Bitcoin Adoption is a Design Problem, Not a Technology Problem


Yazin Akkawi


January 2, 0207

At this point, there’s no question that cryptocurrency will completely disrupt the current financial system the way the internet did to traditional media. It’s no wonder Jamie Dimon — Chairman, President and CEO of JP MorganChase — can’t stop trashing Bitcoin.

But if cryptocurrency will truly replace fiat currencies, it needs to achieve widespread adoption and have the ability to transact on a massive global scale. Only then will it fulfill its utopian promise of creating the decentralizedfinancial system many of us dream of.

But not so fast. Many programmers working on Bitcoin have said the system in its current form is not a particularly good way to pay for things; that it’s best designed as a digital commodity to allow people to keep their money outside the control of governments and companies.

In other words, despite Bitcoin’s recent surge in price and popularity, it’s not actually capable of being a currency we can use every day.

Because of this, multiple independent teams of developers created Bitcoin Cash to handle the volume required for simultaneous transactions on a global scale.

Unfortunately, even increasing the capacity and scale of cryptocurrencies won’t solve the adoption problem.

Design will.

Cryptocurrency’s rise thus far has seen a similar trajectory of technological revolutions throughout history: they prove their usefulness in the early stages from forgiving early-adopters and achieve mass adoption through usability and design.

This applies to everything from modern plumbing, to the first automobiles, to personal computing and the internet — all of which are things we use everyday and have no clue how they actually work.

That’s because the role of design in technology is to simplify its complexity until it’s one of two things: beautiful or invisible. Simplifying our experience with technology is essential for communicating value and increasing desirability, trust and usability — the very things that are holding cryptocurrency back from widespread adoption.

Until recently, Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies have served as toys for tech and computer-science geeks, not a product for everyday people. They have proven their usefulness as an alternative storage of value, but very few actually know how it works, or more importantly, how to work it.

That’s why the only saving grace of cryptocurrency’s rise are well-designed wallets and exchanges. One could even argue that apps like Coinbase are solely responsible for the frenzy driving up the value of Bitcoin simply because it provides better access. No company has made it simpler for someone to sign up, link a bank account, and begin buying Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin. You don’t need to know anything about ledgers, blockchain, proof of work or hash functions.

The reality is, while cryptocurrencies threaten the existence of banking institutions, they’re not exactly competing with them. To reach its full potential and achieve mass adoption, cryptocurrencies, wallets and exchanges will have to meet the standards created by the incredible user experiences of payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay and the likes.

Without enhancements to the UX and UI design, Bitcoin might end up exactly as Jamie Dimon describes it: a fraud.

Originally published here.

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