From bitcoin to Web3, here’s a comprehensive look at the intersection between crypto and UX design.
Since its beginning in 2009, bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, has consistently made headlines for everything from pure novelty to its jaw-dropping value increases (or frightening drops).
However, despite the fact that crypto exchanges have been taking place for well over a decade, the entire ecosystem seems to maintain its own shroud of mystery and complexity; a barrier to those who are interested in becoming involved, but aren't entirely sure how or what that would mean.
The desperate need for transparency and clarity within crypto makes it one of the hottest new opportunities for UX designers who are willing to lend their skills and talents to the crypto industry—and FinTech as a whole.
So let's take a look at what crypto is, why it continues to merit interest in the financial world, and how UX designers are currently working to improve the user experience of each product.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a digital form of currency that uses blockchain technology as its ledger.
While it can be used as a form of exchange, crypto remains separate from traditional or fiat currency in a few fundamental ways.
Fiat currencies, for example, are centralized and belong to a specific government entity. Each currency, from the United States Dollar (USD) to the British Pound (GBP), differs in value from every other currency.
Cryptocurrency, on the other hand, is decentralized thanks to the complexities of blockchain, which allows the currency data to be housed all over the world. While Bitcoin is currently the most popular cryptocurrency, there are others, like Ethereum, that are growing in popularity.
Common Crypto Terms
Any conversation about crypto is likely to be filled with industry jargon about blockchain, or the improvements that Web3 will be able to offer to a global, more stable economy. Here are a few of the terms that you'll want to be familiar with on a basic level to understand the cryptocurrency ecosystem:
Blockchain technology acts as a permanent, public ledger for crypto and other digital exchanges.
These are software tools that allow you to track the real-time information of crypto transactions and mining activity,
You can move your tokens or your assets offline onto a crypto wallet, so that they can't be hacked or seized. This lends you a whole new layer of ownership and security.
On a marketplace like Coinbase or Gemini, users can buy, sell, and trade their crypto.
Short for "Financial Technology," FinTech is a term that encompasses any scenario where technology meets finance, whether that takes the form of crypto apps, investment apps, or the payment apps you might already be familiar with like PayPal or Venmo.
Web3 is often touted as the future of the internet, which embraces decentralization and uses blockchain technology as its foundation.
There are a few different reasons why individuals might gravitate towards investing in crypto, versus a more traditional form of investment. The top two reasons are:
Whether we like it or not, information and power tends to be centralized into the hands of a very few people or companies. At the moment, there are about five major tech companies that control the majority of the market cap and data.
An alternative scenario is decentralization, where data is housed all over the world, rather than being stored in chunks by big mammoth companies.
Bitcoin and other crypto currencies offer an incredibly secure option for not only the currency itself, but also your share in this currency. While it's all online, the overall computing power that secures it is far too expensive to hack; it would require trillions of dollars to have even a 51 percent takeover of Bitcoin.
In addition to the sheer expense of trying to hack into the blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, individual users have additional control over their investment, with the option to use an ultra secure crypto wallet hardware to store crypto.
Learn more about what crypto is, and how it stands within the UX design community in this webinar with Will Corcoran, Grants Lead at Stacks Foundation.
Stacks Overview: Web3 Secured by Bitcoin
User Experience Challenges within Crypto
There are a wealth of unexplored UX design challenges that need to be addressed before crypto can truly become the mainstream currency that it’s designed to be.
The complexities of each exchange have to be communicated in a way that helps each user understand the value of each action or activity they take. More importantly: this information needs to be communicated in a way that can be easily digested on the small screen of a mobile app.
That, in itself, might pose a delightful challenge to a UX designer.
But as the web evolves and shifts towards a decentralized Web3, UX designers are able to devote themselves towards solving specific issues like:
Onboarding flows: Onboarding new users is always a challenge, but within crypto apps there's an acute need to bring users up to speed quickly on what they should (or shouldn't) do within the app, based on their own unique goals.
Data sets: With Web3, designers have a lot of really intriguing data sets to represent, like real-time information and earnings for a company, which can then be extracted and publicly viewed by anyone, at any time.
Visualizing interactions: Think about the learning curve of going from buying bitcoin to getting a wallet, transferring the bitcoin to the wallet, and then interacting with the data and safely understanding what's happened. Each of these moments within the user experience has to be visualized and communicated in a way that's both accurate and simple.
UX design comes with a fairly standard skillset that you'll want to hone in on and develop as a part of your career growth.
However, there are some specific skills that are particularly needed for any crypto UX design work:
There’s a fine line between under communicating and over communicating. On the one hand, you want to make it a fun and enjoyable experience for users. On the other hand, you also have to clearly advertise the risks that they're engaging in by investing or interacting within the crypto world.
The Ability to Create Complex Design Flows
Design flows are often thought of as a basic design exercise that helps you come up with clear interactions and solid information architecture.
Within crypto, there's a lot of interoperability involved; large amounts of information and data sets are communicated between different platforms. It's up to you to ensure that the user remains fully oriented and aware of what's happening behind the scenes—and what actions would be appropriate to take next.
An Understanding of How Blockchain Works
Every UX job posting that I have seen recently has been very specific about one thing: they're looking for someone who has experience with blockchain. This is an industry with fast-paced competition and growth. Job applicants who want to stand out should have a working understanding of what, exactly, the project is, and how they can help to improve it. If you’re interested in becoming a crypto UX designer, it would be a good idea to incorporate some blockchain-specific case studies in your UX design portfolio.
Cryptocurrency is a hot topic amongst investors—and UX designers who are interested in shaping the next phase of FinTech, and Web3 as a whole.
The crypto and blockchain industry offer a unique opportunity for designers to contribute towards an environment that is founded on user-centric principles like decentralization and security.
The newness of the crypto ecosystem means that there are a wealth of design challenges waiting to be solved by tomorrow’s designers, from onboarding flows to interactions.
Crypto UX designers benefit from a skillset that’s focused on taking complex technology and turning them into simple, clearly communicated interfaces that support user needs.
Interested in becoming a crypto UX designer? Explore UX Academy, an intensive online program that equips you with the UX/UI design skills you need to land your first product design role.