While working for the cryptocurrency company Pillar Project, I spearheaded a redesign of the main website and, later on, a community forum.
Cryptocurrency is confusing to most people. Ambitious projects are hard to explain. Pillar were struggling to convey their message through their website and media output.
Extensive user research and testing. The cryptocurrency space requires more user research than any industry I have encountered. I began good user-centred design processes.
This case study includes research materials I presented to stakeholders.
The goal of the Pillar Project is to return control of personal data back to the user. The short-term aim was to build a cryptocurrency wallet, which over a longer period, would evolve into a combination browser/wallet/virtual assistant.
Explaining this goal is difficult. The crypto space is also full of very sceptical people who judge projects harshly.
I actually spoke to people!
I also did deeper research into cryptocurrency users and conducted competitive analysis of both wallets and websites.
As we began to redesign our products, I brought into place good user-centred design processes, based on regular testing of prototypes.
Initially, I found six people knowledgeable about cryptocurrency, but without knowledge of Pillar, and showed the website. I observed them navigate the site and asked how they would judge a new crypto project.
User Interviews: The Video
The website featured a five-minute explainer video. Many users were reluctant to view it at all, and did not understand it when they did.
*sigh* “It’s 5 minutes… I’d watch it for 30 seconds maybe and see what happens.”
“I see risk, it makes me fearful of wanting to invest, or buy the token, or even engage with them, because it makes me feel like they don’t have a product or a use case that makes sense.”
User Interviews: The Infographic
An infographic did not help matters:
“There’s no way I should be spending this long on deciphering what this image means. I’ve definitely still not figured this out.”
User Interviews: First Impressions
"I want to know about it because I’m sceptical. My experience is slightly tainted, but I’ve found in the past that sometimes things in this space tend to use confusing infographics and stuff in order to make you feel that something is more complex and advanced than it is, and add in a layer of opaqueness."
“When I first landed on Pillar, I didn't expect it to be a cryptocurrency wallet.”
Pillar were underestimating experienced users.
Everybody skipped the video.
Crypto-enthusiasts can be cynical bastards.
Things to Fix
The goals of Pillar are not obvious.
The video is too long and not clear.
The site does not inspire trust.
There is no connection between data protection and the crypto wallet.
As the crypto space has grown, certain conventions have appeared. People who have invested in crypto projects expect to find the same information presented in the same way. I analysed numerous other projects, paying particular attention to Jakob's Law.
"Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know."
Coined by Jakob Nielsen, the father of UX Design.
How Users Evaluate a Crypto Website
From researching surveys on reddit and social media, as well as interviewing users in person, I identified the main criteria users expected to see:
Clearly stated aims
Actual use case
Utility of the token
Community (reddit, slack, telegram etc)
I then did a competitive analysis of the websites for a variety of tokens in the top 100 of coinmarketcap (early-2017).
Group Sketching and Ideation
After presenting my findings to a group of design and marketing colleagues, I led a sketching workshop.
We rapidly iterated on multiple ways to include the desired information (road map, team page, white paper etc).
We then voted on each other's designs.
Shortly after I began the UX review, we began a rebranding effort at the Pillar Project. Our lead product designer took the style he was developing for the app, and began constructing mid-fidelity wireframes, shown below.
I was able to test the wireframes at multiple stages through their development.
It was found that users did not mind scrolling through long pages if they could find all the relevant information.
The Road Map was particularly well-received.
The style was considered playful, but clean and modern.
Users still struggled to describe the project, but were willing to try.
Users were noticeably more trusting than with the previous version.
Following the UI style developed during the construction of the main site, I later designed a community forum built on Discourse.
I worked closely with the Customer Support team and, using the methods of card sorting and affinity mapping, we built out the taxonomy for the forum.
Once the main categories were chosen, I started creating wireframes.
From Wireframes to High-Fidelity
I iterated on several possible designs for evaluation by the Customer Support team. The final design incorporated the branding we had recently applied to the main website, and used a specific colour palette. The icon choice and UI design reflected the friendly, playful feel of the Pillar brand.
The gallery below shows the evolution of the forum from greyscale wireframes to finished UI.