key app
Kirill Klimov on Key App, good UX, and abandoning crypto-native jargon «We are far from ideal»
13 December 2022

About the background

My story is not unusual. By education, I am a techie — I graduated from the Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology. But my journey was challenging. I didn't like studying at MIET, and by the second year, I became disillusioned with my technical abilities. I realized that programming wasn't for me. I thought I should find something more interesting. I had a creative streak, so I started working as a videographer. I worked in a printing house for a long time and got acquainted with design there for the first time.
I was still searching for myself when I fully immersed myself in design. I even managed to work as a designer for a hockey club. I realized it's like the startup scene, just in a different context. So the experience was cool. I juggled many roles, which was more diverse than in the IT field. There was more physical activity, like walking to the stadium. I've been in design since 2014 and in product design since 2017.
I genuinely got acquainted with crypto in 2017. I started working for a crypto bookmaker — I knew about sports but was clueless about crypto. This framework helped me a lot in the future. I began to understand web3 well, and I didn't need onboarding in the subject, which is why Key App (then called P2P Wallet) hired me.

About Key App

I joined the team in a standard way: found a job, they contacted me, and hired me. Now I combine two positions: UX designer, fully responsible for user experience, and design lead. My responsibilities changed depending on the development cycle.

When I joined Key App, the wallet had already existed for some time, and I was the only designer. As a result, I did absolutely everything: I drew layouts and engaged in product work. Later, as we began to grow, new team members appeared, and we adjusted our development cycle. Now, I mostly handle design processes within the team, search for Product-Market Fit (PMF), and focus on UX. I conduct usability testing and communicate with users.

Key App is a non-custodial wallet on Solana. And it's tough and painful. Because there's Phantom, which is almost a monopoly in the market. Plus, Solana is not going through its best times, so we have to hustle. We can't just lure users from Phantom.
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Our feature is that we are only for iOS and Android — without a browser extension. Good UX will be one of our future USPs. We still have a lot to do for great UX, and we genuinely want to stand out because of it. Our goal is to onboard newcomers to us and bridge the complex barrier between the web2 and web3 worlds.
Honestly, we are far from ideal. And the ideal, in my understanding, is far from wallets in general. Our main task is to make using a non-custodial wallet no worse than neobanks do. It's our significant case. But many things we want to implement require many development hours. Sometimes we even have to communicate with specific protocols to make changes. For example, we solved a problem everyone often talks about — user onboarding inside the wallet.
Seed phrases are cool, but not safe at all. Because most people are irresponsible and store seed phrases carelessly. We solved this problem, but it took 3-4 months.
We integrated Web3Auth and divided the seed phrase into three parts. We store each of them decentralized. The user links them to their phone number, device, and Google or Apple account. We do this because we mimic how web2 authorization should work. Our target is web2 users, not web3. Yet, we remain non-custodial and maintain even more security. It's essentially two-factor authentication. We also don't limit users — they can export their keys and move to another app. This is one of our significant flows.
The second flow we're working on is sending. We want sending in web3 to be the same as sending in a bank. This implies several cases. For example, being able to send money to someone by phone number, even if they don't have a wallet. This involves working with the address book, both in its standard form and importing with contacts. It includes favorite addresses and a list of recent recipients.
We want to simplify everything. So that a person who knows nothing about crypto can enter the wallet and do basic things: register, buy crypto, top up the balance, and send money to someone else. Perhaps even by phone number.

About bad UX

In fact, you can open any app and find many reasons why the UX is bad there. It's essential to understand that UX doesn't have absolute values. Each user experience is built based on the needs of a specific target audience. In other words, an app can be designed for so-called power users, and in our case, these are crypto natives. Their usage pattern can be entirely different.
It's easier to remember cool cases than unsuccessful ones. Good UX means that if the interface is unusual and non-standard, it should be easy to learn because this UX will take you by the hand like a five-year-old and tell you everything. No one in web3 does this — no one educates users. We develop apps and wait for users to figure everything out on their own. Only recently did people in web3 realize that users need to be taught.

About good UX

It's great when the app is fast and straightforward to use. When there are no complicated choices. This is very subjective, but I always use the example of grandma-friendly UX. It's an intuitive interface where you act on autopilot, as you're used to.
Apps with good UX: Coinbase — and I'm talking specifically about their custodial part, specifically the iOS and Android apps. Crypto.com invested a lot of money in marketing, but they couldn't even come close to Coinbase's result. But this is a custodial story, so it's not entirely web3.
In web3, everything is much more complicated. I like what 1inch did. But show it to another person — they probably won't understand what to do there. Rainbow Wallet on Ethereum is cool. On Solana, I like what the guys from Glow are doing. On Bitcoin, I like Moon Wallet because of its incredible simplicity: they just removed everything and left two buttons. MetaMask is terrible — I think everyone knows that. They just didn't have the motivation to change anything. Their problem is technical debt. The team missed their moment, and they clearly don't care.
I have no issues with Curve in terms of design. In general, crypto natives have no problems with the service. There's a happy pass.

What doesn't fall under the happy pass are corner cases, errors, and the like. And here, not just Curve, but other apps also do a poor job. It's hard to name outright excellent apps because they all fall short of the standards people are accustomed to in web2. Perhaps, Opensea. The guys there probably realize that the web3 level is a significant hindrance to them. I've heard somewhere that they even want to offer the option to purchase NFTs with a bank card.

My top 3 wallets, although they are also far from ideal: Rabby Wallet (browser extension), BlockWallet (browser extension), and Rainbow Wallet (iOS, Android).

About the redesign stages

First, you need to challenge your interface. If you find dozens of problems, you need to roll out something new. But if the new version of the interface performs the task no worse than the old one, then why do you need the old one at all?
In redesign, basic statistics work: how many users are genuinely dissatisfied? If it's less than 1% out of a million users, you can ignore them. But if there are many unhappy users, then the redesign was a failure. Remember, there will always be those who are dissatisfied with your redesign.
If after challenging your interface you realize there aren't that many problems, you need a different approach. Technically, you might face a development problem — you decide to do a redesign, and they tell you it will take six months of development. It's immediately clear that you need to move differently.
The team might not have the money to make changes. So, you start challenging less ideal solutions and essentially create a roadmap for yourself. Gradually and smoothly improve your version. And this is a very viable option.
There's a practice of working with the community. You explain that there's a roadmap, and within it, the team not only rolls out new functionality but also improves the current one. This way, you'll never lose the old audience, and they won't resist the innovations because the changes will be smooth. Everything depends on the practical tasks and problems you face.
Bestchange needs a complete redesign. They aren't monopolists, and users are probably used to other platforms. When there's already an industry standard (like Paxful), it's not an option to say users won't understand.
There's an option to sell the interface. For example, by showing the user contextual onboarding. It's all about user-friendliness and copywriting. You come in and say you've improved the app, added new features, and show clearly where everything is located. Simple communication with the user can smooth out the impression.

About UX in web3

When launching a startup, a person doesn't think about UX initially. All innovations are made by techies — and this is a well-known fact. They create projects for people like themselves. When technology becomes popular, not only geniuses like the project's founder come in but also less savvy people used to comfort. Accordingly, entirely different interfaces need to be made for them.
You need to scale at the right time. Often, apps are made by a small number of people. And when the project has one founder, he alone has to pay for the app's operation. When you have a team of 10 people, it's already a startup — and then you need to pay salaries.

Otherwise, you won't attract someone who can deliver proper UX. It's a recurring cycle: big teams come in, solve significant problems, and have large budgets. Consequently, they can afford comprehensive product management.

There might simply be no money for UX. Initially, a startup is something intuitive: the founder does as he likes and wants. He writes code, and interface problems are solved at a minimal level — he makes it just to have it. At first, as a startup, you live and test your idea — how the technology will shoot and how the community will perceive it.
In web2, there are similar stories. The frontend is assembled on no-code, and there's no backend at all. But we don't criticize web2 for this. Just in web3, this problem is more evident because projects genuinely shoot quickly. Honestly, I don't remember the last time I saw a web2 app that worked poorly.
In web3, it can be like this: a cool financial model appears, spreads, say, on Twitter, and suddenly gains 10,000 users in a week. Then the startup realizes that the hypothesis is confirmed, and the technology works. Then users come and criticize him for UX.
Gradually, we will come to understand that there is a specific stack of technologies to work with. Then the teams will do everything right from the start. But now we haven't even decided which blockchains we will work with in the future.

About cryptonative jargon

When we talk about introducing crypto to the masses, we need to simplify the copywriting significantly and get rid of jargon. Of course, some will resist this, and there will always be apps designed purely for professionals and crypto-natives.
This is perfectly fine — there will be some stratification. But to abandon all jargon at once means to distort the meaning partially.

Sometimes it's harder to approach a problem. A user might encounter a situation that has no analogs in the web2 world, and no matter how skillfully you craft the copywriting, you can't explain to them what to do without going into details. It's not even about the jargon, but the fact that you'll have to explain a bunch of concepts that the user doesn't need at all. With Key App, we try to steer clear of such concepts in general.

We need to address mental models: ideas, strategies — in general, things that people have already encountered and have an understanding of. In Key App, we try to explain the meaning using familiar words, like fintech. We should write and speak the way banks do — these aren't new words for people.
Simplifying rarely ruins anyone's life. So, crypto-natives are unlikely to oppose it. But if you reduce functionality or remove things essential to crypto-natives, they'll just switch to another app.
It's essential to remember that there's no one-size-fits-all app. Each is tailored to its audience. Even banks have their approaches. Essentially, any interface is a way that uses graphics to help the user solve a task. There are two crucial points here: the user and the task. Good UX solves the task specifically for that user. You always keep in mind two things: what they need to do and who «they» are.

About crypto and UX

First, crypto companies need to understand their unit economics: what the team earns from, who their target audience is, how they will earn if competitors appear who simply copy their successful model or fork the code and pull the market to themselves. They need to understand the strategic vision. If the company realizes it can't retain its audience should something like this happen, UX might be their answer. There's also a second case: when a company is in a market where UX isn't essential. Maybe it's a market for niche professional solutions or a B2B market. Again, you can understand UX through metrics, and you can improve metrics through UX.
You can conduct usability tests and hallway tests yourself. Ask users and understand that you don't need a UX specialist right now. It might turn out that part of the audience is used to "eating cactus" and settling for what's available, while others don't want to use the product at all. That's the moment to upgrade.
In any case, the industry is growing, and standards are rising. This is especially evident with each cycle. Now you can't enter the market with an ugly interface, but a few years ago, you could. It seems that UI is now mandatory. Sooner or later, the same will be true for UX.

About advice for begginers

If you want to work in web3 and DeFi, and be in crypto in general, remember that there are not only technical specialties. There are many professions that don't require coding knowledge, including design. But if you're not tech-savvy or a designer, you can be a product manager.
Learning from scratch will be challenging. UX design is in high demand now, and UX designers with technical skills are even rarer.
You can read a few books to broaden your horizons. For example, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman to understand that the apps we make for people are for very irrational beings who might think differently. Not everyone operates on an "if-then-else" basis. It's also interesting to read "Write, Shorten" by Maxim Ilyakhov about copywriting. And my favorite book, "The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald Arthur Norman. Expanding your horizons will help, but unfortunately, it won't make you a UX specialist.


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