Although the experience of using crypto has completely transformed from just a few years ago, few would say that it’s simple! Developers have rightly identified that good UX design is a crucial factor in onboarding more people to crypto, particularly less technical users. However, this development has often come at the expense of a crucial feature: privacy.
But a recent UX hackathon in Zurich, Switzerland aimed to change all that. Hosted by Swiss privacy project HOPR in collaboration with crypto giants ConsenSys and Metamask, the event brought together dozens of UX designers to design ways to implement strong data and metadata privacy directly into Metamask wallets, all in a way which regular users can understand. This was the first hackathon of its kind in the crypto space, and it marks a very welcome shift in focus for Metamask, the most popular wallet provider in DeFi.
The DeFi boom has introduced more and more complicated concepts into crypto. The huge proliferation of exciting new web3 services like yield farming, decentralized exchanges, and NFT marketplaces is a far cry from the early days of just sending a few tokens back and forth, and that’s before we get into the fact that these new dApps often exist in parallel versions across different chains, all of which have bridges between them. It’s enough to make even an experienced crypto user’s head spin.
It’s complex, and makes for a daunting UX challenge.
Nowhere is this need more keenly felt than in wallet design. Wallets are the cornerstone of the crypto experience: without them you can’t make transactions, interact with smart contracts, or connect to marketplaces or DeFi services.
Wallet makers like Metamask are constantly tweaking their user interfaces to make the experience simpler and smoother, and tools like Wallet Connect aim to seamlessly link wallets with web3 services. However, in the rush to simplify the crypto experience, privacy is often an afterthought. RPC endpoints – the tools used by wallets and web3 services to make and respond to data requests – often leak huge amounts of user data, including IP addresses and the contents of wallets (even if the addresses in that wallet have never interacted on-chain).
True web3 metadata privacy is possible thanks to services like Tor and HOPR, which provide data mixing at the transport level to obscure the links between sender and receiver. However, using these tools often requires a level of technical expertise beyond the average user, including running dedicated nodes to act as their own trusted RPC endpoint.
Clearly a different approach is needed to bring much-needed privacy to the masses.
In an attempt to address this issue, Metamask recently hosted what organizers believe is the first crypto UX hackathon in Switzerland , as part of the Ethereum Zurich event. In collaboration with ConsenSys and HOPR, over 30 UX designers came together to design a UX to integrate HOPR’s transport level privacy directly into wallets using Metamask Snaps, a tool to extend the basic Metamask wallet. After a full day of workshops and design challenges, a team of judges rated the different entries and chose the winners.
The focus across all the entries was balancing transparency and simplicity. Users want to know what options they have and how their data is being handled, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed with technical detail. This is a tricky tightrope to walk, but it’s a challenge that can’t be avoided if web3 is ever going to reach its true potential.
The next step will be to actual build the winning concepts. Over the next few months, more hackathons will be held at events across the globe. This time, developers will build on the UX ideas to bring them to life with real code. The goal is that a truly private mainstream wallet will be a reality in 2023.