Web3, the internet’s latest iteration, appears to have arrived. It’s all centered around decentralization — utilizing blockchain technology so that users retain full control and ownership over their data without the need for corporations to act as intermediaries. And it exists in several forms, including social networks, play-to-earn games, NFTs, cryptocurrency and more.
In many ways, though, Web3 is still a theoretical concept. While there are hundreds of crypto exchanges and NFT marketplaces, decentralization isn’t a part of everyday life. Most of us bank the same way, shop the same way, game the same way. Web3 is still being built. But when it is complete, the metaverse is going to be the place where it all comes together, said Nick Babich, a product design veteran who now heads UX Planet.
“When we want to buy something or sell something, we will use coins or decentralized payments systems that will be available in the metaverse,” Babich said. “This is no longer something that will only belong to a specific circle of people. It will be more like a regular thing that will be used on a regular basis.”
3 Considerations When Designing for Web3
- Design with the user in mind. Understand who a given user is and what kinds of Web 2.0 products they actively use, then try to translate those experiences into the Web3 product so that it feels familiar.
- Design for trust. Web3 is a completely new and foreign landscape to a lot of people, so it’s important to cultivate trust through clear, consistent guidance and informative data.
- Educate through your design. Between all the acronyms, portmanteaus and jargon, Web3 can be a pretty confusing and intimidating place. Designers can lean into this and leverage all the verbiage as an opportunity to educate and inform even the most novice of users.
Of course, this will only come true if people actually adopt Web3 and integrate it into their lives the way they have with Web 2.0 — the web we know and use today. And for new technology like this to succeed and thrive, the space needs good UX and UI designers to help perfect it, said Derick David, a product designer and crypto contributor at Forbes.
“The mass adoption of Web3 products is in the hands of designers,” David said. “To move forward, user experience designers, copywriters, writers are essential.”
So, here are three things designers should prioritize when designing for Web3 to ensure users not only come, but stay.
Design With the User in Mind
While it may seem like a no-brainer, David said the concept of designing for the end user has been somewhat lost in Web3’s construction so far. Instead, these platforms are being built with a “developer’s mindset,” he said. “This is all in its very, very early stage. They are not focusing very much on user experience because they are focusing more on experimentation of the technical aspects of it, and seeing what works.”
In other words: Developers have laid the foundation. Now, it’s designers’ turn to really make Web3 accessible and usable to everyone. This starts with understanding who a given user is and what kind of Web 2.0 products they actively use, including social media and banking apps. Then, designers need to figure out how those experiences can be translated into their own Web3 product so that it feels familiar.
It almost needs to be “invisible,” he added, to the point where users don’t even notice they are using a Web3 product. “The north star to always keep in mind as a designer is that you are designing for human experience — enhancing the user experience. Making that human happy, satisfied, delighted. That’s the end-goal here and everything else is just a distraction.”
“The north star to always keep in mind as a designer is that you are designing for human experience — enhancing the user experience.”
This can be achieved by choosing colors, typography and interfaces that mimic what works in Web 2.0. For instance, instead of asking users to connect their crypto wallet to sign in, which can be a foreign concept to newcomers, David suggests platforms should provide sign-in options that users can choose from — “sign in with email,” for example, “or sign in with wallet” — as well as copy that explains what a “wallet” is.
“That practice already enhances the user experience because onboarding is a very crucial part of Web3. Onboarding will decide whether a user will continue using the product or not, so it’s important to enhance that aspect of the experience,” David said. “Since Web3 is relatively new, and there’s a lot of uncertainty and unknown, this is even more important.”
Designers can also take inspiration from places beyond the internet, especially when designing for the metaverse. To create a virtual world in which people actually want to spend time, it’s important that it mimics the real, tangible world as much as possible, Babich said. Designers can accomplish this by implementing principles of anthropology, architecture and urban design, and even nature into their metaverse products.
“We have a lot of inspiration in the real world that we can simply take and recreate in a virtual space, including the actual human environment,” Babich said. At the same time though, it’s not enough to just create a nice, aesthetically pleasing world. Instead, “it should feel like you’re playing a game in terms of engagement,” he said. “[Users] should really enjoy the process. It’s impossible to have this without really nice design.”
When it comes to the metaverse specifically, this means ensuring all the elements of the virtual world — houses, cars, trees, everything — work together the way they would in the real world. It also means creating more realistic interactions between people through gestures, hand movements and facial expressions. For other Web3 products, in general, “nice design” comes down to accessibility and inclusion.
“Avoid assuming anything about your user,” David said. Instead, design with all races, genders and age groups in mind. At the end of the day, it’s all about making the strange new world of Web3 feel trustworthy and familiar.
Design for Trust
That brings us to another important consideration when designing for Web3: trust. This is a “core principle” for Web3 designers, David said, simply because of the very nature of this space. “They are designing for something that is considered risky and uncertain and unknown for a lot of people.”
Web3 products should be clear about the security measures taken, and how transactions are made. This is achieved almost entirely by promoting transparency from the very beginning, guiding users along their journey in a given Web3 product with step-by-step instructions, reminders and alerts when they are making a transaction or decisions that cannot be undone.
“Almost everyone is ‘new’ to blockchain, with varying levels of understanding and confidence. Users must perceive our products (and the people behind them) to be reliable, trustworthy and stable,” Sarah Mills, a former product designer with IBM’s blockchain division, wrote in Medium.
IBM did this by showing users specific data that explains how their blockchain technology is effectively replacing the way things are usually done in Web 2.0 — using data as a “trust-building” or “educational” tool to make users more comfortable on the platform. In other words, users want to “see the blockchain” to ensure what they are doing is trustworthy, Mills said. The company also focused on maintaining visual consistency — using grid-based layouts, strong typographic hierarchies and choosing language that is “concise, clear” and in-line with the “natural communication patterns” of users.
But, at the same time, Web3 platforms should only provide information that is absolutely necessary, and then present that information in context, as Yang You, a product designer at crypto startup Syndicate explained during her talk at ETHDenver earlier this year. “Show, don’t tell,” she said. Emphasize the benefits and value of a given product over all the complex features.
Educate Through Your Design
Web3 can be a dense and complicated topic, full of acronyms, portmanteaus and verbiage that can be quite confusing. There’s DeFi, GameFi, gas, mint, DAO and lots of other lingo floating around — and if a user doesn’t understand what any of it means, they can become overwhelmed and just ditch their efforts altogether. Even David, who has been working in this space for years, says he has a hard time keeping it all straight.
“[Web3 platforms] try to force users into their cult of community and try to force you to speak their language, which is not good for people that don’t know anything about Web3,” David said. “It goes against the principles of designing for inclusivity.”
Instead, he encourages Web3 designers to use simple, digestible language when creating copy. This means using as few acronyms as possible. And, when acronyms are used, they should be paired with helper text that defines what exactly the given acronym means, and how it applies to what a user is trying to do.
“You have to consider the language and the needs of not only the people that are into Web3, but also the people that are not into Web3.”
“As blockchain becomes more mainstream, education will be needed less. But for now, companies are rightfully concentrating their efforts in this space,” she wrote. As the user experiences the app, she added, “education should be weaved into their whole experience in nuggets so that they’re not overwhelmed and instead feel guided.”
Many companies in this space have attempted this by creating separate pages that users can toggle between depending on their knowledge level. For example Diem, a now-shuttered stablecoin project created by Meta, provided users with different levels of progressively more details that they could navigate through as they got more comfortable with the information.
In the end, all copy needs to “flow like a human conversation,” David said. “You have to consider the language and the needs of not only the people that are into Web3, but also the people that are not into Web3. People who don’t know about technology.”