10 things I’ve learned designing for decentralised finance (DeFi) - Deepstash
10 things I’ve learned designing for decentralised finance (DeFi)

10 things I’ve learned designing for decentralised finance (DeFi)

Curated from: uxdesign.cc

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1. Progress is non-linear and non-uniform

1. Progress is non-linear and non-uniform

To an outsider, “crypto” is a single monolithic entity. The word suggests an alternative digital currency. Which, to be fair, is true. But it’s so much more . NFTs are digital deeds of ownership. Decentralised Finance (DeFi) is transforming money. DAOs are changing governance. On-chain identity is something we’re still figuring out.

On top of that, there is the ever-growing framework of apps, protocols, chains, and wallets that support this ecosystem.


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2. “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”

Often referred to as Amara’s law , this refers to our trouble conceptualizing exponential growth. Connected to the point above, crypto progresses in spurts. Usually there are lots of little steps where not much seems to happen, then giant leaps forward. If you’re new to the space, you probably joined after one of these growth spurts (various inflection points in the adoption of Bitcoin, DeFi summer ’2020, the NFT craze) and think “THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING” and expect the same pace to continue every month.


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3. The most talented, interesting, people in tech aren’t just working for Google, now they’re heading to web3

What’s interesting to me, is that this is now happening across all seniority levels . I can easily see why smart young renegades might graduate from college, look at Google or F̶a̶c̶e̶b̶o̶o̶k (sorry, Meta ) and go “fuck that”; but we are now seeing a lot of older executives move over too.

It’s good to see them resist the temptation of “resting and vesting ” to pick up a new challenge. Maybe it reminds them of the old days when their company was fun and they got to build cool stuff?


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4. …And that’s the main thing they care about

Being completely decentralised means you also get out of your American/European bubble. My own team comprises members in Africa, Europe, Latin America and Russia. It is common for people to use pseudonyms. A few individuals I work with never turn their camera on.

Identity is obfuscated from the start and privacy is by default, not an opt-in.


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5. Complex systems tend to be fractal

5. Complex systems tend to be fractal

At this point, I’ve decided to embrace it. Nothing will ever be finished . Instead, DeFi is an asymptote, whereby further progress will get us closer and closer to the line, without ever reaching it.

A fractal pattern is one that contains similar patterns at any level of magnification. You can look at a part of the pattern and still see a near-identical version of the whole.

In designing for DeFi, we tend to come across a lot of the same problems over and over again, at almost every level.


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6. The future is multi-chain and cross-layer

Some blockchains are EVM-compatible (Ethereum Virtual Machine), making it very easy for them to spin up a version of existing dApps. Examples include Fantom, Binance Smart Chain, and Avalanche.

I have worked on dApps for Ethereum, L2s, Solana, Polkadot, Kusama and Cosmos.

I don’t think there will be a single winner. Instead, it’s more likely that networks will evolve into different niches. And if there is going to be one single winner, that day is a while off.


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7. The average DeFi app has a UX maturity level somewhere between “user hostile” and “developer centred”, but certainly nowhere near “user-centred” or “user-driven”

7. The average DeFi app has a UX maturity level somewhere between “user hostile” and “developer centred”, but certainly nowhere near “user-centred” or “user-driven”

Jakob Nielsen — the OG of User Experience Design — says it can take 20 years for a company to reach the final stages of maturity.

I’d say specific parts of the crypto industry are actually doing quite well. Some companies are at least halfway up the steps, but DeFi specifically? Yeah, not so much.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At least right now, because…


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8. Insanely complicated degen strategies are fun and addictive

When everyone playing the game is a pro, why even bother with instructions? Who needs intro text when they’re just looking for the next kick? Why make it easy, when the whole point is that it’s hard?

If it wasn’t exciting, nobody would do it. I think this kind of degen madness promotes creativity, keeps people on their toes, and accelerates the whole industry. It’s not for everyone, but neither is croquet.

Many players, many games…


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9. Insanely complicated degen strategies are not very newbie friendly

9. Insanely complicated degen strategies are not very newbie friendly

This is the flipside. I think it’s ok to have degens rushing in, throwing bombs, and clearing the space, but the eventual goal has to be an open, decentralised, financial system, available to everyone.

The next growth spurt we see in DeFi is going to be greatly improved UX for liquidity mining and farming rewards.

Automated strategies are getting better.


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10. Perfect is the enemy of good enough

Open-source is sacrosanct, which means that everybody copies everybody and expects to be copied. See something you like? Fork it, make a few tweaks, launch it. Later on, another team will like your tweaks and copy those. We all progress as an industry and the UX gradually improves.

There is a fantastic essay from the inimitable Gwern called “Bitcoin is worse is better ”. It was written in 2011 after Bitcoin hit the heady heights of $11. Reflecting on its wild success, he writes:

“The basic insight of Bitcoin is clever, but clever in an ugly compromising sort of way.”


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#engineering, #machinelearning and #crypto

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