Blockchain & UX/UI design: 3 reasons why they need each other more than ever


Blog article / Saturday, November 4th, 2017

* In this post I solely refer to blockchain as the core technology of transferring ownership of information from one party to the other, without any middlemen. I’m leaving crypto currency out of the equation (Bitcoin, Ether, Dash, etc).

Lots of things have been said about blockchain already, I’m not here to give a crash course on what the technology entails or how it works; there are many sources out there that can explain that better than me.

What I want to talk about is the relationship and the need of marrying blockchain with UX and UI design. As many people have trouble understanding what blockchain is, or fail to understand its added value, design can help in improving this and showing people what the power of blockchain really is.

The reason why blockchain is sometimes hard to grasp, is because it’s an ‘under the hood technology’, meaning that it’s basically a bunch of lines of code that require the user to really understand the concept of blockchain before one can see its potential. Whereas AR and VR are sexy technologies – that appeal to people and show obvious and easy to understand results – and where technologies such as chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) immediately create associations in one’s mind, blockchain remains the black sheep of disruptive technologies in terms of ease of comprehension. And that’s a shame, as it might be the most promising and disrupting concept of the above mentioned ones.

“…blockchain remains the black sheep of disruptive technologies in terms of ease of comprehension.”

The clear advantages of blockchain, being that it creates transparency, immutability, easy cross border transfers, no single point of breach, distributed, 100% uptime of information and cryptographic security, are all very valid and clear. However, how do you materialize those benefits into an easy to use, value adding solution? For that, design thinking and UX/UI design play a vital role that haven’t been explored enough, mainly because blockchain is still in its inception when it comes to large scale, live solutions. It has not yet left the tech and nerd domain, it seems.

I have been involved in many pilots and proof of concepts, such as:

All of these examples knew quite a heavy focus on conveying the idea in best possible way, whether it was a working app, a chatbot, a video, a webapp, or a new customer journey – such as the one here, which we made for Aegon (apart from the actual API):

Customer journey Term life insurance for Aegon
Example of UI design (top) and accompanying backend code (bottom)
What these projects thought me over the course of two years, is the following:

  1. Make blockchain understandable by creating an MVP that focuses on the ‘heart’ of your blockchain solution. Think about your future customer journey and ask yourself: where in this journey am I making the most impact on the experience, by using blockchain? Focus on the related functional requirements for your MVP. For example, in the Aegon journey above we started developing the last two steps, where the impact of blockchain was most apparent. Moreover, focus on the true added value (transparency, immutability, etc.) and how that is translated into UX.
  2. Turn code and (Smart contract) mutations into tangible, visual feedback cues: make sure that you SHOW your user what is happening in the backend. Not by showing code, but by translation that code to understandable UX cues. Please see the warranty bot video for an example of how the mutation of a Coloured Coin asset simply is shown as a GIF or another relatable micro interaction for its user.
  3. Involve designers in your project and make sure they truly understand blockchain. Designers can be of great help to turn techy talk into clear, consistent UX and UI designs, and can help you setup brainstorms and other creative processes to improve your blockchain use case. However, ensure they really understand what potential benefits blockchain has, otherwise the outcome will be suboptimal.

Now that blockchain is gaining grounds and becoming more mainstream, I think there are great chances for designers to help understand engineers and blockchain enthusiasts how use cases can be realized from a user experience point of view. At the other hand, they can help identify pain points in people lives (or in b2b context), to find ways to define new use cases (and consequently, Proof of Concept/MVP definition). In doing so, giving engineers and developers guidance on where to start and how to realize the most blockchain potential. And in both cases, tangible design will convince internal buy-in from corporate stakeholders and support from C-level people across the board.

Image above: example of UI design for Web of Trust concept Alliance of Insurers.

Rome wasn’t built in one day. Likewise, blockchain is still in its exploration phase, offering great chances to organizations across many industries to rethink their business model and user experience. Let us be critical about the proper use of blockchain for the challenge at hand and involve UX and UI  designers to help in crafting an understandable, value adding solution.

Feel free to contact me to find out more and start such a design and development process for blockchain.

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