A peer-to-peer lending application based on the Ethereum blockchain.
Company: WeTrust | Role: UX & Product Design
WeTrust’s founding mission was to increase financial inclusion of the underbanked with a ROSCA (traditional peer to peer lending tool) powered by the Ethereum blockchain.
From the outset, we knew we had some fundamental technical roadblocks to overcome before our vision can be realized.These include:
With these limitations in mind, we knew we could not create a dApp that can reach our target audience of the unbanked and the underbank at first. Instead, we aimed to make a showcase dApp to show how decentralized ROSCAs can work.
Create a showcase, consumer facing, peer to peer lending product on the Ethereum blockchain that may not have a meaningful user base in the immediate future.
The biggest challenge right from the start of this project, was that our intended users of this dApp (the underbanked and financially excluded folks in second and third world countries), have very little access to the technology needed to participate in a decentralized blockchain app.
Before I started any design, I spent some time talking with various NPOs and financial inclusion researchers to identify possible communities we could work with and explore ways we might simulate or "consierge" the experience. Unfortunately, we deemed this was not yet feasible.
To move the project forward, we decided as a team to focus primarily on users with enough technical savvy to own some cryptocurrency, but not advanced enough to know how to sign transactions on deceltralized applications. Working with these users, we felt we can us learn valuable product insights on how to build a blockchain based peer to peer lending and savings platform so we can get closer to reaching our goal of expanding global financial inclusion.
One of the most interesting challenges in this project is how little of the UX outside of the app itself we can take for granted. With a blockchain based app, we knew a big part of the design challenge is exploring how users learn and adapt and develop new mental models of interaction.
Before we can even attempt to validate any of our design ideas in the dApp, we need a proper mock prototype environment that can properly simulate all the particularities of Ethereum based interfaces.
These challenges include:
After some experiements with Invision vs Flinto vs Axure, we decided to go with Axure as it gave us the most programatically interactive prototypes.
The key was to implement a mock browser so we can simulate all the blockchain UX that extends beyond the browser, including browser extensions like MetaMask, allowing us to quickly validate and test the trickiest part of ETH dApps.
With the testing framework in hand, target users defined, we were ready to start testing, and iterating on ideas.
WIth our prototyping methodology in place, and target users set, we began testing and experimenting to find all the UX issues in this blockchain app.
One of the core innovation in ETH dApps that we wanted to explore was using your ETH address as your identity. This means you no longer need a username, or password, or the traditional login screens.
On the one hand, this is a transformative and secure sign in process for the users. On the other hand, it necessitates a completely different mental model for one of the most familiar patterns in digital UX.
We tested this aggressively, and below is a sample of the design outcome:
In designing our lending circle payment flow, we use the mock Axure prototypes to simulate the tempermental nature of blockchain transaction speeds. In some prototypes, the transaction takes minutes to complete, so we were able to learn where the user will get confused and address it accordingly.
While prototyping with mock axure sites is fast and informative, it still is not a real blockchain with all its quirks. After the initial rounds of prototyping validated our main desigbn decisions, the engineering team was able to launch a working version of the dApp on TestNet, a fully functioning mirror blockchain for developer's testing purposes.
We recruited four users fitting our demographic of ETH curious early adopters to run their own lending circles.
They had to recruit up to three more participants, and run a weekly lending circle.
This was a particularly interesting user testing project, as we had to revisit with the users over the course of three to five weeks, testing a different part of their experience as a lending circle organizer:
We were able to successfully launch the lending circle on the Ethereum MainNet in Janurary of 2018, one of the first ever peer to peer lending and savings dApps on MainNet.
Leveraging our out reach program to various Ethereum communities, we were able to get a decent number of lending cirlcles up and running on MainNet with very encouraging feedback.
Having accomplished our goal of building an accessible and smooth product experience for a decentralized, peer to peer lending platform, we were able to take all the insights and learnings to develop our next Ethereum application, WeTrust Spring.
Special Thanks to the following talented people I had the pleasure of working with on this project: