Historically, technologies are hardly born with the user in mind. The same happened with blockchain and decentralized applications. However, we are at a critical point on which we come to the conclusion that usability will determine whether this new technological wave will live or die. Mass adoption won’t happen if we don’t build tools equally or more user-friendly than those built on Web 2.0.
At Golem, we have been putting the UX pain points as a priority for every product we design and develop. After several surveys carried out by our UX team, and insights from our experts on the matter, we have been able to put together a priority list.
Additionally, lately, I have been embarked on a feedback-bender to also see what other dApps and protocols were facing in terms of usability issues. TL;DR: we’re all in the same place. Some might be more advanced, as the Status guys, who forecasted these issues first, or Consensys Design. Some are still to see that a lack of a user-oriented approach is what’s lowering their userbase.
In the communications front, there are also issues to be addressed. Thanks to my colleagues’ work, we have been able to identify what was lacking in UX, and that feeds my practice as well. Communications is everywhere. Meaning in-app education, blog posts, social media, presentations, videos, and it’s one of the aspects that are the least professionalized within the ecosystem. We onboard community managers without educating them about what we do or even why we do it. We get PR firms that don’t know the least thing about our products, but promise features on major publications. We go into an endless preaching about how decentralization is going to change the world, without sustainable business models. Long story short? We don’t know how to manage expectations.
When I first started working in Golem, after several years of experience in other industries, but always focused on communications and marketing, we were at a bit of a critical point: our milestones delayed, our community was feeling we would never get out of the comfortable lab environment that’s the testnet, and more. Nevertheless, as cryptocurrencies were in a good place, what was a complicated situation for our company was not seen in the outside world. So, back to when I first joined: the thing I was first asked was to manage internal and external expectations. I think that to date, that was the best advice anyone has given me in the 8 years on this practice.
We need to manage expectations because a lot of people believe that we can change the status quo. And we probably will, but we need time to do so. We need to polish our tools, build robust systems, and optimize them. We need to educate without invading, and onboard in the smoothest way possible. We cannot promise millions of users for a particular dApp, while in beta. We are not there yet.
On our respective social media channels, people ask us constantly about our marketing efforts — am I right?. We all have marketing teams, however, we cannot market a product in beta aggressively. What’s the point of doing so if then the potential users will drop because of the multiplicity of steps they have to go through to do something as basic as buying crypto, and on top of that, we are adding the layer of responsibility over their funds: nobody will be able to recover them if they paste a wrong address. All of this adds layers of uncertainty that not all users are willing to accept.
Now I love futurism and I’m an optimist, but I’d rather manage expectations correctly in regards to Web 3.0 because this is what I really believe in. Proceeding cautiously but steadily and mindfully is not only about our (future and current) users, is not about market manipulation. We’re all neck-deep into this and we need to look after each other. This starts with the messages we send. So before communicating, please keep all of this in mind.
(or not, this is just my unsolicited advice)
(Thoughts my own. Yes I work with and for a bunch of organizations and amazing people, but I’m the one to blame for my rants)