When I talk to my friends and family about the future of blockchain and its applications, I often find a blank look staring back at me. It is hard for them to envision what mass crypto adoption looks like. The blockchain market is primarily led by individuals who well understand its systems and potential, often creating a barrier of entry for the majority of the public. Typical users today interacting with the products of blockchain technology have to battle through poorly designed user experience, complex terminology, and a black hole of knowledge and information. Currently, no central platform or person exists to easily explain core concepts or walk users through the daunting process. Blockchain today is like the first generation of the internet. It’s technically there, but not very usable.
User experience design will ultimately determine the impact and widespread adoption of blockchain more than the technology itself.
Making sure that absolutely anybody with no prior knowledge or experience can use the products and services of blockchain is essential for its disruption of our everyday lives.
The technology in blockchain holds a thick layer of complexity on top of traditional products. As a designer at Fidelity Investments working on blockchain products, I constantly asked myself: “how can I build seamless interactions between both a blockchain product and the end-user?” Here are some of my thoughts.
As I began my work at Fidelity, my main focus was cryptocurrency accessibility — more specifically, the private key conundrum. When using cryptocurrencies, the blockchain system assigns each user a private and public key, a series of alphanumeric characters. When paired, the private key and public key “prove” you are the owner of an address on the blockchain, allowing for the access to manage and transfer your digital assets. You can think of a public address like your email address, and the private key as the password to your email account. But unlike an email account, if a user forgets or misplaces their private key, there is no option to recover or generate a new one. There is no ‘Forgot Password?’ button. For that reason, that private key is effectively your money; thus, the storage of it is essential to the security of your assets.
This is what a bitcoin private key looks like:
How could I ever remember that, you might say? You couldn’t memorize it even if you wanted to.
And that’s the idea. How do you ever memorize or store this key?
As I thought about designing for digital asset management, accessibility and security needed to be at the forefront of my priorities. It is common for funds to live in a digital wallet, but if those funds get stolen or hacked, there’s no way to get them back. There is no bank or central body with whom to file a claim. Security is crucial in making users feel safe.