From Niche to Norm: Design’s Role in Mainstreaming Web3

LayerX
9 min readSep 7, 2023

Imagine a realm where even the most intricate technologies feel as natural as breathing. This isn’t a distant dream but the potential reality in the age of Web3, all thanks to the transformative power of design.

Web3 isn’t just another buzzword; it’s a revolutionary shift towards a decentralized, empowering, and innovative digital ecosystem. Yet, for many, this brave new world is overshadowed by its inherent complexities — cryptic terminologies, unfamiliar user interfaces, and daunting learning curves. This is where design takes center stage. By emphasizing intuitive onboarding, crafting user-centric interfaces & experiences, and championing accessibility, design doesn’t just simplify; it acts as the bridge, connecting the vast intricacies of Web3 with the touchpoints of the everyday user.

As we delve deeper into this article, we’ll explore how design-driven strategies can demystify Web3, making it accessible and relatable to everyone, from the curious novice to the seasoned expert.

🔋 The Power of Design-driven Companies

Design has always been a cornerstone of successful companies, products and projects. With ever-rising competition, these companies must use a design-driven approach to leave an impression and outperform the competition.

But what does it mean to be a “Design-driven company”?

It means that they place design at the heart of their brand identity. Design principles are intricately interwoven into every facet of their operations, from research and strategic planning to content creation. Instead of merely emphasizing transactions, they prioritize crafting exquisite experiences that foster deep and enduring connections with their users and clientele.

Companies like Airbnb and Spotify, with their intuitive interfaces, have not only transformed industries but also set the gold standard for user experience. Such design-driven companies often outperform their competitors, proving that design isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a potent tool for problem-solving, user engagement, brand loyalty and success.

2015 results show that over the last 10 years design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 211%.

💡 Three key recommendations to become a design-driven company and to thrive with the help of good design

1- Don’t limit design to pushing pixels.

Incorporate design from start to finish — beyond just the final touches. Integrating design from the strategic phase to delivery ensures long-term benefits.

2- Invest in the right people, tools, and processes.

Recruit people with a design-centric mindset. Build teams with diverse expertise. Then, equip them with the necessary tools and methodologies to craft exceptional user experiences.

3- Advocate design-thinking.

Building a design-driven company begins at the highest level. Initiate discussions centered on design. Set design-related goals. Educate and train employees and colleagues to embrace this approach.

🚀 Design as a Catalyst for Mainstream Adoption

When it comes to technology, few companies exemplify the transformative power of design better than Apple.

This tech giant, with its iconic products and user-centric approach, serves as a prime example of how design can shape consumer behavior and market trends. Apple’s success story is a testament to the power of design in driving mainstream adoption. While many of its product features might have existed elsewhere, Apple’s genius lay in its ability to refine, package, and present them in a way that felt revolutionary. Showing that it’s not about who did it first, but who did it right.

Design is not just about aesthetics, it’s about making technology accessible and intuitive. The iPhone’s intuitive interface, sleek design, and seamless user experience made it an instant hit, even among those who were technologically averse.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

😮‍💨 The User’s Perspective: Seamless Results Over Backend Mechanics

For the average user, the magic of technology lies in its simplicity. They aren’t concerned with the intricacies of the backend and all the technology behind it, instead, they are looking for a seamless, frictionless experience.

Think about the success of platforms like Uber or Instagram. Users don’t need to know the complexities of geolocation algorithms or image processing; they just want to book a ride or share a photo effortlessly. The less friction there is between a user’s intention and the desired outcome, the more successful a product tends to be.

Web3, with its decentralized ethos and groundbreaking potential, is currently where Web2 was in its early days: niche and developer-centric. The average user is often baffled by terms like “blockchain,” “smart contracts,” “non-fundgible tokens”, “wallets” and “decentralized applications”, to name a few.

This complexity, combined with a lack of user-friendly interfaces, has made Web3 adoption slow among the masses.

To usher in a new wave of users into the Web3 realm, there’s a need to simplify its jargon and make it more accessible. For instance:

  • Wallet: Think of it as a digital passport, a unique identity that lets you interact, transact, and own assets in the digital world.
  • NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens): Imagine them as digital collectibles, each unique and verifiable, representing ownership of a particular item, piece of content online or identity.

By translating these terms into analogies and concepts familiar to the average person, Web3 can move from the fringes to the forefront, much like web2 did.

👥 Understanding the Web3 User Spectrum

As the Web3 ecosystem evolves, it’s essential to recognize the diverse range of users it attracts. Each user type comes with its own set of needs, challenges, and motivations.

🤔 Curious Users

These are the newcomers, often dipping their toes into the crypto world out of curiosity or in response to market trends.

  • Prioritizing convenience: They prefer user-friendly platforms like Revolut and Coinbase, which offer a straightforward buying and selling experience.
  • Low crypto holdings: Their involvement in the crypto space is often minimal, with limited investments.
  • Motivation: Driven by market hype or a desire to understand what the buzz is all about.

🤓 Occasional Users

A step ahead of the curious users, occasional users have a basic understanding of crypto’s potential but are often deterred by its complexities.

  • Recognizing self-custody: They understand the importance of holding their own keys but are hesitant due to perceived difficulties.
  • Technical hurdles: The world of hardware wallets and private keys can be intimidating. Many might own a hardware wallet but never set it up, fearing they might do something wrong.
  • Motivation: A genuine interest in crypto but a need for more accessible tools and platforms.

😎 Power Users

The veterans of the Web3 world, power users are deeply embedded in the ecosystem and are often at the forefront of its evolution.

  • Self-custodial advocates: They understand the ethos of decentralization and prioritize holding their own keys.
  • Web3 enthusiasts: Actively participating in decentralized governance, exploring cutting-edge use cases.
  • Motivation: A deep belief in the transformative power of Web3 and a desire to shape its future.

Here’s a potential blueprint of 7 steps to transition the unfamiliar user into regular Web3 enthusiast:

1️- Use relatable analogies and storytelling 🌈

Begin by drawing parallels between Web3 concepts and familiar real-world scenarios. For instance, explain blockchain as a digital ledger, akin to a public library where books (or data) can be viewed but not tampered with. Use stories and analogies to make abstract concepts tangible.

2️- Highlight tangible benefits 🎁

Instead of diving deep into the technicalities, focus on the benefits. Talk about how Web3 can offer more control over personal data, how it can reduce fees by eliminating middlemen, or how it can democratize finance and online platforms.

3️- Create engaging and interactive content 👍

Leverage multimedia — infographics, videos, and interactive modules — to explain Web3 concepts. Platforms like YouTube or even TikTok can be powerful tools to reach and educate a broader audience in a format they prefer.

4️- Simplify onboarding experiences 🎢

The first interaction with a Web3 platform can make or break a user’s journey. Ensure that this experience is as seamless as possible. Offer guided tours, tooltips, and easy-to-follow steps. The goal is to reduce friction and make the initiation process feel like a breeze.

5️- Foster community engagement and support 🫶

The Web3 community is one of its biggest assets. Encourage newcomers to join forums, attend webinars, or participate in local meetups. When they see the enthusiasm and support of the community, their confidence and interest are likely to grow.

6️- Showcase real-world applications 💥

Highlight real-world applications of Web3, from artists benefiting from NFTs to individuals securing loans through decentralized finance platforms. When people see tangible results and real-world use cases, the abstract becomes concrete.

7️- Educate and update 📰

The Web3 space is rapidly evolving. Keep your users engaged by providing updates, news, and educational content. Platforms like newsletters or podcasts can be very effective in keeping the audience informed and always curious.

Turning a non-interested individual into a Web3 user and advocate is not an overnight task. It requires a blend of education, engagement, and real-world demonstrations. By making Web3 relatable, accessible, and beneficial, we can ignite curiosity and foster a new wave of users ready to explore the decentralized future.

🪄 Enhancing Web3’s Reach and Adoption

According to a survey conducted by Coinbase, 27% of Fortune 500 executives still lack an understanding of the technology. Additionally, 32% are unfamiliar with the use cases of blockchain technology, and 11% are unsure about how to get started.

Based on the input from the surveyed Fortune 500 executives, we observe that the lack of good user experiences and effective onboarding stems from insufficient design thinking. By enhancing these, we overcome the barriers, paving the way for both corporate and mainstream adoption.

We see six major areas for improvement to achieve this broader adoption:

  • 👌 Enhance usability: The user experience in many Web3 products is not as intuitive as traditional products.
  • ✂️ Simplify complex tasks: From setting up wallets to understanding gas fees, the learning curve can be steep for the average user.
  • ✏️ Improve accessibility: Not everyone has easy access to Web3 tools or the knowledge to use them.
  • 📜 Regulation: The evolving regulatory landscape can be a minefield for both users and developers.
  • 🫂 Reassurance: While blockchain is inherently secure, user errors, scams, and hacks remain concerns.
  • 🧑‍🏫 Educate current and future users: There’s a pressing need for resources that can educate users about the nuances of Web3.

🌄 The Road Ahead

The Web3 era promises a decentralized, user-empowered digital future. However, to truly realize this vision, it’s essential to prioritize a seamless onboarding for all kinds of users, great user experiences and a lot of education.

By understanding the varied needs of current and future Web3 users and addressing the challenges they face, we can elevate Web3 from a niche domain to a global phenomenon, mirroring web2’s transformative journey.

Web3 promises a digital future characterized by decentralization, empowerment, and innovation. Just as the Renaissance was propelled by the harmonious blend of art and science, the Web3 revolution will be driven by the amalgamation of groundbreaking technology and impeccable design. By placing design at the forefront, we can demystify the complexities of web3, making it accessible, relatable, and indispensable. As we stand on the cusp of this new era, it’s clear that a design-centric approach will illuminate our path, guiding us towards a brighter, decentralized future where technology serves humanity in its truest sense.

If you are still curious about the role of design in the future of Web3 and want to keep in touch with my ongoing work in this field, be sure to follow me. Thank you.

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