The digital asset site ShapeShift is in my view one of the greatest innovations in the nascent world of crypto. But frankly, in my opinion, the user experience on this online site is evolving into one hot mess.
I was on the ShapeShift yesterday trying to make a simple cryptocurrency conversion. But consistent with my ongoing experiences, the site was once again acting wonky. So I aborted the transaction.
When these sort of scenarios occur, my first inclination is to examine whether there is something on my end that’s causing the snafu. Maybe it’s a browser issue. Or a slow Wi-Fi connection. On and on my mind began racing in an attempt to mitigate the issue.
Yesterday though I decided to Google “ShapeShift Reviews” to see if there were others that had similar experiences. And I was absolutely floored by what I discovered.
With my curiosity now heightened, I decided to do a similar review on Kraken and Coinbase, two other prominent sites. Here’s what I found:
My conclusion? Crypto businesses appear to be struggling mightily at delivering good user experience (UX).
Actually, I knew this but wasn’t inclined to throw anyone under the bus because of my desire to see the cryptocurrency world succeed in a big way. I’ve also been inclined to give companies like ShapeShift, Kraken, and Coinbase a pass in light of the massive demand on their resources tied to the explosive growth of this space.
Andreas Antonopoulos, one of the best-known and well-respected figures in Bitcoin tried to call attention to this very issue four years ago on Twitter:
Bitcoin UX design is a mess: All the words, metaphors, paradigms are wrong and internally inconsistent. Coin, wallet, key, address… etc
— Andreas (@aantonop) November 14, 2013
Bottom Line, this trend cannot continue if crypto hopes to achieve global mass adoption as both a store of value and means of monetary transaction.
Here are a few of my thoughts on how we can begin to address this knotty issue that threatens the crypto-landscape:
Transparency: LOVE what Bittrust is doing to bring awareness to these UX concerns. In a sense, their work involves a dual purpose: To protect consumers while informing businesses in this space of deficiencies and needed improvements. SIDE NOTE: Crypto enthusiast Tiffany Hayden’s Twitter feed is an amazing source of insider information in this regard. I check in with what she’s sharing regularly.
Street Intelligence: The cryptocurrency industry does a poor job of reaching out to the average, everyday person who is trying to navigate the crypto landscape. Whether a newbie or experienced user, people are often grateful for the opportunity to offer feedback on how to make their overall experience easier and more useful. More of these exchanges need to occur versus the highfalutin bloviation that currently takes place on Telegram, Slack, Reddit and other messaging spots.
Acknowledgment: In defense of ShapeShift et al., let’s admit that they are often subjected to the unfair characterization of being a scam with evil intent. In my opinion, these leaps of judgment occur when those impacted feel that their issue is not being acknowledged, heard and listen in an expedient manner. Whether by phone, live chat or otherwise, an immediate response to those inevitable issues that surface is the key to avoiding a nightmarish scenarios that can level a business. Sure managing help ticket requests as well as social media outbursts on Twitter and Reddit are a pain in the ass. But that’s simply par for the course these days for these types of businesses.
Testers: I’ve shared this point before, but it’s worth repeating. Many companies in the exchange and wallet space are in my opinion to quick to launch without proper UX testing. Frankly, they’re flirting with disaster as one bad incident could sink their ship. It’s for this reason that I feel more comfortable with those sites that have undergone a prolonged beta period before going full blast with their offering.
On a final note, I’ll admit that there is one bitcoin exchange I use these days simply because I know the owner. The beauty here is that the one time I had an issue, he responded rapidly with a clear and concise solution. That to me speaks volumes. Even more impressive is that I’ve since heard that he takes a similar approach with all of his customers.
My intent in this Op-Ed is not to brazenly throw shade on the likes of ShapeShift, Coinbase, Kraken, and scores of others in this space. Rather it is to underscore the importance of UX in terms of the long-term credibility of the crypto landscape. Forging a clearer pathway to engagement and ease of use will help foster the long term viability of a crypto-environment that works for all.