For the past six months I have pondered one fundamental question, what is the role of design in blockchain technology? Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with beltran the author of Web3 Design Principles and contributor to web3 projects such the Ethereum Name Service.
Here’s what I learned about the role of design in blockchain technology: (for the full conversation you can listen to the full episode below.
The Meta Meaning of Design: Design is a way of thinking, a mindset that you apply to anything “from the spoon to the city.” As designers, we pro — ject forward. We do this by asking questions ahead of time.
Questions as a mode of projection and empathy: Whatever you are imagining into the future, you need to imagine someone will use it. A designer has to do this ahead of time , imagining questions, and then validating those same questions with real people. Simply, designers must anticipate future needs.
Two layers of natively designing web3's core value proposition.
- Designing For Doubt: Everyone starts with doubt so we always have to start by explaining why dapps are different that regular apps. Dapps have a very different value proposition, so we must always be thinking of ways of surfacing and answering the question what do all of these things mean?. Dapps need to show the properties and values that are unique to the blockchain , designers need to bring those properties to the front.
- We need an easy way for devs to plug and play components that are unique to web3, such that the questions that users have are consistently answered with the relevant design patterns.
Should dapps look different? We should take the delightful parts of web2 like responsiveness and aesthetics. But we should also be thinking deeply and designing for the fundamentally new value proposition that web3 offers.
The Brand of decentralization & Web3 Design Stack dapps should communicate all the fundamental values, such that new users should be immediately informed that the backend is in-fact much different than a regular app. For example, this user has this amount of votes, this amount of rights etc. This means that there sort of has to be a master brand of decentralization, one that surfaces the core tenets of dapps in an easy and understandable way. We must create these tools, shorthands and symbols that explain the emotional and functional benefits of fundamental blockchain principals , and core tenets of dapps.
- It starts with educating new users. Step one is Language, (bonding, staking etc) we cannot assume that people know what an order book is. Then, as described previously, we must create a brand around blockchain values. Then we must create a connection with users around dapp specific lingo, this is how the project explains the complexities of the system and easily help users understand how things work.
- Then we must anchor meaning for users and find new metaphors, because we are creating new actions that need new metaphors.
- Lastly, we have an oppurtiny to create new mental models, how do we create new mental models ? by capturing old behaviors, creating an error state and guiding users to the new way.
Blockchain patterns in anticipatory design: First, Imagine you are showing your project for the first time to a small child. Explain it like I’m 5.
Then begin to log the common questions that come up with users, like What the hell is a blockchain?, Where does the data come from? Where will it be stored? and Am I making a mistake ?.
Open Source Design Principles: To make progress in design as it relates to blockchain technology, we need to focus on three layers as design community.
- Open ended and unsolved questions that we have discovered through research.
- Create guidelines that surface the core Web3 principles that answer questions that users consistently have.
- Create components from the community, for the community. A set o plug and play lego blocks for trustless and transparent front end dapps.
For a much deeper dive into the topics discussed above, please listen to the full episode here.
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