Understanding the User Experience of the Blockchain
This work was completed on joining Artos, a Blockchain startup. At the time, the UX of Blockchain was a topic of a lot of discussion. Users were complaining about the difficulty in navigating exchanges and purchasing cryptocurrency, and the steep learning curve regarding private keys and wallets.
The question we kept on asking was, to what extent should the blockchain be visible to the user? To what extent do we discuss and mention it?
Due to the nature of the new technology, it was difficult to conduct primary research. There weren't many products in the space to analyse, and few people who used the blockchain. My initial research was based on DevCon IV in Prague, an Ethereum Foundation conference, and various community forums with other designers.
The result was a large amount of secondary research as the basis for the first iteration of product development.
May 2018 - Feb 2019
Designing for Emerging Technologies
conducted as part of a talk I gave sums up the attitude towards blockchain as of mid 2018.
One of the problems we identified was a lack of understanding around blockchain. In order to address this, we prototyped a block explorer
that would allow users to visualise the data going through the protocol and explain how it works.
It's really cool - It would be cool to have a visual aspect. People say blockchain but it's all code and scary for the user. Having this conveys where your ticket sits in the grand scheme of things. It's quite cool to see.
Ahhh, ok that is cool, they're like little leaves. I like being able to see the ticket-ID, I'm not sure what that means but it seems unique to me.
It was interesting, I don’t understand it but I have a glimpse into how it works.
It would be better if it had a banner that said 'Learn more about blockchain here'
The results showed that users wanted to learn more about ‘blockchain’ in general, but did not understand the explanation provided.
Through trying to design solutions we discovered that it's difficult to succinctly educate the user without getting bogged down in terminology and explanations. You can describe the benefits to the user as an outcome (for example, providing security), but you can't easily explain why the blockchain provides those benefits (public key cryptography).
Outcome & Reflection
Having tested multiple prototypes with users we came to the conclusion that, while there are some nuances that come with services built on the blockchain, it is best to simply provide them with an experience they are familiar with and comfortable with. Moving forward I believe a good starting point is to assume the user has no knowledge of the new field, and nor should they. The experience should not depend on any level of understanding from the user.
The outcome is that all of Artos' products will abstract away the blockchain to deliver a Web2.0 experience where possible.
On reflection, It is interesting entering a field in its infancy because nobody understands how its value can be applied to businesses and consumers. Attending DevCon IV opened my eyes to how uncertain everyone involved is about new technology. Nobody knows whether it will validate itself until someone uses it to solve problems in the real world in a way that scales.