Content hash: 0x7a94ed0f7f4fcdfbc6f5f8f53e80d341cc0c13815dcf9f338dc7871a32363586

The role of UX in Web3 adoption

Web3 and blockchain technologies promise an exciting future with decentralised applications and digital ownership for all. That future is reliant on a widespread adoption by users who are currently left feeling confused and fearful by Web3 products. Designing products in an intentional way to improve that experience and reduce friction has become critical both to the success of Web3 products and will be to the wider success of Web3.

There are six key areas where good product design can have a significant impact on that friction that inexperienced web3 users experience.

Mental model mismatch

A key UX barrier is the mismatch between users’ mental models and the web3 system model. Mental models are the cognitive frameworks we use to understand and interact with the world. When a system’s model doesn’t align with a user’s model, it leads to confusion and frustration. Web3 concepts like transactions, gas fees, and private keys are quite foreign to how most people think about software and the internet. Interfaces need to relate these concepts to familiar analogies or contexts to minimise the mental model mismatch. One example of this mismatch is the concept of a Crypto wallet, where the use of the term “wallet” creates a mental model that a Crypto Wallet is a place to put tokens. In reality, the tokens themselves live in the blockchain, with the wallet functioning more like a key to give access than a place to put them.

JSON is for computers, Humans need words

Much of the web3 user experience involves interacting with smart contracts to perform operations like token approvals or contract calls. By default these transactions are defined with computer-centric language like JSON, which is confusing and unfamiliar to many end-users. While operations will always be required, the process of performing them can be humanised and simplified with visible JSON replaced with natural language. Good examples of this are “Wallets” like Phantom for the Solana blockchain that use clear, jargon-free language that is more accessible to users.

Unclear risk and repercussions

Another major barrier for adoption is the (often unintended) obfuscation of risk. The risks involved with web3 transactions are not always clear, making it easy for users to inadvertently authorise undesirable actions or lose money due to errors. Visual cues and messaging may barely differ between a $1 transaction and one for a $1 million. Likewise a deposit and withdrawal can have near identical outward appearance. This not only increases the risk of serious error, but introduces fear of error that becomes a barrier to mass adoption. Interfaces should explicitly explain risks and consequences before requiring confirmation of an action, and put appropriate safeguards in place. This improvement is already being seen in some more user-centric wallets, but others are still yet to adapt.

Consideration of user proficiency

Experience can be improved by adapting to the experience and proficiency of users. A prime example is adapting the interface to a user with a new empty wallet vs an expert user with a wallet full of tokens, or an infrequent vs savvy user. Taking into consideration the token that is needed and how to obtain it also improves the overall experience, especially for new users. How does the interface adapt to data evolution of a product from launch to after being live for a couple of months? Are there performance issues with data processing? Effective onboarding, progressive disclosure of advanced features, and adaptation to people’s expertise levels can further improve the web3 UX. However, more work is required to handle edge cases and unexpected errors, especially for new users still learning the concepts.

Error recovery

Errors may not be entirely avoidable, but they are often predictable. Analysing what errors may happen allows thought to be given on how to detect them and how best to handle those occurrences. Examples of predictable errors include: wrong chain selected, insufficient funds, delayed transaction / congested network. For each likely error we can consider what alternative paths exist and how to get a user back on a path to success quickly, easily and without cost to them.

How it works a.k.a. Documentation

Documentation has an important role to play in improving the user experience and giving users confidence, but it has to be good to be of any help. Documentation has to be both clear and concise and favouring video walkthroughs over written content alone has advantages. Reading through the docs / videos with the mindset of the target audience can help identify areas that are missing more detailed explanations.

In conclusion, to gain mainstream traction, those building on Web3 need to continue refining user experience to reduce friction and build user confidence. While web3 technology is innovative, applying strong UX principles is necessary to make the experience intuitive and accessible to all. With greater usability, web3 can reach its potential as the future of the internet. Overall, the community needs to stay focused on people and their needs to drive web3 toward widespread adoption.

Content hash: 0x7a94ed0f7f4fcdfbc6f5f8f53e80d341cc0c13815dcf9f338dc7871a32363586

Content hash: 0x7a94ed0f7f4fcdfbc6f5f8f53e80d341cc0c13815dcf9f338dc7871a32363586