Why learn this technology?
As we speak, hundreds of VCs are pouring billions into this new industry. Companies are rebranding to have some stake in this new “metaverse”. The popularity of bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies are also starting to become considered a trendier asset class to invest in. As well as a breadth of other factors, individuals are excited by this potential future of the internet. The initial hype of the blockchain has started to become a trend and has the likelihood to become the future of the internet.
What is Web 3.0
We can answer this question by going deep into the roots of the web. It starts with Web 1.0, where the internet was nothing but a set of links and an exclusive group of people responsible for creating all the content. The majority of users are simply consumers of the content provided by this group of people.
Now web 2.0 is as you can imagine, allows anyone to create content on the platform. Everyone can be both a consumer and a creator. This platform is facilitated by centralized organizations that control all the content. Examples of these are popular names, such as Facebook and Google, both responsible for your data, search results, friends list, you name it and they probably have control over it.
Web 3.0 on the other hand features a fully decentralized internet. Users’ data are generally anonymized and the internet runs on the blockchain. If you plan on becoming a designer for this industry, an understanding of what runs under the hood of web 3.0 would be crucial for designing for this newer audience.
How to enter this new industry
Entering this new industry can seem daunting at first. With so many new terms and abbreviations floating around, it definitely can seem intimidating to many people. However, I found that it is a matter of simply exposing yourself to this industry. I suggest starting where you already have some experience. If you come from a development background, you can start taking a look at the code that the blockchain runs on. However, since this article is targeted towards designers, I will focus on the path that worked for me.
To reiterate, I suggest starting with something that you are already familiar with. I began by taking a look at case studies that were related to web 3.0. Deepwork Studios has some brilliant studies specifically on other companies in this industry. VAExperience also created a blockchain challenge that I personally started with to simply dip my toes in this area.
After you have a decent understanding of the blockchain from a design perspective, you can start to get a feel for the current ecosystem. Learn about the forerunners in different niches of this industry. Some places to start can include Metamask for money exchange, paymentX for crypto payrolls, and Circle for peer-to-peer money payments.
At this point, you can also start to understand the deeper intricacies of the industry. I suggest Whiteboard Crypto, he explains the blockchain using metaphors and examples in an easy-to-follow manner.
Designing for the user
Now creating case studies in this field is a bit different than designing for a Web 2.0 project. Many people are unaware of the capabilities and possibilities of the blockchain so it is your duty as a designer to inform the public while presenting a viable use case.
It is important to focus on education for the user regarding processes within the blockchain. A designer must be clear on the mechanism behind their app since users can be skeptical about moving their money online. Since this is a nascent industry, it is important to make the users feel safe about using this new platform. It can be a bit difficult to adapt to this education-centric method of design, but it is important to ensure that the user feels secure.
An example that you can incorporate in your design can be using friction to slow down the process for the user, giving them time to process what is occurring behind the scenes. This can be as simple as using a progress bar for the exchange of money, showing exactly where your money is being transported, while also using tooltips or information bubbles to describe each step. Think of a package tracking service such as FedEx or UPS. They show where the package is at each step of the trip, keeping the user informed and giving them a feeling of security about the location of their item.
Another method can be using existing metaphors and mental models that users are familiar with from Web 2.0. This gives users a sense of security, interacting with a recognizable workflow. Think about Apple when they started developing their touch-screen iPhone. They referenced the weight and friction of regular objects while developing the swipes and prolonged taps that are now possible with modern phones. They can attribute the success of their touchscreen interfaces by referencing an already existing mental model within humans, examining how they interact with everyday things.
Finally, a high degree of transparency is also important when designing user-centric interfaces. Transparency is one of the building blocks of web 3.0. So being clear with the security and processes of the technology is important in helping users feel comfortable with the new apps. Examples of this can include a monetary reference point when talking about Ethereum or Bitcoin. This can be a small description under the value of Ethereum of its current value in USD for example.
Transparency of some irreversible actions is also important since the concept of gas fees when buying Ethereum is a relatively new concept to users, explaining this process without being too overwhelming is important to keep in mind.
Now I want to end this article with a few additional resources that I have come across which were really beneficial and interesting to me while I was dipping my toes into this niche.
Angela Ching wrote an incredible article recently on some principles to keep in mind when designing for the blockchain. Check it out for a deeper look into the intricacies of UX with designing in this field
Veem is a well-known money transfer application that uses blockchain technology to compete with PayPal. This article by Veem explains their usage of the blockchain while also providing a high-level overview of the state of the industry.
As the world transitions to a greener economy, knowing about the sustainable consequences of the blockchain is important to have a voice in cryptocurrency discussions. Early last year, Bitcoin mining was observed to consume more energy than the entire country of Argentina. Countries are starting to see the negative impact that the blockchain can have on the environment. This article goes in-depth with the future of sustainability in the blockchain and some considerations to have while exploring web 3.0.