In the industry the question of adoption is so recurring it now almost triggers an automatic answer leading to a boilerplate response: “something about UX, something scalability” & if you’re lucky, “something about privacy.”
Today, as my usual, I’d like to bring to your attention a different perspective.
It might be a bit hard to hear for the bulls amongst us, but I don’t think DeFi is ready for mass audiences just yet. From an outsider perspective, onboarding an Ethereum DApp is an exhausting adventure involving learnings in several disciplines and at least a basic understanding of the network.
Yes, the numbers of steps and their complexity are reducing by day — the products are becoming more comfortable to use. However, usage is not the north star metric here: understanding is.
There is still quite a steep learning curve before being able to use DeFi the smart way. This research and documentation phase is often too much work for most — this is the first layer of the filter.
If this were an economic model, we would probably throw a “rational assumption” here and conclude that all users going past this point documented themselves and understand what they are doing.
But this is the real world, so let me give you a peek of mundanity: through my daily interactions, I run into some users interacting with services they do not understand. Most of the times, they haven’t committed too much, and their situation is salvageable, but sometimes the stakes are real.
To understand the filter better, we need to look at what’s happening in legacy finance. In the good old banking and finance industry, the learning curve is much less steep. Indeed, you usually have several intermediaries offering neatly packaged and easy to use products: they abstract things for the user while the user of DeFi services is still doing a lot of the nitty-gritty work himself.
However, these intermediaries also play their own game - their goals can easily conflict with their users' best interest. For instance, if a banking service has its own saving-account product, it can become a form of incentive for them to mislead their users and push them towards it (instead of potential better options @competitors).
So before we look at different options to lift the filter, I’ll close the loop with decentralised finance. The Great Filter I’m cornering is also a form of great safety net: everything is transparent and happening on-chain. After a bit of learning, anybody can read the same base data, process it, and be informed.
I am convinced that the Great Filter will only be lifted with a concerted effort from both sides: users of DeFi services and their builders.
We need more effort from the community - that’s you - to explain what is happening with all the different DeFi services. The amount of complexity involved is still massive, and we need more than ever content of the highest quality — videos, infographics, articles, you name it!
To me, a high-quality DeFi post goes beyond just explaining: it sparks its readers' curiosity and leave them hungry for more. If you want some help to get involved on this front, please reach out, I’d be more than happy to give you some pointers.
While I’m at it, let me address another recurring myth: you don’t need to code to contribute to decentralized finance projects. You can be delivering as much value, if not more, doing any of the following:
- Onboarding family & friends: that’s quite obvious, but if you’ve found value in DeFi services, why could they not?
- Do you speak another language? Feel free to reach out to your favourite projects to help them translate their interface, support & other written content.
- You can draw, on paper or digitally? Make a neat infographic of a system you like.
- You’re the king of the opps? Get involved with your local meetups and help them organize!
- Got video or audio editing skills? You’re going to have many friends.
Before I wrap this up, let’s talk about the second side, the builders. UX of the Dapps is obviously a significant challenge - but why is that so?
I think that as an industry, we’re still quite user-shy. We see again and again projects being developed in an Ivory Tower, and then unleashed to the crowds by their creators, full of hope & dreams - ready to be crushed.
If you thought the tech by itself was enough - insider tip: it’s not.
Now accounting for:
- The fact that we are building services operating in a manner never seen before: transparent, interoperable, and more or less trustless thanks to decentralized or distributed networks.
- Not only their operations are novel — these services are already delivering use cases that previously did not exist anywhere else.
- We are at the avant-garde and must try our best to make sure decentralized finance lives to our ideals.
I think we should consider radically novel ways of approaching DeFi services design.
We need to bring all kind of perspectives, try weird and new stuff again and again until we crack the nut and figure out the tools most fitted to our needs.
So, at my level, I went back to my first loves: literature and linguistics and thought about how to use them to better the UX of a DeFi wallet. I did a quick trial run on the onboarding of the Monolith wallet — the results are insightful.
You’ll find them here: 📔 Monolith App Semantic Analysis v0.1 - Initial Draft | 04/05/2020
Feel free to reach out if this UX writing angle is an approach you’d like to explore or implement in your dApp design process.
With ♥ love,
PS: The use of the term
Great Filter is a direct reference to the Fermi Paradox. To learn more about it, check out this intro video from Kurzgesagt (Also the base image used for the cover of this article, thanks 🙏)