OPL Boba Time 🥤 — Web3 Design: The UX/UI Revolution | with Yifeng @Lacework

Welcome to the fourth round of OPL Boba Time! Today, we have the pleasure of hosting Yifeng Wang - Product Designer at Lacework. Let's get to know the revolution in UX/UI design within the Web3 space.

Disclaimer: The views in this podcast do not represent the guests’ organizations, and the mentioned projects are not investment advice. Sip some boba, enjoy afternoon tea, and let’s chat Web3! 🍵🌐💼 DYOR!

Elva: What's one of your favorite Boba shops in the Bay?
Yifeng: I have a particular liking for the rich, chocolatey flavor of the Cocoa Lover drink from ShareTea, which likely combines the smoothness of milk with the depth of cocoa.
Elva: Tell me about your experience in Web3 and how you got into it.
Yifeng: My journey into the Web3 space began in 2016, captivated by the Bitcoin boom. Initially, my focus was on the investment aspect, intrigued by the dramatic increase in Bitcoin's value. However, this quickly evolved into a fascination with the underlying technology. I realized that there was more to digital currencies than just their speculative nature. This marked the start of my deeper exploration into blockchain technology and its potential beyond mere currency
The real turning point in my Web3 experience came with the rise of NFTs, which heightened user engagement in the blockchain world. As a designer, this era offered me the opportunity to contribute to several innovative projects, particularly in decentralized finance (DeFi). One notable project was SPN DAO, which I helped develop during the ETHGlobal Hackathon. This project was particularly significant as it aimed to empower users with control over their personal data. We used blockchain technology to enable users to link, control, and potentially monetize their data, challenging the traditional model where companies profit from user data without sharing the benefits. This venture not only deepened my understanding of Web3's capabilities but also underscored its potential to reshape data ownership and privacy.
Elva: In your experience with designing projects, especially in Web3, have you noticed any changes along the way, like shifts in design themes? Also, are there any common pitfalls you've observed?
Yifeng: Yes, there are certainly common pitfalls, particularly when comparing the worlds of SaaS(Software as a Service) and Web3. Both realms often feature inherently complex products. This complexity is sometimes a product of the nature of the technology itself, or it might stem from new concepts being introduced to users. For example, in Web3, actions like cross-chain operations or token swaps can appear daunting due to concepts like slippage or gas fees, which might be unfamiliar to new users. Similarly, in SaaS, users might find certain specific functions and workflows challenging if they haven't encountered them before.

Elva: What do you think constitutes a good design for a SaaS product?
Yifeng: In addition to what I mentioned earlier, another important aspect of good SaaS and Web3 design is managing scenarios where users must wait, which is quite common in both domains. For instance, in Web3 transactions, users often have to wait for block confirmations. This isn't an immediate process like a standard financial transaction; sometimes, it takes time to verify that a transfer has been successful. Similarly, due to everything being recorded on the blockchain, communication can be slow, and operations may require extended waiting times.
The key to good design in these situations is to help users understand what is happening behind the scenes. This not only alleviates anxiety but also builds trust with the platform by explaining everything clearly. Suppose a user has to wait for over 30 seconds or even longer. In that case, the design should consider whether the user needs to actively wait on the platform or can engage in other activities and return later. This approach is about optimizing the user experience during longer processes.
A relevant concept here is the asynchronous design pattern, often seen in AI applications. For example, when a user submits a complex task to an AI, it might take several minutes to produce results. In such cases, the user shouldn't need to wait idly; they could be doing something else and return once the task is complete. Integrating this async design pattern effectively addresses these common waiting scenarios, enhancing the overall user experience in both SaaS and Web3 platforms.


Elva: How do you think design can effectively simplify onboarding for Web3 and DeFi platforms, especially for newcomers to crypto? How can UX design be improved in this context?
Yifeng: To simplify onboarding for Web3 and DeFi platforms, especially for those new to the crypto space, it's essential to focus on user-centric design. Let's consider an example from a DeFi protocol(without naming it due to sensitivity). When we worked on this project, the initial website seemed tailored more for engineers than the general user. It was replete with technical jargon like development documentation and deployment processes, clearly engineer-focused. The language and presentation didn't resonate with the everyday user, who might not understand all the technical aspects.
The key to effective UX design in this context is clarity and relatability. For instance, if the primary offering of the site is something like 'high-yield savings', this should be prominently and simply explained on the homepage. The target user here isn't necessarily an engineer but a general audience who may not be familiar with the intricacies of the website or crypto in general. The site should have a dedicated section or page to explain its core offering in straightforward terms, highlighting the benefits in a way that is easily understandable to someone new to the field. This approach not only makes the platform more accessible to newcomers but also helps build trust by demystifying the complexities of DeFi and crypto.

Elva: How can good visualization be effectively implemented?
Yifeng: Good visualization in Web3 and DeFi platforms is key for making complex concepts accessible to ordinary users. Often, users are confronted with technical jargon that they can't understand, such as development code. The solution lies in emphasizing the platform's core offering in plain language, like 'high yield savings', and using visual tools to explain how these yields are achieved.
Animations and visual explanations can illustrate complex processes in a simple, understandable way. For instance, instead of explaining technical details, focus on conveying security measures and potential returns in layman's terms. A visual demonstration showing how an investment grows over time can be particularly effective. This approach not only makes the platform's features clear but also helps build trust by making the information relatable and easy to grasp for the average user.


 Elva: What are your thoughts on the future evolution of Web3 UX?
YIfeng: I'm quite optimistic about the future of Web3 UX. So far, the field has been predominantly tech-driven, where the capabilities of the technology itself often dictate the user experience. For instance, advancements like layer 2 technologies can significantly enhance transaction speeds, directly improving user experience compared to the slower processes.
As the underlying infrastructure technologies mature, I believe UX will become a more critical factor. The demand for genuine UX design in Web3 is likely to increase. Currently, what is often referred to as UX is more about engineering speed or capabilities rather than true UX design. This distinction is crucial and will become more pronounced as the field evolves.
In terms of design patterns, Web3 shares similarities with traditional SaaS or consumer products. However, the user's familiarity with the domain heavily influences the design approach. For new users who are still learning about the field, the focus should be more on user education and onboarding. This stage is crucial, especially considering that the number of Web3 users is still relatively small. Once users become more familiar with Web3, the emphasis will likely shift towards refining and enhancing detailed aspects of the user experience.

Elva: In designing DeFi interfaces where users provide sensitive information like private keys, how can trust be built into the design?
Yifeng: Building trust in DeFi interfaces involves two main strategies: user education and transparent design. It's essential to educate users about the importance of private keys, differentiating them from typical web2 passwords. Platforms should use clear warnings and reminders about the criticality of private key security, even if it seems repetitive. This approach helps inculcate a sense of responsibility and awareness in users.
On the design front, transparency is key. The interface should clearly explain how and where user data is stored. Features like clickable icons for additional information can guide users about data handling practices. Over-communication is beneficial in this context, providing users with easy-to-understand, context-sensitive explanations rather than redirecting them to complex documentation. This dual approach of education and clarity in design is crucial for fostering trust in DeFi platforms.
Elva: How can UX design in DAOs enhance end-user participation and governance, especially as DAOs grow in size and complexity?
Yifeng: As DAOs scale UX design becomes crucial in managing potential chaos and ensuring fair contribution recognition and reward distribution. A good design could include mechanisms to quantify and display contributions on a dashboard, making it visible to all members how much work someone has put in. However, defining what constitutes a valuable contribution is complex, whether it's based on hours worked or the impact made.
Another vital aspect of UX design in DAOs is facilitating the proposal and voting process to ensure fairness. This could involve designing systems that accommodated different voting models, such as one-person-one-vote or weighted voting, depending on the DAO’s structure. A UX designer in a DAO context must adapt their design to fit the specific organizational and governance structure of the DAO, helping it achieve its desired operational model.
In addition to product-focused design, understanding the project's essence, similar to an investor’s perspective, is crucial. This involves not only making the product user-friendly but also being aware of potential risks and ethical considerations. For instance, a balanced design approach might involve highlighting potential risks alongside benefits, and encouraging users to do their own research. Designers in the DAO and Web3 space might benefit from coding skills and understanding the underlying technology and logic behind a project, which can lead to more influential and effective designs.