New Finance VC
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New Finance VC

Does Crypto have a UX problem?

We had the brilliant and prescient Alex Amsel (aka Sillytuna) on the New Finance Pod this week. Check it out here if you haven’t already!

It was a varied discussion around NFTs, crypto & blockchain gaming, multi-chain future and interoperability, user experiences, and a lot more.

One area (of many) that caught my attention was our discussion around the user experience in crypto and how poor it generally is. So yes, in my humble opinion, and Alex’s & many others, crypto does have a UX problem- predominantly with the wallet, but across the board.

As Alex said:

UX here involves: how easy the wallet is to install and to use, how intuitive it is, how simple and clear the security practices are.

At the moment the most popular crypto wallet is Metamask. Boasting 21 million active monthly users (disclaimer I don’t know how this is measured and it feels high, knowing that everyone I know who uses Metamask has multiple wallets).

It is ‘fine’ for crypto native users, but let's be honest the UX is horrible. When I am onboarding friends into the space and I have to set them up with Metamask to send funds from an exchange, it is confusing and nerve-wracking — for them (and me at points!). The first few times they conduct a tx? Forget about it…

Some standard questions I get:

‘what is gas?’ , ‘how do I adjust the gas?, ‘how long will it take for a tx to process and how do I see its status’, ‘Metamask isn’t showing any of my NFTs!?’, ‘this new token I bought isn’t showing up?’, ‘how do I add a new token?’…. etc etc.

None of these are stupid questions either. I went through the same process myself.

My favorite is how to fix a stuck transaction. I still remember the first time I had to deal with that, thank god for Youtube and helpful people like DeFi Dad.

Metamask does operate across chains, but only EVM compatible ones (e.g Polygon, BSC, Arbitrum, Fantom) and again, it can be intimidating or confusing for many people to set up these new chains. As Ric Burton says:

Not to pick on a community, but the amount of Bored Apes that have been ‘stolen’ in phishing attacks also points to this UX issue. I know it is easy to make fun of many of these people for giving away their seed phrases or giving easy access to scammers, but the reality is a lot of these new users have been onboarded into the space directly from NFTs. They aren’t typically DeFi degens, they aren’t people who were deeply interested in cryptography and exploring blockchains previously, they have come from web2 and are used to the experiences and assurances they have there. Whether we like it or not, that is where the majority of people lay. We can continue to educate, I touch on some great resources below, but we also need to improve the experience if we want to onboard more people.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that being your own bank is always a great idea. It is a huge amount of responsibility. If things go wrong they go really wrong. Most people will not want that responsibility and would prefer some level of abstraction and protection from that, like Trustology offers. I would not expect future average users to set up a multi-sig or use Gnosis Safes to do this either, from a cost or technical perspective.

We try and implement good practices like checking wallet addresses, using hardware wallets, but asking your average user to check the 42 characters each time seems…ambitious. AND it’s not perfect, look at the hack that affected Hugh Karp.

Harry, Taylor Monahan at Mycrypto also do an amazing job with their security write-ups that everyone should read, they really are doing a public service (incidentally they were my first wallet!) :

Using Metamask on mobile sucks too, for anyone that has tried this you can relate. Ric Burton & others are working on this with Safari Wallet and Balance. Check it out:

There are other wallet options too, and many are seeing to improve the UX. Rainbow Wallet is one that's mission is super focused on improving the user's enjoyment and accessibility. It is on iOS and Android has a beta version, but it's just on Ethereum, currently.

On Solana you have Phantom, Solflare and others. NEAR has NEAR Wallet amongst others.

You can also see the problem, if you operate across a few chains or you don’t want to depend on a single provider, it is easy to have 10 different extensions & apps to manage, with multiple wallets and phrases/passwords. And this is without even mentioning hardware wallets!!!!

Argent is one of my favorite Ethereum wallets, it is mobile-based, it has password entry and a guardian system rather than a seed phrase for recovery and protection, I think it is way more accessible for most people we’d like to onboard. You can also use a lot of dApps directly in the wallet. They have done a TON for UX and they have just onboarded L2 zksync wallets so things are cheaper and faster :) However it isn’t immediately integrated with a lot of protocols, so to interact with others you have to have a hot wallet (probably a metamask) to send funds to or use walletconnect…

You also have xDefi wallet. This may be the closest to what Alex has previously described. It is cross-chain, it displays NFTs, and has a clean UX. It operates across Ethereum, EVM compatible chains, and also Terra and Thorchain which goes a lot further than any other wallet I have seen. However, there is no mobile app currently.

Ideally features I’d love to see more of, dreamily combined into one wallet:

  • passwords
  • seed phrase/security abstraction
  • cross-chain compatibility
  • easy access to multi-sig setups
  • easy access to account limits (i.e, any tx over $X requires multi-sig approval)
  • mobile based
  • mixed-custodial options
  • beautiful design
  • open-source

What else have I missed?

I touched on wallets here mainly because it is the best example of where crypto UX is intimidating. If you are a regular user it can be easy to forget just how daunting it all is to new & potential users.

If you are building something in the wallet space OR something just to make crypto UX generally better, than please get in touch, we want to talk to you :)

For more discussions follow Mike & I on twitter! :

Kieran

Mike

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Kieran Parker-Moroney

Interested in learning. Art collector, investor, DeFi obsessed, golfer.