create a dApp involves various steps, including choosing a suitable blockchain platform, developing smart contracts, building a user interface, developing a back-end infrastructure, testing, deploying, and maintaining a smart contract.
Let’s start with choosing a blockchain network to build upon. Today, there are plenty of blockchain solutions tailored to the needs of specific products: layer-1s, layer-2s, sidechains, subnets, etc. However, making a calculated decision takes more than comparing key network parameters (TPs, consensus mechanism, block size, etc.).
Developers need to possess in-depth know-how of the “inner workings” of a specific solution, including blockchain environment, contract language, smart contract development tools such as Solidity and Web3.js. Without it, builders would not be able to properly assess the need for resources and determine the size of operation costs.
After that, developers need to develop smart contracts in order to build a dApp. Smart contracts are used to manage user identities, update states, execute transactions, and more.
This process is often followed by developing the front-end interface and back-end infrastructure. An interface will need to be able to handle different user activities such as logging in, submitting transactions, signing messages, and viewing data/feed. As for back-end infrastructure, developers need to ensure that a dApp has a stable and reliable backend to support its functionality and work on the database, authentication system, API endpoints, etc.
Finally, creators of web3 dApps need to include testing of the smart contract on the testnet, deployment of a smart contract on the mainnet once satisfied with its functionality and stability. Furthermore, keeping a dApp up-to-date and well-maintained is an essential part of the development process, so significant resources will be allocated to dApp maintenance too.
Summing up, the whole developer experience does not strike as an easy walk in the park already. Unfortunately, existing developer tooling solutions add another layer of complexity for web3 builders resulting in a slow-paced adoption of decentralized technologies.
Let’s take a look at some of the major constraints complicating developer experience in web3.
2. Debugging smart contracts
A good place to start is by taking a look at the debugging of smart contracts.
A smart contract is developed through a number of steps, including writing, testing, and deployment. Debugging is an essential stage in each of these procedures. It helps identify and fix bugs in the code introduced during the writing phase after the contract has been launched.
So, basically, debugging a smart contract involves finding and correcting flaws. Each decentralized application development requires it to make sure the contracts work as intended.
Unpredictable behavior, code errors, and security flaws are just a few of the issues that might arise during the construction of smart contracts. Fortunately, these issues can be fixed with the help of debugging, which can also stop subsequent, more significant issues from arising in the future.
However, debugging smart contracts is hard. There is a critical lack of tools. As a result, blockchain developers need to invest considerable resources in engineering tasks to debug basic issues. More than that, developers often cannot access necessary data for debugging.
3. Automating smart contract execution
Another key constraint for web3 builders is, surprisingly, the fact that smart contracts cannot auto-execute. The code does not run and make state changes on a blockchain until triggered by an on-chain transaction.
There are several ways how developers address this issue.
The first option is to send transactions manually to trigger execution on the blockchain. A whole development team would monitor conditions in real-time and make on-chain transactions upon reaching certain conditions. The problem with such an approach is that it’s highly error-prone, requires human intervention, does not work on a scale, and, could become too resource-intensive and expensive for teams to maintain over time.
Another way to implement smart contract automation is to build and maintain an off-chain service/program for this purpose. However, this is an extremely time-consuming and costly endeavor. Moreover, it will be rather difficult to entertain such a solution without making a dApp centralized.
Overall, the existing solutions to address the non-self-executing nature of smart contracts do not simplify the life of developers. On the contrary, they make the developer experience times harder than it should be.
4. Integrating smart contracts with off-chain logic
Another major issue is connecting off and on-chain data.
Blockchains are isolated systems by design. Connecting them to any off-chain data, such as financial market data, weather data, logistics data, or even sports scores, is like connecting a computer to the Internet.
Essentially, integrating smart contracts with off-chain logic allows the isolated system to communicate and interact with the real world. However, doing so creates both challenges for developers and risks for the dApp that is being developed.
Smart contracts require trust in inputs and outputs, and integrating off-chain data can pose security risks to the system. Hackers can potentially compromise the input data, leading to unintended outcomes.
Smart contracts rely on the correctness and reliability of the data inputs, and off-chain data sources may experience congestion, downtime, or manipulation.
Off-chain data sources may use different data formats or have diverse APIs that may not be compatible with smart contracts platforms.
Smart contracts rely heavily on oracles to access and validate off-chain data. The effectiveness of oracles can be influenced by the quality of data and the level of transparency.
The integration of off-chain data sources can add complexity to smart contracts. The resulting complexity of the smart contract code makes the system less understandable and less accessible to developers and the community.
The control of off-chain data and oracles can be centralized, resulting in a single point of failure for the smart contract, placing the whole dApp at risk.
As we see, integrating smart contracts with off-chain logic is quite a challenge. Web3 developers need to consider various factors and risks in order to connect the isolated blockchain network to real-world data. At its current state, the difficulty of interacting with real-world data qualifies as one of the major constraints limiting web3 adoption.
5. Developing cross-chain capabilities
As we discovered in our previous article, the current landscape of web3 products is multi-chain.
With different blockchains serving different purposes, some of the networks are, for example, highly secure and immutable, while others offer low costs and flexibility.
Today, users and liquidity are spread across various ecosystems (layer-1s, layer-2s, sidechains, etc.), so web3 builders are increasingly exploring the potential of cross-chain smart contracts.
In its essence, cross-chain smart contracts are dApps consisting of several separate smart contracts on different networks that can communicate with each other to create a single unified dApp. Cross-chain dApps not only share liquidity across networks, but also their business logic, and they operate as a single entity that spans multiple networks.
Despite an accelerated interest in cross-chain development among the builders, the developer experience could be more manageable, to say the least. Cross-chain bridges, the heart and soul of any cross-chain dApp, impose a number of security and centralization issues for developers willing to engage with this tech.
Firstly, malicious actors could attack the bridge, which has been one of the main sources of hacks in crypto during recent years. As bridges are often centralized, there is also a high risk of a single point of failure as both the bridge and its associated assets could be controlled by a single entity.
Secondly, it is quite expensive to develop and maintain integration with multiple chains as more resources are required. These costs could skyrocket even further in case specific cross-chain products provide for integration between EVM and non-EVM chains.
So even though there is no debate regarding the multi-chain future of web3, actually building dApps that offer cross-chain benefits and experiences for users is pretty complicated, risky, and expensive. Without a solution that makes cross-chain developer experience times easier, reaching the desired level of adoption would remain an unrealistic goal.
6. How Nerif improves developer experience in web3
It is no secret that existing developer tooling solutions often make it challenging for web3 developers to build and deploy dApps efficiently and effectively.
This complexity results in slow, confusing, and unreliable dApps which can deter users and limit adoption. The lack of integration and automation across different tools also leads to a fragmented and confusing user experience.
To improve the situation, we need to invest in and improve existing tooling solutions by making them easier to use, simplifying documentation and support, and adding new features that streamline the development process. Additionally, new and innovative tooling solutions can help address current limitations and drive dApp growth, quality, and adoption.
At Nerif, we believe that the use of smart contract automation can reduce development complexity and strongly improve the developer experience as well as, ultimately, the user experience. So, how does Nerif’s solution improve the developer experience in web3?
- Nerif’s smart contract automation solution enables the automation of the key functions of a smart contract without relying on any off-chain programs or costly developer operations.
- Nerif handles off-chain computations that run checks on smart contracts, improving productivity for developers and leaving them with more time to focus on building dApps.
- Nerif’s tech allows developers to leverage all off-chain stack to Nerif and stop caring about integrations, bridging, etc. All developers need to do is simply deploy smart contracts on multiple chains, set up automation with Nerif, and communication with a third-party solution. No need to develop any off-chain backend for it.
All-in-all, building on Nerif allows builders to encapsulate functionalities in different parts of smart contracts and then automate such functionalities and maintenance between them, leading to a reduction of the complexity of web3 development.
The poor developer experience in the web3 ecosystem has a significant impact on the user experience of dApps. And this is exactly why we’re building Nerif — a decentralized cross-chain smart contract automation platform on a mission to revolutionize the development of web3 dApps.
Nerif is guided by the goal of removing unnecessary friction in the web3 developer experience, making dApp development more accessible and user-friendly to, ultimately, accelerate the adoption of web3 technologies.
Come and build the future of web3 with Nerif!
Thank you for reading this article! Going forward, we will start unveiling how Nerif works and drastically improves developer UX.
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge on smart contract automation further, check our website and follow us on Twitter & Medium, so you don’t miss anything important!
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