Open web3 usability questions

A list of web3 design patterns and user behaviours that puzzle me.

An astronaut pondering the mysteries of life
DallE generated: “an astronaut pondering the mysteries of life”

Through my articles on DeFi, I’ve identified various usability problems specific to crypto apps. I’ve also thought hard about how to build a general framework for web3 UX.

I try to speak to users as much as possible, but there’s a limit to how much I can do on my own. To be honest, I still have more questions than answers.

So here is a list of open questions I find myself pondering. If anybody is doing research along these lines, feel free to let me know. They are not necessarily the most important questions, just puzzling.

Are separate pages for asset vaults better than expanding cards?

Expanding accordion cards were quite popular in the early days of DeFi but most new projects favour separate vault pages. This makes me think separate pages are better… but I don’t know if anybody ever did proper research on this. I feel like separate pages can make the whole thing a bit cleaner, but I asked a few degen-types and a few still liked the speed of the old expanding cards.

I’d assign moderate confidence to this one.

A UI showing expanded accordion cards containing the primary actions
Harvest Finance with the WETH card expanded

Should approval + deposit always be combined into one action?

Solidly did this. Beefy do this. I like it. Do others? Why doesn’t everywhere do this? It’s annoying to have to click approve, then click deposit.

A snackbar showing 1 of 2 actions completed
Beefy combines the approve+deposit steps, so one loads straight after the other. The user also only presses one “deposit” button.

Should snackbars disappear?

Would it be better if users had to close these manually? Does anybody even look at them? Is it reassuring? Would it be more reassuring if they stayed up until closed? How long should they appear for?

A temporary snackbar in the top right of the screen disappearing on a timer
Quickswap. Disappearing notification top right.

Should we use snackbars or modals for success and error messages?

Big or small? Again, why are snackbars the de facto choice for giving feedback? Should you show a modal saying what happened and a snackbar notification? Or just one or the other?

Where should these snackbars be placed?

Still with the snackbars, Jon? Yes, I’m still fixated on these… It’s a small detail I want to get right. I’ve seen them bottom right, top right, and top left. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one bottom left. Top right seems to be standard. Why? Which is better? I feel like there is a correct answer to this, but you’d have to test with a large number of users from a large number of countries with different left-right, top-bottom, reading directions. Who wants to fund this study?

Do people understand the difference between terms like pools, farms, mines, and vaults?

Someone invented these terms and now we’re stuck with them. Should we be? How are they different from each other? Can we have better terms?

A dropdown showing pages called “Farms”, “Mines”, “xVVS”, “Boost Calculator”. Bold of you to assume I know what these mean…

Which side should tokens be on in DEXes?

Ah, this old chestnut. Somewhat answered in this article, where I tentatively suggested the right, even though that went against what the biggest DEX — Uniswap — were doing at the time.

Interestingly, Uniswap have since updated to the right! One point to team Right then. Did Uniswap read my article? Did they do user testing? Is the right side actually better?

Old vs new. Honestly, if I hadn’t written a whole article analysing dex UI in minute detail, with many screenshots saved for posterity, I’d have assumed this was a Mandela effect and I was going crazy… “the tokens were on the left, I’m telling you, I remember them! We’re in a different timeline!”

Do people add liquidity and manage portfolios from a central app? Zapper? DeBank?

There are quite a few defi portfolio management tools out there, some of which even let you add liquidity directly. At least I think Zapper used to do this. But hardly anyone I’ve spoken to actually uses them. Why not?

How do people track their portfolios?

See above.

Do you have to connect before you view the app?

I find it really annoying when you can’t see or do anything on the app without connecting. Does everybody? Is there a good reason why you might want to force people to connect first?

Stepper-style connect wallet?

Blocknative is now a standard option for the connect wallet modal, but I’d like to see a large dataset on which connect-wallet flows users prefer. You’d hope that Blocknative themselves would be doing this. Does the preference vary depending on how experienced you are? I informally tested this with five people and no clear winner emerged. Some experienced users actually hate the stepper because they found it patronising. But it feels like an improvement. I’d just like to know more about the decisions that went into this.

A connect wallet modal with a stepper showing the necessary steps.
“powered by Blocknative”

How do users connect to web3, and how do they feel about that experience? Especially for the first time?

There are so many other questions I have around the jump into web3. I think that there is a GIANT research piece that needs to be done around connecting and onboarding to web3 apps. Which wallets are used the most? Should a fiat onramp be part of the experience? What about the seed phrases before you even get to a dApp?! Percentage of mobile vs desktop users? Do mobile users use the browser within the app, or use chrome and wallet connect? What should the button say that launches the application? Launch app? Log in? Connect? Should it even be separate from the landing page? What emotions do users feel on this journey? Is it jarring? Does it feel unsafe? Is it exciting? How does it compare to using a browser? Does it vary with age groups? Are people getting more used to it?

I don’t know what you could immediately action from the answers, but I do think a company with deep pockets like Coinbase or Binance should be doing this kind of heavy, longterm, qualitative research. It would have to be open-ended, and well-funded, but I think it would eventually lead to the insights that push us into the next paradigm of wallets and browsers. That “access layer” is really more of a barrier right now.

What is most annoying?

This will probably change as the months and years wear on. The technology will hopefully get better, and users will become more educated. Would be an interesting thing to poll every six months or so and see what things are most annoying users at the time. For example, Eth gas fees would probably be top of the list at certain times in the past. But other times it could be wallets, unclear terminology, finding tokens, bridging… I’m sure there are many unknown unknowns that I’ve not even considered.

What is most important when viewing vaults? APR, TVL etc

What is the most important info, to most of the people? If we confidently know that, we can try redesigning the current standard into something a bit different.

A selection of vaults on Pancakeswap
Pancakeswap thinks I want to see Core, Earned, APR, Liquidity, Multiplier. Is that the best info for most users?

What order should APR, TVL, volume, etc, be in?

See above. Every farm has a slightly different order, but I’m pretty sure some good user research would tell us what’s optimum. It’s tempting to say “whatever… 🤷‍♀️”, but I think there IS an answer to this. And I want to know it.

A selection of vaults on Yearn Finance
Yearn Finance. They show me APY first, then Total Assets, and Available to Deposit (my wallet balance).

How do people stake liquidity provider tokens?

The whole user flow around staking LP tokens could do with some close observation. I’ve done a bit of this, but you could go much deeper. The standard user flow for a humble yield farmer is something like:

  1. swap 50% of token1 for token2 (do they actually swap 50%, or do they swap 45% to leave tokens for some gas?)
  2. add liquidity (do they add manually, or select from a list of top pools?)
  3. stake tokens (farm page? staking page? automatic option?)
  4. occasionally harvest rewards (how often?)
  5. occasionally sell them (it ain’t much, but it’s honest work).

Do they use a strategy automater like yearn, harvest, autofarm, or yieldyak during the process? If so, do they navigate from the auto-compounder to the farm? Or the other way around? I imagine there are many subtle points one could learn from closely observing this user flow across different sites.

Do people use auto-compounders?

If so, why?

Best and worst DeFi experiences

Just an ongoing question to poll every six months or so.

Do people know what wrapped tokens are?

My limited research on this says no. I get a bit annoyed by wrapped assets because they are handled in such a slapdash manner that the distinction is often meaningless. More research required.

An illustration of a man contemplating multiple questions
DallE generated: “a man contemplating multiple questions, low-angle photography, surreal”

That’s it for now. I keep a big list of these in a spreadsheet and will probably update with time. New questions will, for sure, pop up. If you work in the industry and actually have some thoughts on the above, please feel free to connect and let me know.

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