Cryptocurrency isn’t easy to use. Everyone knows it, but few grasp how important this is.
A quick illustration of this from Dash, which is one of the easier coins to use. I was attempting to move funds from my full node wallet (the only way of trustlessly using PrivateSend at the moment) to my mobile wallet. The full node wallet doesn’t have a method of scanning QR codes, so the only way to get funds onto the mobile wallet was to somehow copy the address and get it from the phone to the computer. The easiest way, unfortunately is to send yourself an email from your phone with the address, copy that address into the Core wallet, and send. My instant takeaway on the experience of moving funds from the Core wallet: “No one’s going to use this.” That’s a problem.
Friction throttles back use across the board
Ease of use can usually be condensed to limited number of friction points in the use process. Each extra step a user has to take in order to achieve their desired outcome reduces ease of use, as well as every moment they have to stop and think, are confused, or are otherwise frustrated. Each negative or difficult experience makes the user less likely to perform that action again. This simple Pavlovian conditioned response herds human behavior towards easy-to-use products, and away from experimental tech. The result in cryptocurrency is that fewer new and non-technical users will take part, yes, but the same applies to power users and developers who may be more patient with the emerging tech experience. The laws of human behavior still apply no matter how technically adept the user, and each new layer of difficulty weeds out another set of users or frequency of use.
Difficulty of use reduces the usage of decentralized and private approaches
Unfortunately, many approaches that further protect user privacy, and rely less on centralized services of any kind, tend to be more difficult to use. Using a thin client to transact can be as simple as downloading an app, sometimes even the first app that pops up in a search, while running your own node means downloading a client, as well as the entire blockchain, and keeping it running constantly. Trading with a decentralized client like Bisq is several orders of magnitude more difficult than using a service like Uphold or ShapeShift, meaning that only the most hardcore of users will go through the additional pain points. Fully utilizing advanced privacy features always requires using a full node wallet at this stage, severely limiting their use. Even in a radically decentralized technology like cryptocurrency, only a very small group of users fully operate without trusting large third parties.
When ease of use is a scarce commodity, choke points will emerge
Humans will seek the path of least resistance, and when that path is very narrow, points of centralization will emerge. If ease of use is of top value to users, they will be willing to sacrifice other aspects in pursuit of their main desire. This scarcity causes user experience monopolies around functions that reduce decentralization and privacy. For example, Coinbase’s easy one-stop method for buying, trading, and using cryptocurrency has caused it to represent a significant number of users, despite operating as a centralized bank-like service. A very low percentage of Zcash transactions are private because of the difficult necessity of running a full node and using a command line wallet. BitPay has for years remained the only workable point-of-sale app for cryptocurrency with an easy conversion function to funds in a bank account, and has long limited support to Bitcoin. MyMonero has attracted a significant number of users despite major security issues and imperfect privacy due to the limited thin client options and the difficulty of running a full node wallet. All these cases have alternative methods of use, but few to none with the same user experience, resulting in centralization.
The solution, then, is to reduce the scarcity of ease of use by focusing more on this aspect. When user experience is a scarce commodity, users will be willing to pay a much higher price, both financially and in loss of other features. If this most desired aspect is no longer scarce, users will select for other desired aspects instead. In other words, the more user-friendly options exist, the more users will be willing and able to pick the most decentralized and private ones, and the more market demand will exist for these features, affecting the whole ecosystem.
The science of user experience is one of the rarest, most disrespected, and most crucial skills in crypto
In a highly technical field, user experience is often overlooked, sometimes even derided, in favor of other more technical aspects. What we have to remember, though, is that human behavior is just as much as science as coding. All technology created by people is meant to serve people, making the human element the absolute top priority, with development existing as a servant to this main goal. Cryptocurrency projects that focus purely on the tech itself, as well as its decentralization and potential privacy offerings, are doomed to fail if they do not recognize user experience as just as important, if not more. When identifying projects that will be successful in the long term, always pay attention to this balance of respect to fundamentals and end user experience equally.
The marriage of sound decentralized tech and perfect user experience is the real world-changer
Right now, the majority of the world, the first world in particular, uses highly centralized, censorship-prone, and easily traceable financial technology for one main reason: it’s easy to use. The banking app, PayPal or Venmo, tap-and-pay credit card, etc. is orders of magnitude easier to use than your average cryptocurrency. When this changes, that’s when the world will take a giant leap towards true freedom.
The financial revolution created by Bitcoin stems from the creation of a financial system more efficient than the previous one that can be used by anyone anywhere, without restriction, manipulation, or censorship. The financial evolution created by Dash will bring this priceless gift to the masses.