Designing for Decentralization: Part 1

A few things we learned working in the Bitcoin space

Part of the Masen Squad

In 2013, we learned that humans now have an opportunity for real individual freedom through digital currency. We became obsessed with Satoshi’s thoughts, BIP whitepapers, and the chaos that ensues within r/bitcoin. From there, we soon realized something profound— Bitcoin is the future.

We recognized a need for thoughtful design from the first moment we interacted with the Blockchain. The process of buying bitcoin in a space that was foreign to us was difficult; we had no clue where to begin. Terms like public and private key, wallet and nodes, mining and hash… it was like learning Japanese all over again.

Only after learning the new language and understanding the distinct security features of wallets/exchanges, were we able to purchase our first bits. But even after doing our blockchain homework, it was clear that the process of exchanging bits needed some love.

Fast forward to 2017: The crypto space is poppin’ now more than ever

Even though the bitcoin network has grown from 10.6MM in 2013 to over 265MM, the mainstream media won’t stop covering the “solutions” in the ICO market. TRIGGER ALERT: We have yet to come across a business solution that requires an ICO — the coin offering has been for either funding the development of the product or in most cases, the founders’ vacation fund. In either instance, a new blockchain and/or coin was not necessary.

Beware of all ICO’s and businesses that advocate for them; these businesses are only trying to ride the Bitcoin hype train and are not actually about expanding the network. Remember, it’s our job to build the new connected world, not to recreate vaporware that we’ve allowed to build up in the tech sector for the past decade.

Who cares if you don’t understand everything

We believe that design is inherently optimistic. To take on a big challenge, especially one as large and intractable as financial sovereignty, we have to believe that progress is even an option. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t even try. Optimism is the embrace of possibility, the idea that even if we don’t know the answer, that it’s out there and that we can find it.

This is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the internet age and add User experience to the development stage early on. The sooner UX becomes a part of the process, the sooner we will reach bitcoinization.

UX is not ancillary but a necessity. If user rates fall off, the bitcoin network and its existence will be put at risk.

A couple things to consider:

  • Unlike a central organization, the crypto community has a huge say in design decisions: To understand the internal politics you must focus on understanding not only the vision of the company but also how that vision aligns with its community.
  • Most companies in this space will follow more open forms of organization by spreading power to the people most affected by the product: Understanding users is more than just throwing out surveys and conducting interviews. We often find ourselves diving deep into Reddit threads and thousand member slack channels. You must observe the inner workings of a products community base before offering any valuable solutions.
  • Create an open system from the start: Our job is to create open communities where users, loyalists and stakeholders can contribute and maintain feedback. The crypto community is fairly new and evolving rapidly so it’s important that the community is engaged early on. More likely than not, all of your projects won’t be much of a “project” but more of a long term relationship. It’s important to set up a platform that gives everyone associated with the project a voice.

As designers our aim is to push humanity forward; however, that goal can’t be reached if designers don’t enter crypto and help spread the bitcoin network.

It all starts with education and an open mind.

Check out a few of the links below and start digging:

Let me know if this article was helpful in anyway, we’re planning on documenting our journey to help make the learning curve a little less steep.

Cheers ✌🏿

Special thanks to Afnan & the rest of the team

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