Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, recently shared some of his personal experiences using cryptocurrency in his latest blog post.
His insights provide valuable lessons for developers and users alike on how to improve the user experience and reliability of decentralized finance (DeFi) systems.
The importance of in-person payment systems
Vitalik said he learned the hard way that the internet is not 100% reliable and that customer internet is less reliable than merchant internet.
He suggests that in-person payment systems should have some functionality to allow customers to transfer their transaction data directly to the merchant if that’s the best way to get it broadcasted.
Simple-and-robust UIs are better than fancy-and-sleek ones
Vitalik says he experienced a UI glitch in his mobile wallet that made it not possible to scroll down and edit the field that contained the gas limit.
This shows that simple-and-robust UIs are better than fancy-and-sleek ones. But also, most users don’t even know what gas limits are, so we really just need to have better defaults.
Improving UX around transaction inclusion
Vitalik points out that UX around transaction inclusion needs to be improved, though there are fairly simple fixes. He credits the Brave wallet team for taking his suggestions on this topic seriously and first increasing the max-base fee tolerance from 12.5% to 33% and, more recently, exploring ways to make stuck transactions more obvious in the UI.
Social recovery is fragile and a bad idea
Vitalik had a bad experience using Shamir’s secret sharing to split up the private key to the account into five pieces. Two of his friends lost their key shards, and for a third, the Firebase connection mechanism did not work for a long time.
Eventually, they figured out how to fix the issue, but Buterin ended up losing a small amount of BTC and ETH. Buterin suggests that the way to add guardians should be to provide their ETH address, and recovery should be done by smart contract, using ERC-4337 account abstraction wallets.
Wallet developers should start thinking much more explicitly about privacy
Vitalik suggests that wallet developers should start thinking much more explicitly about privacy. He also suggests that we need better forms of account abstraction to remove the need for centralized or even federated relays, and commoditize the relaying role.
Good user experience is not about the average case, it is about the worst case
Vitalik concludes that good user experience is not about the average case; it is about the worst case. A UI that is clean and sleek, but does some weird and unexplainable thing 0.723% of the time that causes big problems, is worse than a UI that exposes more gritty details to the user but at least makes it easier to understand what’s going on and fix any problem that does arise.
Buterin’s insights provide valuable lessons for developers and users on how to improve the user experience and reliability of DeFi systems.
Along with the all-important issue of high transaction fees due to scaling not yet been fully solved, user experience is a key reason why many Ethereum users often opt for centralized solutions instead of on-chain decentralized alternatives.
With continued improvements in UX and scalability, we can unlock the full potential of DeFi and make it accessible to everyone, regardless of their location or technical expertise.