The following is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk’s 2018 Year in Review.
2018 year in review
Look at the crypto services you often use. Admit it: you aren’t crazy .
Some of them are OK, most of them are terrible – you recognize it. I’m not pertaining to the cosmetic allure of these products, which most of the time desire pre-dial up era, but about how they work, how the onboarding was presented, how they feel.
This is the present state of UX affairs in blockchain.
However, crypto winter or not, this hasn’t stopped the industry from growing thus far . a scarcity of great UX has been obvious, but not a verge of collapse . The question is whether or not we’ve reached a ceiling – where the market needs something dramatically better to grow significantly – so as to increase to new sorts of users, geographies and use cases that haven’t yet been covered.
While most are wanting to see this market crash finally stop and recover, i might argue this just cannot happen until the industry, as a priority, has taken on the importance of delivering a far better user experience.
But I even have reasons to believe 2019 are going to be the year we’ll start to ascertain that taking place during a big way.
The legacy burden
To understand why, after nearly a decade, we’re still within the state we’re in regarding UX, we’d like to know this industry has been built mostly by engineers and, more lately, by some finance executives. And for those reasons, the priority has not been on UX – it wasn’t just inappropriate to expect that but also simply impossible .
The first years were all about infrastructure, protocols and concepts . This approach brought us to the primary many users adopting bitcoin, ether and other coins – also as a collective market cap of many many dollars. That, in itself, may be a major achievement in an industry that’s incredibly conservative and immune to change.
Most of the contributors of this industry are brilliant thinkers and engineers animated by a mission, a dream and, rarely but sometimes, greed. This industry has attracted a particular sort of profile and builders.
There is a reason all those crypto services have similar looking sites, lexicon and identity.
But there also are many constraints that have held back the industry within the bounds of what might be designed. to call just the 2 most important: security and regulation.
It is really hard to urge a product to be delightful in usage, fast, easy and, at an equivalent time, extremely secure. Priority should be always about security when it involves financial assets. increase that the necessity to suits regulations – once they are clear and exist – which can add many friction points within the flow of a service, starting with the painful necessity of KYC and AML.
Not many industries have that degree of lack of clarity and stack of complexities to affect . it’s not surprising that this represents a challenge for builders. Finally, let’s not forget we’re only 10 years into this revolution: many things are still within the making, conventions hardly exist, and customary standards and best practices haven’t been established.
But here is that the problem: users are tough judges.
Their span , when it involves new services, is extremely limited, and as some great designer once said, “a great product should be designed for animals, not for humans.” Most users don’t care about complexities. they need something that works, is straightforward to use and feels great. especially , after been trained for the past 20 years to use great products and apps that employment fast and are simple to use, the bar most users are wont to is high.
And maybe that was ok for the primary users to adopt whatever was around. But we all know that a ceiling has been reached; at DevCon this year, a well known cryptographer even went thus far on beg the CTO of a well known hardware wallet for a far better user experience.
UX, set, go!
Still, I even have good reasons to believe 2019 will see a serious shift in how products that are shipped are going to be executed and presented to users.
Speed: In 2019, we’re getting to see technologies stack which will enable fast payments, fast settlements and fast(er) on-boarding. Speed is one among the foremost important elements of excellent user experience. there’s no future for slow technologies: faster chains, faster side chains, faster consensus, faster thanks to KYC (in particular with portable KYC) will remove an enormous element of frustration off the table.
Thanks to that, builders are going to be ready to specialise in UX layers rather than having to repair things that don’t interest users.
People: People make products. The industry has been attracted one among the rarest set of skills within the industry: product managers and merchandise designers, who i prefer to consider because the customer advocates within a corporation .
They will bring rationality and elegance to an industry that dearly need both. we’ve seen also in 2018 a way more diverse population flocking in: women, especially , are better represented and that i trust this may bring a replacement dimension to how products are envisioned, explained and delivered.
Better use cases: Beyond speculation and remittances in weak economies, crypto has not found a use case that compels more users to adopt it. And unless we’ll undergo another major financial crash – which might push crypto as an alternate currency as a serious use case – i think new use cases with very pragmatic approaches will seem more obvious to users.
Even if builders manage to get rid of most friction points, users got to find an urgent reason to use a crypto service. i think games, access to ownership (digital ownership like NFTS, or fractional ownership like land , art, or commodities), passive revenues enabled by token staking, and loaning are going to be instrumental.
Better abstraction: nobody must understand how an IPS or router works so as to create something on the web or maybe use the web . that might be a terrible thing if that was the case.
The crypto industry seems like an enormous Lego without a guide. Developers are building all the pieces and users need to figure it out – hence, the onerous cost learning the industry which needs tons of understanding at the essential level.
I believe in 2019 enough things will start to be abstracted to builders and users in order that they won’t need to understand how thing add particular in terms of security, private key management, safety, KYC and privacy, desktop to mobile portability.
Mobile first: The crypto industry has, until now, been a desktop-first industry. it’s inconceivable that this remains so when clearly the foremost important computing devices are mobile. And this is often clearly changing.
Developers are more frequently building for mobile or mobile-first (even mobile only), app stores have better set of rules and protocols to clarify what are often done and protect users from scams, mobile devices and OS have better-designed security environments and built-in 2FA (even helped by Fortnite).
The timing is true
At this year’s DevCon – the industry largest event for Dapps and smart contracts – the tickets were paid in fiat, had to be printed on a plastic badge and will not be transferred without a tedious manual procedure.
Even the Ethereum Foundation, which has the resources and developers to develop an alternate solution, isn’t eating its own petfood . i used to be shocked this was the case.
A culture shift is required for a way organizations believe their services. I don’t believe this industry will ever grow to something better and greater until UX has been set as an absolute priority next to security. i think the time is true for this to happen which some companies will lead by example, because of a replacement breed of product talent and organizations with pragmatic use cases.
Because, at the top of the day, an excellent user experience isn’t about cosmetics, or maybe on-boarding and utility. It’s about providing aiming to people that in search of answers to a drag .
Have an opinionated combat 2018? CoinDesk is seeking submissions for our 2018 in Review. Email news [at] coindesk.com to find out the way to become involved .