Project Kickoff: Laying the groundwork for Euler
In the early months of 2020, I joined the Euler project, a platform designed to simplify DeFi lending and borrowing. My task was to design an intuitive user experience that demystified complex financial transactions for everyday users.
The project timeline was set at six months. My initial focus was on familiarizing myself with the intricacies of DeFi to ensure our solutions were grounded in real user needs. The goal was to deliver a user-friendly platform that provided clarity and confidence to those venturing into crypto lending and borrowing for the first time.
We began with a deep dive into the existing user journey, identifying key pain points and areas for improvement. The kickoff phase was all about preparation, setting the stage for a design process that would be both iterative and responsive to user feedback.
My Role in the Euler Project: UX Research and Design Facilitation
Stepping into the Euler project, my focus as the UX researcher was to create a bridge between the advanced capabilities of a DeFi lending and borrowing platform and the user-friendly experience that customers expect. The team looked to me to ensure that the design was grounded in a deep understanding of our users’ needs, behaviors, and preferences.
Addressing the Challenge: Simplifying DeFi for Users
The primary challenge in the Euler project was to dismantle the complexities of decentralized finance (DeFi) and present them in a way that was accessible and user-friendly. This task was pivotal, considering the notoriously intricate nature of DeFi transactions, which often acted as a barrier for new and even experienced users.
DeFi platforms, by their very nature, tend to be complex, with a steep learning curve. My challenge was to break down these barriers, to design an interface that was intuitive enough for someone with minimal experience in the crypto space, yet robust enough to offer the advanced functionalities that seasoned users expected.
The complexity of the user flow in the existing system was a critical issue. New users found it difficult to navigate through the process of lending and borrowing, leading to frustration and, ultimately, a high drop-off rate. The platform needed a major overhaul in terms of its user journey and interface design.
My objective was to simplify the user experience without compromising the platform's advanced capabilities. This meant creating a balance between simplicity and sophistication—a design that was straightforward for beginners but did not alienate users looking for in-depth financial management tools.
To tackle this, I had to immerse myself in the world of DeFi, understanding not just the technical aspects but also the user psyche—what intimidated them, what they found confusing, and what could make their experience smoother. This challenge was not just about aesthetics; it was about creating a seamless, end-to-end experience that would encourage user engagement and build confidence in using the platform.
My Approach: Designing a User-Centric DeFi Platform
In tackling the complexities of the Euler project, my approach was grounded in a user-centric design philosophy. This meant that every decision, from the layout of the interface to the functionalities offered, was to be driven by user needs and preferences.
1. In-Depth User Research: The foundation of my approach was comprehensive user research. I dived into understanding the typical Euler user - their motivations, their financial literacy, and their comfort with technology. This was crucial in designing a platform that felt approachable and intuitive to them. Surveys, interviews, and user testing sessions formed the backbone of this research phase.
2. Simplifying the User Journey: With insights from the research, I focused on simplifying the user journey. This involved streamlining the steps involved in lending and borrowing on the platform. My aim was to make these processes as straightforward as possible, reducing the number of actions a user needed to take to complete a transaction.
3. Prototyping and Iterative Design: Prototyping was an essential tool in my approach. Early-stage, low-fidelity prototypes allowed me to quickly test and iterate on various design ideas. These prototypes evolved based on user feedback, becoming more sophisticated over time. This iterative process ensured that the final design was not only aesthetically pleasing but also functionally sound and user-friendly.
4. Collaborative Design Development: My approach was also collaborative. Working closely with developers and other stakeholders was key to ensuring the feasibility of the design. It was important that the developers understood the rationale behind design choices, ensuring that the final product reflected the intended user experience.
5. Balancing Technicality with Accessibility: Finally, a critical part of my approach was to balance the technical aspects of the DeFi platform with accessibility. This meant distilling complex financial concepts into simple, understandable terms and visuals. The design needed to educate users without overwhelming them, building their confidence in using the platform.
Understanding the User: A Deep Dive into the Euler Audience
In the Euler project, understanding the user was a fundamental aspect of my role as the UX researcher. This phase was about getting into the minds and experiences of our potential users, an essential step for creating a platform that resonates with them.
1. Creating User Personas: I started by developing detailed user personas. These were not just fictional characters but representations of our actual user base, crafted from real data and insights. Each persona, like Mohammed, a 27-year-old sales manager, embodied the goals, challenges, and motivations of our target audience. Mohammed, for instance, was looking for a side income in crypto but needed a platform that was straightforward and time-efficient.
2. Conducting User Interviews: User interviews were a critical tool for understanding the user. I conducted user interviews remotely through google meet, speaking with experts and industry movers like coinbase, kucoin and even staff from Binance, the world's biggest crypto exchange. These conversations provided a wealth of qualitative data, revealing the users' thought processes, hesitations, and expectations. By directly engaging with real users, I gained insights into what they looked for in a DeFi platform, what intimidated them, and what features they valued most.
3. Analyzing User Behavior: Understanding the user also involved analyzing their behavior with existing DeFi platforms. This meant looking into how users navigated these platforms, where they encountered difficulties, and which aspects they found most useful. This analysis helped in identifying common patterns and areas where Euler could improve and innovate.
4. Gathering Quantitative Data: Surveys played a significant role in understanding the broader user base. For this, I used survery mokey to get quantitative data. They provided quantitative data that complemented the qualitative insights from the interviews. This data helped in validating the assumptions made during the persona creation and interview phases and in understanding the general trends and preferences in the DeFi space.
5. Empathy and User-Centricity: Empathy was a guiding principle in understanding the user. It was about putting myself in the users' shoes, seeing the platform from their perspective. This empathy was crucial in making design decisions that aligned with the users' needs and in creating a platform that was not just functional but also engaging and reassuring for the users.
Competitive Edge: Navigating the DeFi Landscape
In developing Euler's user experience, a critical component of my role was to conduct a competitive audit. This step was essential for understanding Euler's position in the decentralized finance (DeFi) landscape and carving out its competitive edge.
1. Identifying Key Competitors: The first step was to identify the main competitors in the DeFi space. This involved researching platforms that offered similar lending and borrowing services. The goal was to understand their offerings, strengths, and weaknesses in depth.
2. Analyzing User Experience: A significant part of the competitive audit focused on the user experience (UX) of these platforms. I meticulously examined their interfaces, user flows, and features. This analysis was not just about what these platforms did, but how they did it – their approach to simplifying complex transactions, the clarity of their instructions, and the intuitiveness of their navigation.
3. Understanding Market Positioning: Beyond the UX, I also looked into how these competitors positioned themselves in the market. This included their branding, their communication strategy, and their target audience. Understanding their positioning helped in identifying gaps in the market that Euler could fill.
4. Gathering User Feedback: Part of the competitive audit involved gathering feedback from users of these platforms. This was done through surveys and forums where users discussed their experiences. The feedback provided firsthand insights into what users valued in a DeFi platform and what they felt was missing.
5. Benchmarking Against Industry Standards: Finally, the audit included benchmarking Euler's features and user experience against industry standards. This step was crucial for ensuring that Euler not only matched up to its competitors but also pushed the envelope in terms of innovation and user satisfaction.
From Wireframes to Reality: Crafting Euler's Interface
This process was about breathing life into the initial designs and ensuring that they met both user needs and technical feasibility.
1. Developing Initial Wireframes: The journey began with the creation of low-fidelity wireframes. These wireframes were the skeletal framework of the platform, outlining the basic layout, user flow, and interaction points. They served as the first visual representation of the abstract ideas and concepts we had for Euler.
2. User-Centric Design Iterations: These initial wireframes underwent several iterations based on continuous user feedback. Each iteration refined the design, making it more intuitive and user-friendly. The feedback from usability tests, user interviews, and surveys was critical at this stage, helping to mold the wireframes into designs that resonated with our target audience.
3. High-Fidelity Mockups: Once the wireframes were solidified, the next step was to develop high-fidelity mockups. These were detailed, polished versions of the wireframes, complete with the visual elements like color schemes, typography, and imagery. The high-fidelity mockups provided a clearer picture of what the final product would look like, and they were instrumental in visualizing the user experience.
4. Prototyping for Interaction: Interactive prototypes were then created from these high-fidelity mockups. Prototyping was a crucial step in understanding how users would interact with the platform in a real-world setting. It allowed us to test the functionality of the interface and make any necessary adjustments before moving to the development phase.
5. Collaboration with Development Team: A close collaboration with the development team was vital in turning these designs into a working platform. Regular meetings and discussions ensured that the developers had a deep understanding of the design intent and user expectations. This collaboration was essential for ensuring that the technical implementation aligned with the UX design.
6. User Testing and Final Refinements: Even after the development began, the design was continuously refined based on ongoing user testing. This iterative approach ensured that the platform remained user-centric at every stage of development, with adjustments made as needed to enhance usability and functionality.
Usability Testing Insights: Refining Euler's User Experience
These tests offered direct insights into how real users interacted with our design, highlighting areas for improvement and validating our design choices.
1. Organizing Usability Testing Sessions: We conducted several rounds of usability testing, each carefully planned to gather specific insights. Participants were selected to represent our diverse user base, ensuring that the feedback was comprehensive and representative. The sessions involved users interacting with our prototypes, performing typical tasks they would encounter while using the platform.
2. Observing User Interaction: One of the key insights from these sessions was how users navigated through the platform. I paid close attention to their journey, noting where they encountered difficulties or confusion. This observation helped me identify unintuitive aspects of the interface that needed simplification or better signposting.
3. Gathering Feedback on Features: Users' reactions to specific features were particularly revealing. I found that some features we assumed would be popular were not as intuitive or useful to users as expected. Conversely, some simpler functionalities were highly appreciated for their ease of use. This feedback was crucial in prioritizing which features to enhance, simplify, or even remove. One of these was the transaction builder. A way of racking up transactions like an ecommerce store. I wrote a detailed article on it here - Mental models in Defi.
4. Understanding the Learning Curve: Another significant insight was the learning curve associated with using the platform. We noted how quickly users could perform tasks and understand the information presented. This helped us in redesigning certain elements to make them more accessible to new users, without oversimplifying for experienced users.
5. Clarity and Information Presentation: The tests also shed light on how information was presented on the platform. Users provided feedback on the clarity of the information, the effectiveness of visual cues, and the overall information architecture. This led us to refine our content strategy, ensuring that information was not only accessible but also comprehensible to the user.
6. Actionable Responses to Feedback: Post-testing, we compiled all the feedback and translated it into actionable design changes. This involved tweaking the UI, adjusting layouts, and sometimes rethinking entire user flows. The insights from usability testing were instrumental in making these decisions, ensuring that the final design was shaped by real user experiences and needs.
Conclusion: Elevating DeFi Accessibility through Design
Reflecting on the Euler project, the journey stands out as a testament to the power of user-centric design in the complex world of decentralized finance. By deeply understanding our users and continuously iterating based on their feedback, we transformed a sophisticated DeFi platform into an accessible and intuitive tool. This project not only challenged and enriched my skills as a UX researcher but also underscored the critical role of empathy and clarity in designing financial technologies. As we wrap up, I look back at Euler not just as a product, but as a pivotal step in making DeFi more approachable for everyone.