Q: How to Make Crypto a Little Less Cryptic?

Maker Stories by Wealthsimple
5 min readAug 6, 2021


A: Invite currency-curious customers to play cards — and take a quiz.

Artwork by Sammy Yi

At Wealthsimple, we design our products so that anyone, with any level of financial knowledge, can use them. In the autumn of 2020, we launched Wealthsimple Crypto, the first regulated cryptocurrency trading platform in Canada, enabling our clients to buy and sell Bitcoin and Ethereum safely and securely. By summer 2021, we added 14 more coins, including Dogecoin, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash.

Cryptocurrency has a language of its own — there are “wallets,” and “gas fees,” and “fiat money.” (We had to look them up, too, when we started.) For newbies — for most people — it can be a daunting space. So how do you make something as complex as cryptocurrency simple for everyone? We used two exercises — card sorting and content testing — that forced us to make assumptions about customer behaviour. We then tested those assumptions by going directly to our clients and conducting research. The results were interesting, and in some cases, surprising.

It’s in the Cards: Early Feedback

In this study, we wanted to see how clients would interact with the new Wealthsimple Crypto features that we were building. Card sorting is an effective research method used to understand how users organize information into logical groups. It helps identify how clients would intuitively navigate through a product.

We chose this method because it’s simple to set up and conduct, allows us to gather insightful feedback early, and enables participants to have an unbiased response unattached to refined user interface (UI) designs.

We began with the assumption that clients had a basic understanding of crypto terminology and that they would want to perform funding actions based on direction (e.g., in, out, in between) regardless of what they’re moving (e.g., cash, stocks, or cryptocurrency).

What we did:

We showed participants a series of cards representing various Wealthsimple Crypto funding actions (which take place within the Wealthsimple Trade app) and asked them to group the cards in whichever way that made the most sense to them and give each grouping a category name. We used Optimal Workshop’s OptimalSort. Some examples of the actions on the cards:

  • Move cryptocurrency into Wealthsimple Trade from a wallet
  • Move money between your Wealthsimple Trade accounts
  • Move an existing account from Wealthsimple Invest (our managed accounts) into Wealthsimple Trade

The actions covered included those currently available in Wealthsimple Trade, as well as ones we’re considering building in the future.

What we saw:

Our assumptions weren’t quite right — clients didn’t tend to group the actions by all directions that their assets could be going.

Instead, the dominant mental models around assets fell into two categories: within Wealthsimple and outside of Wealthsimple. Many other participants also sorted features by accounts and asset types.

We analyzed the results to identify which terms were most commonly grouped together and which category names appeared most often. We weren’t aiming to find a single solution — rather, to gain a deeper understanding of how clients think about their crypto assets.

So, What’s Everyone Thinking? Content Testing Reveals Hidden Patterns

In addition to our card sorting, we also leveraged content testing in this research to inform the language we use in the app. Content testing looks at a user’s understanding of a term within a specific context. In an evolving space like cryptocurrency, terminology changes fast. So, we had to ensure our product spoke the same language as our clients.

What we did:

We showed participants various options for crypto terminology and asked them how they would describe different actions using those terms, or others. For example, we were curious to know what terms they’d use to describe moving cash versus moving other assets like stocks or cryptocurrency.

This helped us uncover their mental models because the terms they chose reflected how they thought about organizing their finances, which helped us create an experience that would be valuable to them.

What we saw:

As with card sorting, the purpose of content testing isn’t to find the ‘perfect’ term but rather to help us better understand clients’ mental models and the terminology they’re comfortable using.

We chose terms that resonated with a majority of clients, like using “money” instead of “fiat money.” The alternative terms weren’t thrown away but instead were used to support in-line descriptions to ensure we’re covering all clients’ expectations.

From our content testing, we also discovered a lot of uncertainty. Novice users and experienced users alike made educated guesses on what they thought were the best terms. This highlighted the importance of adding more in-app education through tooltips or Help Centre articles.

Thinking About Thinking = Better Design

People often employ different mental models and different language for describing the same concepts based on their lived experiences. This is exacerbated in emerging fields like cryptocurrency, where the terminology evolves daily. But that’s okay. The purpose of research is to inform our design with an understanding of who we’re designing for and how they think. People think in all sorts of different ways; there’s rarely one clear mental model among users, so we always prepare to accommodate multiple models in the design. Similarly, there isn’t always one “right” term or set of terms, so we get creative to speak to different types through multiple touchpoints. And by adding contextual education, we can help curious customers with any level of crypto knowledge navigate through this exciting but sometimes intimidating space.

If designing better UI is in the cards for you, join the User Experience team to help us simplify personal finances. Check out the open roles on our User Experience team today.

Written by Herbert Lui, in collaboration with Wealthsimplers Chantelle Sukhu (Product Content Strategist) and Mandy K. Yu (Senior Product Designer). Edited by Mark Adams with Wealthsimpler Danielle Klein (UX Research Manager).

Wealthsimple is a new kind of financial company. Invest, trade, save, spend, and even do your taxes in a better, simpler way. “Maker Stories” is an inside look at how we get things done. Interested in joining our team? Visit our “Work With Us” page to learn more and view open roles.

The content on this site is produced by Wealthsimple Technologies Inc. and is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be investment advice or any other kind of professional advice. Before taking any action based on this content you should consult a professional. We do not endorse any third parties referenced on this site. When you invest, your money is at risk and it is possible that you may lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Historical returns, hypothetical returns, expected returns and images included in this content are for illustrative purposes only. Copyright © 2021 Wealthsimple Technologies Inc.



Maker Stories by Wealthsimple

We‘re a new kind of financial company. Invest, trade, save, spend, and even do your taxes in a better, simpler way.