Bad UX is making cryptocurrency seem more complicated than it is.
Since the 2017 bull market, blockchain enthusiasts and crypto advocates have been awaiting the mass adoption of cryptocurrency. But why hasn’t crypto gone mainstream yet?
Well, the truth is that most people still don’t understand how crypto works at all. And people fear what they don’t understand.
When I first dabbled in cryptocurrency, I faced a steep learning curve, and the unconventional interfaces made it all the more difficult. What I’ve realized during my initial exploration is that most crypto exchanges are built for the sophisticated user and can be daunting for a new user like myself.
Focusing on User Experience (UX)* matters because UX is an investment that keeps on paying. Good UX design has a high return on investment; it can generate word-of-mouth and increase user loyalty. In fact, the mass-market appeal of cryptocurrency will become a reality only when we’re able to build inclusive, guided, and intuitive interfaces.
Today, I would like to share what I have found makes good UX design in the crypto-verse, focusing specifically on exchanges such as Switcheo.
Perhaps the most straightforward element of UX, usability refers to how easily you and I interact with a website or product. In addition to merely being pleasing to the eye, a usable design is fast, frictionless, and error-tolerant.
In this age of instant gratification, having a fast web load speed is critical for the perpetually impatient. Web performance is user experience. According to Adobe, 39% of people will stop engaging if images won’t load or take too long to load.
On that same note, a slow and cumbersome signup process is also off-putting. However, most cryptocurrency exchanges require you to complete a Know Your Customer (KYC) verification before you can begin to trade. These KYC procedures are lengthy and personal and can take up to a few days. This is especially frustrating for opportunistic traders, as slow onboarding often results in missed opportunities. By the time one can make a trade, the price of the market could have drifted significantly.
in a study by Deloitte, 1 in 3 new customers drops out of an onboarding process due to frustration with the bureaucracy or volume of information required.
Luckily, simpler and quicker onboarding is possible with Decentralised Exchange (DEX), where one can sign in and start trading directly using blockchain wallets. The absence of a registration step also leads to better privacy, as personal data is neither shared nor stored.
However, most DEXs make the mistake of assuming that users know how to use blockchain wallets. While blockchain wallets are fast to use, they are typically challenging to set up or onboard for fresh users due to the new concepts presented.
Developing usable software that performs standardization across blockchains is one example of how good UX can facilitate adoption. For instance, new users at Switcheo have an option to sign up for a Switcheo Account instead of using a blockchain wallet. This simple email/password login system is similar to those found on Centralized Exchanges (CEX) and is familiar to everyone.
Without requiring separate blockchain wallets or software, users can trade immediately on multiple blockchains using a single multi-chain account. Given that blockchain wallets are the gateways to cryptocurrencies, we hope that the user experience they provide to new users will also improve over time.
Finally, a usable user interface is a frictionless one.
Poor Information Architecture (IA) is the most common source of bad friction. This means that there is clutter, inconsistency, or unfamiliar design present. The lack of straightforward or familiar navigation can make it hard to find information and cause user frustration. People are much more likely to give up and move on if the process of finding information is too complicated or too slow.
Focused navigation and clear information structure form the foundation of frictionless user experience. A well-thought-out IA is one whereby users can find what they need where they expect it to be. The goal is to help users find information and complete tasks in the shortest time possible. The faster users get to their final destination, the greater their satisfaction.
It takes 0.1 seconds to form a first impression of someone but only 0.05 seconds for someone to form an opinion about a website. Stanford University credibility experts found that nearly half of all consumers base their idea of a site’s credibility on its visual design.
When we find someone attractive, we automatically attribute other positive qualities to them. Interestingly, something similar happens in UX. This is known as the aesthetic usability effect. We tend to believe that things that look better will work better, and we’re more tolerant of errors if they occur on a gorgeous screen. Think Apple. Polished aesthetics and intuitive usability are its two base ingredients for building trust.
Just as in real life, people appreciate when sites are upfront with all the information that relates to the customer experience. A good UX design should create a sense of trust and openness. An open-source architecture is one such aspect of transparency, and access to code is becoming a standard in the cryptocurrency world. Being able to audit smart contracts continuously reassures traders and further boosts the exchange’s credibility and trustworthiness.
The language of cryptocurrency is strange for most of us, full of unfamiliar words and complicated vocabulary. Unfamiliarity undermines credibility, and we tend to gravitate towards what feels familiar (think pop music). We associate unfamiliarity with risk and uncertainty. People are more likely to trust words that are easy to read instead of complicated phrases. Thus, it is crucial for DEXs to use more common language (such as those used in CEXs) and to explain blockchain terminology in layman’s terms.
Another UX problem we face is the inconsistencies across different blockchains. Consistency fosters recognition, familiarity, and ultimately reinforces credibility.
Ideally, depositing and withdrawing should feel the same regardless of the token. However, that’s not the case for most DEXs. This divide sometimes exists within the same blockchain. For example, 0x-based DEXs typically force traders to perform an extra step of converting Ether (ETH) to Wrapped Ether (WETH). This fixes a protocol issue at the cost of a more confusing user experience. Optimizing for developer happiness instead of user consistency ends up being a weak compromise for the progress of the ecosystem.
Good UX is when the UX feels the same across all similar actions, with the same number of steps for the same function, regardless of token or blockchain. Switcheo provides this standardization and usability to its users.
Good UX design has the end-user in mind and, when applied to an exchange, should go above and beyond to make the lives of traders easier.
For instance, features like sorting and filtering is an essential function that many exchanges do not have. Traders should be able to sort orders by price or date and filter them based on the type of orders (buy or sell orders) and date. These features allow heavy users (such as market makers, which are an important target audience) to easily make and cancel orders, without having to sift through an extensive list of orders. This, in turn, also helps minimize trade errors.
Users also benefit significantly from visual aids that enhance their experience. For example, a simple white dot (Open Order Indicator) to highlight users’ open orders on the order book can help improve the workflow for the trader.
Dark themes are commonly seen as less distracting and are also said to minimize eye strain. Wired called dark themes “an eye-friendly alternative to the traditional blindingly bright user interfaces.”
While some argue that dark mode isn’t necessarily more comfortable on the eyes, providing more display choices is always beneficial. These functional features and visual options work together to add impact and interest, thereby increasing the stickiness of the exchange over time.
Moving forward, we need to address the underlying flaws in the crypto-architecture. The concept of managing keys can be complicated, and wallet addresses are hard to remember and prone to errors. This is problematic because of the immutable nature of blockchain; a “fat finger error” can mean money lost forever.
The crypto world today presents high barriers to adoption, primarily due to poor UX. As the ecosystem continues to mature, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to prioritize UX next to security.
Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, agrees that the ecosystem faces many challenges in terms of UX. He said that crypto exchanges “should work like WeChat.” If cryptocurrency is ever going to achieve mainstream adoption, we need to design crypto exchanges in a way that even our grandparents can master.
*User Experience (UX) encompasses User Interface (UI), and also focuses on overall task flows, user satisfaction, overall efficiency, and satisfying user requirements.
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Faye Xie is an experienced UI/UX and Visual Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the Digital Media industry. She is skilled in User Experience Design (UX), User Interface Design (UI), Graphic Design, Web Design, and Art Direction.
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