I recently sat down with blockchain product designer, Ariel Hajbos to get his take on some essential elements of good blockchain design and some of the trends in blockchain app UX. Creating an elegant, responsive design is important in all web and mobile projects, but designing for blockchain poses new challenges. Trust-building features and even color choice are vital to an overall comfortable user experience.
Blockchain UX and UI remains a major hurdle for people to actually use the technology. In an earlier interview, blockchain consulting director, Dominik Zyskowski said good design is the key to widespread adoption. “Designers,” he said, “have to create a simple, frictionless experience to attract more users.”
So far, blockchain-based apps act much differently than traditional ones. For us who work with the underlying tech every day, it’s obvious, but if you don’t, blockchain apps may not behave as you expect. They tend to lag — and when you’re seeing charts, numbers, and of course your account balance, this can cause a lot of anxiety. Building trust through good UX is the main goal. Designing for blockchain apps involves regular feedback and trust-building features that create a pleasant user experience. Better UX will encourage more consumers to incorporate the technology into their daily lives.
Ariel Hajbos is a product designer at Espeo Blockchain and has been designing for blockchain projects during his time on the team. He started his career in graphic design and has since become integral in Espeo’s blockchain design projects such as the derivatives trading platform, CloseCross, and the mobile version of the crypto exchange, Trade. io.
In your opinion what is the most important aspect of blockchain design? What’s challenging about designing for blockchain projects?
I would say that the most important thing when designing for blockchain is that the apps often deal with financial assets — users approach these applications will a lot of distance. They’d like to get to know the apps better, know the deliverables, and know the company that built it. That’s a common thing. So it’s super important in my opinion to always design for trust. My role as a designer is to win this trust from users and communicate the ideas behind the application as well as possible so they feel comfortable using it.
The principle of designing for trust is something which is useful in other categories as well. It’s not only with blockchain, but any kind of application you build, you’d like to achieve this.
That’s an interesting point — about building trust through design. How do you do it, actually? What are some features you’ve incorporated that do this?
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If there are some patterns that users are familiar with that would be the very best first step. Using a design system and being consistent in your blockchain design creates this feeling that everything is sound and everything in the user interface is in its place. It’s also good to avoid jargon — you can’t assume that all your users will know it so it’s good to present things clearly. If you approach it in the proper way — if you keep in mind some things that are important in UX design in general, you can build trust.
The last thing I would say is creating a feedback loop — some kind of active guidance where users see a responsive design. Even if we build something and release it it’s only the beginning of the road so it’s important to be with the users through the whole app-building building process — and its future development. End users should feel as if they have the opportunity to leave their feedback, and that we’re listening and implementing changes.
In some of the projects that you’ve worked on, what were some common features you’ve changed?
Aesthetics, number of clicks, how the app presents data, and the general flow are some features we’ve received feedback on and changed. It’s always good to discuss those matters with the actual users too. It’s a very common thing because we work in an integrative process. We build something, we analyze it, gather feedback, and correct it — again and again and again to reach our goal no matter what the goal is. Whether it’s a business assumption or usability.
I also encourage product owners to show the UI and UX to the people that will use their app — a demo group — and gather feedback from them. it’s also good to clash that feedback from the business perspective and then for the user’s perspective and then get something good from that.
What aesthetic changes have end-users asked for and how does it affect blockchain design?
The applications that I built with Espeo were in general, were pretty consistent. They were focused on a goal It had to be achieved according to some of the steps. There wasn’t much space to think about adding something new. However, when we designed the Trade.io mobile application, and they were happy with the UI and UX, they requested we add additional features such as different color modes in the app. We cranked up the interface to add a dark mode and a color mode.
This wasn’t only an aesthetic decision — some of the users were accustomed to shifting between different color modes. It was easier for them to analyze data and they lacked this feature in the app before we added it. While I’m designing for blockchain apps, it doesn’t seem very important at first glance but if you start to think about it but it’s something really helpful when users have to analyze data quickly and act on it.
So it had nothing to do with how the app actually works, just how it looks?
Yes, it was only about how it looks. However, you have to remember if this is a blockchain app so we were struggling with presenting a lot of data, a lot of numbers, and a lot of charts. It’s always in the context of something positive and negative when you gain or lose assets.
For some people, different color approaches for gains and losses were less stressful. Magenta/cyan (pictured above) instead of green/red was an easier approach. It felt less stressful — more like a game. It’s a kind of user approach for such a topic. It’s not only about using a clean and simple minimalistic UI it’s not always the super idea that will satisfy all users.
What values among blockchain app users influence design do you think? I mean blockchain people skew skeptical — they don’t trust anything. How does this influence UX?
Yeah, so there are a few layers to that — first of all users have to trust the machine. It’s important that the user believes that the device is responsive And that he’s getting all the information that he needs to get. It’s also connected to blockchain technology itself.
Since it’s a decentralized technology, we have to think about why users will trust the blockchain and why blockchain technology is so important to them. These are new opportunities and it’s something very exciting. So this trust in the machine and in the algorithm is a challenge for us. Designers have to help users to trust the mechanisms blockchain technology.
Aside from blockchain itself, users have to trust the people building the applications as well. For instance, in the CloseCross app that we helped design, users predict the value of assets in the future and you have to be sure that it’s accurate and that you’ll receive your assets back. To combine those two things the trust for the application itself and the trust in the UI and the UX of the application a designer’s role is to demonstrate this trust.
Reducing cognitive load, guiding with consistency, and displaying messages properly goes a long way. All those things are connected to blockchain design and UI/UX design generally. It’s a designers role to demonstrate these things. With blockchain apps, you have to signal to the user and say ‘hey, you’re fine, your assets are fine, everything is happening as it should.’ Grasping this proper flow is something that I strive for.
How do you get into the minds of everyday users — those who may not know, or really care about how something works, just that it works.
It’s always a matter of communication. You always have to listen to users and also the people you’re working with. Designing for blockchain is a collaborative process. You have to be an open, empathetic person. I have to think about different approaches to look at a problem from a different perspective. It depends on the project — lots of our projects aren’t structured in a super strict flow.
There’s not always time for a lot of proper research. My role is to always try to understand the product as well as possible — try to pick through it in layers and from different angles of blockchain design. But my job doesn’t end there I also help guide in the implementation phase because I’m one of the few people, along with the product owner who knows the interface entirely.
I have to be a communicative person — I have to speak up with the product owner and present as many methods as possible based on the resources you already have. If there’s a space, I speak up and discuss with the users. If there’s time, I also map out a user story, write a backlog, and discuss it with developers. It’s a matter of constant discussion and analysis.
Which project that you’ve worked on are you the proudest of?
For sure Trade.io and CloseCross. For Trade.io there was already a web platform we didn’t build. Instead, we had to transform and migrate those functionalities and features to a mobile app. That was kind of challenging, however, the client was very helpful during the research part and they delivered a lot of already started wireframes and ideas for the UI. We didn’t build it from scratch but we built on top of something that already existed it was a super nice input at the very beginning that helped us to start from a good level.
With CloseCross, it was a project we helped design this platform in very close corporation with Vahibav Khadikar, the CEO. We had really long and intense sessions analyzing the UI in various versions — we did several versions. We had to think about the features, prototype it rapidly, verify the idea, and then build something on top of that.
CloseCross is a really large application with a lot of design features. As I said earlier, collaboration is something super important — it helps you to come up with really nice ideas and extend your possibilities because there’s no way one person could build something totally from scratch.
What are the main trends in blockchain design?
Trends in blockchain design are constantly changing — but the principles are the same. Design thinking, proper user research, quick evaluation of ideas like low fidelity wireframes. Those are essential tools that deliver really nice outcomes. Designing for blockchain involves trust-building features. The main trend is designing for the global nature of the blockchain — with proper localization and device agnostic.
You’d like to deliver your outcome and deliver the design you working on to as many people as possible so it’s super important also for trust to think about different languages and different devices. You have to design systems that work well across environments.
Even though one blockchain technology’s greatest strengths is ensuring trust, Many users remain skeptical. Blockchain design is the most important challenge for widespread adoption. Cumbersome user experience will only hamper further adoption of blockchain among the wider public. Effective UX design is essential to create useful, valuable blockchain apps. designing for blockchain apps involves building trust through regular feedback and frictionless navigation.
Getting blockchain design right to make end users comfortable — and maybe not even notice the underlying tech, needs innovative solutions. Hajbos and designers like him are driving greater adoption of blockchain applications.