Blockchain technology has delivered many advancements in the modern digital age, yet its actual practical utility is yet to be realized. The enthusiasm of early web3 adopters is both a blessing and a curse: competing for crypto-natives, developers often neglect usability for non-technical consumers.
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From 2016 to 2022, the number of active crypto wallets increased from 5.7 million to 80 million—an impressive 14-fold growth. Daily transaction count, however, shows a much more modest picture—a mere 40% increase during 2017-2021. Academic research shows that 81% of respondents are interested in blockchain but find the effort needed to use it too excessive. According to another study by Pohang University of Science and Technology, an average user is consistently less satisfied with their experience with blockchain-based applications than their non-blockchain alternatives.
Number of crypto wallets yearly growth (2013-2023) | Source: Coinweb
The verdict is clear: to achieve widespread crypto adoption, developers must begin to put consumers first—by delivering better UX and UI, a seamless experience on the same level as web2 applications, and a gentler learning curve.
In blockchain’s infancy, the primary focus was establishing the technology’s viability and ensuring that distributed ledgers were secure, decentralized, and efficient. Technical intricacies were at the forefront as the early blockchain community, composed mainly of technologically adept individuals, embraced the innovation despite its complexity.
However, the need for user-friendly interfaces and consumer-focused applications became increasingly apparent as blockchain began attracting a broader, more diverse audience, including those less familiar with its technical aspects.
Projects with a consumer-centric model aim to understand the needs and requirements of the consumer and deliver products, services, and experiences that align with those needs. The main building blocks of consumer-centricity are user-friendliness, intuitive design, streamlined processes, and minimal effort required for efficient outcomes.
A consumer focus shortfall and its impact
Modern blockchain solutions are still evolving and moving towards user-friendliness. More often than not, they come with complex interfaces and lack a transparent onboarding process for newcomers, assuming they are already familiar with basic concepts like Layer-1 protocols, tokens, gas fees, or bridges. As a result, many quickly disengage. Discouraged by one application, a user will likely discard the concept and technology as a whole. One study highlighted slow execution, with only 30% of the research sample tasks completed in less than ten minutes.
Another issue is the blockchain’s narrow accessibility. To gain trust in the technology, users must understand a range of decentralized applications and their complex interactions, which can be daunting. An analysis of over 45,000 app reviews using natural language processing found that less than 45% of relevant reviews were positive or neutral.
Hidden or complex additional costs like gas fees also hinder widespread blockchain adoption, while slow transaction speeds impair the experience of even seasoned users. For example, the Ethereum protocol can support 27 transactions per second. Meanwhile, Visa can do 1700. If blockchain technology were to achieve mass adoption, it needs to be scaled without user experience trade-offs.
Technology: the means, not the end
It remains to be seen if blockchain technology has reached the peak of its operational efficiency. One thing is clear, though—no matter how groundbreaking a technology is, it should serve as a means to an end, not the end itself.
The introduction of Layer-2 solutions eliminated some of the frictions of the L1 blockchains, but the consumer-centric approach takes blockchain a step further. By improving user interface and user experience, considering intuitive design features, and providing comprehensive onboarding, developers can create more trust, lower entry barriers, and bring L2 solutions to a new level.
Such consumer-centric L2 solutions, however, will require robust technological backing. Adapting to ever-evolving user needs calls for a change from a rigid top-down design to a modular approach, where components can be modified individually without affecting the overall system’s stability. A consensus between security, fairness, and speed of execution can be reached through a combination of rollups and decentralized sequencers. All of these are feasible—the most fundamental step, though, is to recognize the customers’ needs and begin shifting the vision towards becoming a consumer-centric chain. Blockchain has passed its proof of concept; now, let’s make it convenient.
Cecilia Hsueh is a co-founder and CEO at Morph, a consumer-centric blockchain Layer-2 platform. A seasoned entrepreneur with over a decade of experience, Cecilia has led multiple ventures. In 2014, she founded and helmed J.C.Moritz Investment Consulting, a market research firm, and transitioned into the web3 space as an investor in 2018. From 2019 to 2022, Cecilia served as the CEO of Phemex trading platform. She boasts over ten years as a serial entrepreneur, four of those years dedicated to web3 projects.