Universal crypto adoption will come down to education and design

 Sam Bolton photo
Sam Bolton UX Research Analyst
4min read

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘crypto’? Maybe you were one of the first to jump aboard the crypto train and believe it will be the cornerstone of our financial future, or maybe you think it’s all a sham and run a mile when you hear someone say “bitcoin”.

The fact of the matter is that wherever you sit, there is still A LOT to learn about crypto, and a long way to go before it’s universally adopted.

According to Crypto.com’s Market Sizing report, the global population of crypto users increased by 178% in 2021, from 106m to 295m. That’s a big number but it’s still only 4% of the world’s population. So why hasn’t the global phenomenon attracted broader adoption?

What’s the hold-up?

Despite ‘NFT’ and ‘crypto’ topping Collins Dictionary's Word of the Year list in 2021, the digital revolution of money is still a relatively new concept. Crypto itself is a vast, complex world with its own language of unique jargon - web3, DeFi and HODL to name a few. This rapid emergence and cryptic language only adds to the confusion for novices who are keen to get involved.

But jargon is the least of users' worries. Crypto apps are notorious for poor UX, interfaces that are hard to use, and failing to communicate the utility of individual cryptocurrencies. This meant that crypto was only accessible to the tech-savvy who could educate themselves and understand the risks involved with such complex platforms.

Big strides have been made since crypto markets began to develop, with a more user-friendly and centralised approach helping to increase popularity and break the barrier to cryptocurrency investing.

So with early hiccups and mistakes being ironed out, how can crypto companies move the needle and achieve mass adoption from here?

Educating new users is the first and most important step in moving closer to universal adoption.

Educating first-timers is key

Educating new users is the first and most important step in moving closer to universal adoption. Even the most uninformed users are aware that these assets are volatile, so are put off from even dipping their toes in the water, let alone jumping in head first.

The problem is trust. How do new users know that what they’re learning is coming from a reliable, informed source? With social media and the internet at our fingertips, there’s always the possibility that false actors can paint themselves as experts. The key to developing trust is to provide education on how to use and trade assets safely.

It’s important that new users feel like they have the tools to break down these barriers to entry. They can only come through reliable, informed education - teaching users about different coins and jargon, how blockchains work, and even how they can develop a strategy for their investments.

Who’s nailing education?

One fintech that is currently doing this very well is Revolut with its ‘Crypto Learn & Earn’ feature (which you can see here on 11:FS Pulse). Revolut does a great job of educating users with clear copy, typically engaging graphics and snappy quizzes, making for a well-delivered, gamified experience with meaningful crypto incentives as a reward.

It’s also worth checking out a similar feature offered by Coinbase (again, check it out on 11:FS Pulse), which allows users to complete short lessons to earn free coins at the rate of $1 per minute. This is helpfully displayed in dollars for new users who might not understand what 0.001 of a coin is actually worth. Where Coinbase goes above and beyond in its educational offering is providing courses for different levels of expertise. They cater to those who are already intermediate or advanced in their crypto knowledge, as well as novices looking for a pathway to grow their understanding.

Helping to prevent user mistakes is the most important design principle to improve UX.

Design could hold the key

Nailing design is essential for breaking down the barrier to crypto investing and preventing new users from being put off.

Helping to prevent user mistakes is the most important design principle to improve UX. We know that trading crypto can be a risky business, with volatile assets, threadbare authentication and expensive exchange fees. Users have to be careful. We also know that users unfamiliar with how an interface works are more likely to make a mistake than experienced users.

Introducing elements of friction, especially for large transactions or first-time buyers, will slow users down at key steps in the process. For example, when a user is willing to spend £10,000, pop-ups are a great way to make them stop and check they entered the amount correctly and provide an option to cancel the transaction. This goes a long way to preventing mistakes before they occur and helping to familiarise users with the app’s interface.

Who’s doing it best?

Metamask is an example of an app helping its users to prevent mistakes. During their onboarding journey (see here on 11:FS Pulse), users are taken through a three-step process to set up a ‘secret recovery phrase’, which includes 12 automatically generated words in a specific order. They’re then urged to write the phrase down and store it before being asked to input it in the correct order on the following page. This extra level of friction forces users to make an action there and then, reducing the likelihood they will forget their recovery phrase in future.

This in itself, though, presents a barrier to adoption. A traditional mental model of finance has taught us that if we lose our access token, let’s say a card or a pin number, the custodian of our money will help us access it again - we call the bank. There’s no bank to call here.

Coinbase’s Crypto Categories journey (available here on 11:FS Pulse) is a great example of a brand leading the way. Within its categories breakdown, it provides three highlights that clearly surface the most important information in an easily digestible format before exploring which asset fits within each category. What’s more, the ‘show more’ and ‘show less’ features is a simple design addition that allows users to easily customise their experience based on how much information they want to consume.

It doesn’t stop at UX

Shortcomings in how crypto apps guide users is another blocker to mass adoption. We’ve talked about providing education to users, but helping them to implement these learnings is another vital part of providing excellent UX.

Explainers, handholding, help on demand - these are all fantastic ways for crypto apps to improve users’ knowledge and support them in making decisions. The key is not to overwhelm new users with masses of statistics at once, but disclose important information gradually. Users who are curious for more detail should be able to explore and read further, but those who are more comfortable should be able to get key insights quickly to allow them to move on.

Taking crypto to the moon

Developing trust with new users will help to transform the way the general population thinks about crypto. By leading with integrity and offering educational courses that teach new users about the intricacies of the crypto world, beginners will feel ready to dive into crypto investing. This education, alongside implementing design practices from the best-in-class fintechs around the world, will provide a user-friendly platform that supports, rather than hinders, new users as they are putting into practice the knowledge they’ve gained.

While mass adoption of crypto won’t be achieved overnight, there are certainly actions crypto apps can take to increase the global population of crypto users and potentially enable cryptocurrency to become to cornerstone of our financial landscape.

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 Sam Bolton
About the author

Sam Bolton

Sam is a UX Research Analyst within the Pulse team, working to acquire content from around the globe and provide expert UX analysis of thousands of different user journeys. He's exposed to some of the most cutting-edge fintech products out there and closely tracks UX trends within the industry.