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Product Designer, UX Designer

Hi  👋🏽, I’m Anil Nair

  • Writer's pictureAnil Nair

Designing for Blockchain — Part 1: Introduction




Blockchain is one of the emerging technologies in recent times, with its use in only a limited number of domains. Tech enthusiasts are still to explore the full potential and the use cases of the technology. The technology got the world's attention with the boom in the cryptocurrency market value. Blockchain is currently being used in various industries from Supply chain management to health care.

With the wider world being unaware of Blockchain and its use cases, defining the technology and educating the common man itself is a big challenge.


What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public database that is distributed across the network. Each computer or node connected to this network gets a copy of this database and any change in this database reflects in all the copies present on all the nodes making it secure and completely transparent.


Designing for an emerging technology

Designing for an emerging technology itself comes with its own challenges and roadblocks. With technologies like blockchain, the first barrier for a designer is to pick up the right direction. As designers in a struggle to build a system for a new technology we often tend to forget the basics, which is creating a user experience. We struggle to find an ideal customer or user and try to talk to them about the technology more rather than the problem statement. In a struggle to educate the user, we forget our job, which is to build a bridge between the technology & the user. It’s not always required that the user needs to be educated on the underlying technology, the designers' job is to create great end-user experience by making the technology predicament disappear.


Some of the thought process that goes through:

Designing for trust:

You surely would know about Joe Gebbai’s expression of “stranger danger”. This expression also goes well when you are responsible for using the data and storing them. Users are generally scared of sharing their personal data with a third party or on a technology platform. Building this trust is very important and this can be solved by taking small steps.

Gaining trust is a gradual process, this can be easily solved by asking for the right data at the right point in time. As the user signup happens, ask for permission to access the data when it is really required. In this way, it prompts the user to give permission as well as the confidence to share his/her data.



With financial transactions in place, the user becomes a little more conscious and may refrain from sharing the required information. In this scenario, building the contextual reputation helps by assuring the users that the platform is totally secured. This social reputation can be built with professional design quality, using the badges of secured payment gateways that everyone knows and through testimonies or reviews from other users.



Having transparency and letting your user know what would happen in the next step also adds to building trust especially while designing the system for technology like Blockchain. This transparency would also help to boost their confidence in giving the data or make a financial transaction on your platform.


Designing for compliance:

The world is moving to build stronger data protection policies to help people protect their digital identities from being misused. With more data policies like GDPR coming into the act, we as designers share the responsibility to be compliant with the policies. It's not just about abiding by the law, it's also about making the user feel safe. Especially in the finance & data storage domains, users always want to engage with organizations, which gives them the assurance that their data is safe and won’t be used without their consent. Make the digital signatures compulsory with policies listed in simple language making it easier for the common man to understand. We might have to try and collect as minimal data as possible to work with, as it would help reduce the load with which the organization has to deal with.



The problem is not restricted to data policies, in some countries, there are restrictions to the transactions are conducted. Abiding by these regulations, a designer will have to collaborate with the Chief Compliance officer and understand these policies.


Designing for Decentralized Environment:



Having a decentralized environment means the data process time is longer than the centralized environment. For example, a transaction may take hours to process when you are trading in cryptocurrency. A designer’s job will be to continuously keep the user updated with the status of the transaction and educate them that there might be a time gap for it to reflect in their accounts. This can be done by pushing the notification which helps to keep the user engaged without any stress. We will eventually make them adopt this decentralized system, including time lags so they feel this is a part of the experience.

Another vital point working in a decentralized environment is the data being irreversible. The user needs to be made even more conscious and cross-verify every data change that has to be made. It's a trigger point like an authentication method by giving a password/PIN verification.

Conclusion:

With emerging use cases of this technology, we will have to design a system for blockchain from the scratch. With increased user adoption, the design has to be iterated further. We, designers, can help the users adopt the decentralized ledger faster through a seamless user experience.

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