Bitcoin UX Challenges

What are the biggest challenges to the improvement of the UX of bitcoin products?

Bitcoin UX Challenges

Challenge 1: Lack of understanding about the technology

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

A huge challenge when designing for bitcoin is the general deficit of knowledge about this new technology.

Can I buy just a small amount or must I buy a whole bitcoin when purchasing it?

Although the answer may sound pretty obvious for the regular bitcoin user, this is exactly the kind of question that beginners have.

Some other examples would be questions like:

  • What exactly is a bitcoin wallet?
  • Where is my bitcoin stored? Is it really safe?
  • What's a public address?
  • What is a private key?
  • What is a network fee?

Most of the terms mentioned above are not that easy to understand at first. They can be trivial to us, but not for the majority of first time users that are coming to the platforms we are building.

Technical illiteracy with regard to bitcoin also gives place to several issues, such as:

  • Not overcoming the initial entry barrier out of fear
  • Unsafe practices related to private keys and backup
  • Falling prey for scams
  • Believing in and spreading myths about bitcoin

Things become even more confusing when new users have expectations of dealing with their bitcoin just as any other asset of the regular banking system.

Questions like the following arise:

  • Why do these transactions take so long to be confirmed?
  • How can I cancel a transaction?
  • What happens if I lose my private keys? Can I just contact the wallet support?

Bitcoin represents a paradigm shift and as such it requires people to recalibrate their suppositions about how to manage digital money.

We end this part with two recommendations:

  1. Be aware of the established mental models that your user group already has and try to use it as a starting point. Generally, it's a good idea to introduce these new blockchain concepts in relation to the regular banking system.
  2. Avoid using complex terms such as nonce, hash and consensus algorithm.

If we want to help non-technical users to overcome their fears, take care of their funds safely and be more knowledgeable, we must make things easy to understand.

Part 2: The immense number of different use cases

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

What can you do with a new form of digital money?

As you can imagine, there's a huge number of potential users, transacting with it in all sorts of scenarios. This presents a certain problem for developers.

To better deal with the complexity of this question, UX researchers make use of personas, which is a fundamental part of the user-centered design. Personas are fictional characters created to represent a user type that might use the software that is being built.

Here are some questions that can help build a persona in the context of the development of bitcoin software:

  • In which scenarios are the users going to make use of this software?
  • What are their motivation and goals?
  • What are their attitudes and behaviors towards this application? (Previous experiences; what says about the subject; what family members usually say about it, and so on)
  • What do they already use that is somehow similar?
  • What are the specific tasks that they intend to perform with this software?
  • How often does the user intend to perform tasks, such as buying, selling for fiat, spending online and transferring the funds?
  • What are the demographic data of these users, such as sex, language, age, country of residence?
  • How tech-savvy is the user?
  • Is the user interested in bitcoin only or also in other cryptocurrencies?
  • Which features are the most relevant? Are they related to privacy, security or tax compliance?
  • What's the preferred platform (mobile, desktop, OS) for this type of user?

And here are some examples of personas that could come out of the initial research step:

  • Joe, the hodler. He lives in the USA, buys small amounts of bitcoin almost every week and has no intention of spending for the next 10 years.
  • Sarah, who lives in Europe and intends to use the app to send money to her family in Nigeria.
  • Anton, the crypto trader. He lives in Brazil and wants to profit in the short term by buying and selling bitcoin and altcoins for fiat.
  • Ernesto, who lives in Venezuela and wants to use the software to receive money from his employer and spend it on his daily purchases, such as at the supermarket.

As you can see, all these personas are completely different from each other. If we design an application for one persona, it will most probably not be suitable for the others.

That's why it is crucial to avoid creating software for generic bitcoin users.

Let's focus on finding out what are the needs of the specific type of user that we want to serve, and design the application to satisfy these needs.

To learn more about personas: Personas Make Users Memorable for Product Team Members

Next steps

These were the first two articles about this subject. These are the titles of the next articles, that are currently bring written:

  1. Lack of standards by the developers community
  2. Limitations of a brand-new protocol