It's Monday morning at Canary Wharf, in London. The seeds flow on the escalators of the cans of overheated sardines of the Jubilee line. Everything is gray, shiny and a bit detached from reality. This is the hub of the traditional financial sector. Still, where I'm going, you do not need a dress. And what we do is anything but traditional.
Welcome to level 39 – "The most connected technology community in London". Owned by the Canary Wharf group, level 39 occupies three floors in One Canada Square. Members rent offices for small teams. She was the base for many FinTech start-ups, like the new-born Revolut college star. It is also the British base of HOLD. And this is where I work as a User Experience (UX) consultant.
I started my career in market research agencies, moving to a b2b publication and data company. I was a UX practitioner and I progressed to lead the design team. After many years in companies, I finally landed in the start-up space.
A mystifying industry
As a newcomer in the world of cryptocurrency, I will document my journey in this column. In keeping with Coin Rivet's mission, I want to help demystify what sometimes appears to be a mystifying industry. My goal is to make technology products easier to use for the general population. To do this we need people from different backgrounds involved in their creation and I hope that this encourages more to join.
My first observation at work in the world of crypto start-ups is that you learn very quickly. I started studying the first day attending a seminar. Chatting with the other participants, I noticed that many people were in their first year of work in this field. The encrypted years are like years of dog, as must be the case in any nascent industry. After a few months, your trust grows. Find accessible sources of information to help you get started. I recommend the 11: FS Blockchain Insider podcast for in-depth discussions on companies and trends.
My second observation is that learning involves jargon. A word that immediately enters your vocabulary is "fiat". It means real money: pounds, dollars, euros, etc., as opposed to cryptocurrency. Trying to bridge the gap between cryptography and fiat is a mission for many companies. And it will be until you can use Bitcoin to buy a pint of milk. User search is always a good way to identify jargon in any industry. During interviews you can always ask users to explain what terms mean to them. The cryptographic glossary on this site is also a great help.
All about image
My third observation is that the reputation of cryptocurrency needs work. The image of Blockchain is innovative, new and neutral. But the image of a crypto to strangers is much less positive. The cliché is that they are all scams and hackers. Those people could be out there, but my experience was not like that. Many people working in this sector are veterans of financial services. They spent years working with regulators and developing financial products. They are also innovators and many are eager to develop new products that solve real problems. We need to hear more of those stories.
Both finance and technology suffer from a lack of diversity in their employees. Not surprisingly, FinTech needs more gender diversity. The 2017 FinTech Census found that the division of British employees in FinTech companies is 71% male and 29% female. It is a similar trend for users. 75% of those who bought cryptocurrency are men, according to a Uphold portfolio service study in the FT. Other statistics put that percentage even higher. I would encourage more women to consider working in this area. If we improve the accessibility of cryptographic products, it must be for and for everyone.
Finally, it is clear that there is a work to be done on the user experience of cryptographic applications. If you want to make your first crypto investments, there are several obstacles. The first is finding services that you trust.
Trust is a key factor in the use of financial products. Crypto apps require you to trust companies you've never heard of with your personal information. You may be required to scan your passport or other identity documents and upload self-portraits before seeing what the product can do. This is part of the identity verification process, but should be integrated into the appropriate point.
The process of using portfolios and currency transfer is improving, but is still subject to errors and delays. Users need to be informed about what goes on behind the scenes. Regular research and tests will solve the problems and allow continuous improvement.
Here is where I will concentrate my efforts. Read on for more updates from the crypto user-centered design world!
Jessica Richards has over fifteen years of experience in making new products. As a supporter of design, innovation and community, he supports the voice of the user. His regular column will give you the advantage of bringing usability to cryptocurrency.