Damn You Metamask, Stop Popping Up Whenever I Blink
Improving UX Is Crucial to the Future of Decentralized Applications.
Smart contract technology is only 4 years old. In the length of time it takes a human child to learn its first words, smart contracts have gone on to fuel a host of previously unimaginable applications. Over half a billion dollars are locked up on decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms such as Maker, Compound and Bancor while consumer applications and games are mushrooming across various base-layer protocols. dApps have gone from 0 to 1, from an abstract idea to real products with thousands of users. Yet, in order for dApp usage to hit new heights (we are talking 1 million DAU), a drastic shift in tech and thinking has to occur. User experience must move to the forefront of the development process if dApps are to take off. Product designers should apply the same care when building user interfaces and crafting brand narratives as they do when developing the smart contracts underpinning their applications. Once blockchain applications enhance their aesthetic appeal will they grip the next wave of users and bring the much-anticipated tsunami of mass adoption.
It’s Time for Blockchain Technology to Enter the UX Phase
At the moment, blockchain technology finds itself at the tail-end of the infrastructure phase. Most of its early adopters possess a deep technical understanding of the underlying protocols and found themselves attracted to decentralized products for various ideological reasons. However, as the blockchain ecosystem begins to mature, products must put the user at the forefront of the product development cycle. The road to mainstream usages must be paved with sleek user experiences. Just as the tech titans of today blend enjoyable, intuitive user-facing interfaces with complex backend technology, the winning dApps of tomorrow will be both provably decentralized and fun to use. Google, Tinder, Uber and other unicorns all have large R&D budgets dedicated to building new databases, data structures, and networking devices but we love them because we can use their applications without needing a PHD in Applied Cryptography. The day will come when users interact with applications without knowing that they are, in fact, using the blockchain.
That will be mass adoption day 0.
No, I Don’t Want To View The Transaction on EtherScan
As a passionate gamer, I use the blockchain primarily for fun stuff like racing cars and collecting kitties. Both I and those who use distributed ledgers for serious matters such as cheaper remittance and collateralized loans are dealing with financial assets which must be approached with a lot of caution. When users are exposed to block explorers, transaction hashes and other technical implementation details of the blockchain, that caution is amplified by confusion and misunderstanding. Designers and product managers must win the user’s trust by making their experience smooth and comfortable. Providing a ‘window into the blockchain’, while serving the technology’s initial purpose as a fully auditable ledger, goes against the interest of mainstream consumers who demand simplicity and comfort. Could you imagine your grandma having to navigate transaction hashes? I thought not.
If Steve Jobs were alive, I would imagine that he would be thrilled with the challenge of enhancing blockchain UX. Before the i-revolution led by Jobs, computers were clunky and impersonal. Jobs realized that by focusing on the aesthetics of his creations and blending function with form, he could create products that commanded a devout cult following. Instead of obsessing over the smallest technical detail such as the underlying protocol’s validation engine and transaction processing speed, blockchain builders should shift their focus to the consumers and their needs. As a first step, developers should hide the wires by abstracting away the technical implementation details behind gorgeous user interfaces that will have users begging for more.