UX / Interaction Design – 2018
Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Building a research game tool to introduce users to cryptocurrency wallets

Our client, Lectoraat Netwerkcultuur aims to study how cryptocurrency wallets can be designed to facilitate a broader understanding of the influence of blockchain technology, and define what good or bad wallet design is. We, a team of four, built a fully-functional research tool in order to better understand what users want in a crypto wallet in the shape of a fun, farm-themed game. 

•     Featured on the Lectoraat Netwerkcultuur website 
•     View the full documentation

Cryptocurrency & Wallets – Desk Research

To gain a background on wallets, the team conducted desk research in order to better understand the subject. What we found is that it’s complicated to get started with using crypto with many options for currencies, wallets and service suppliers. The user needs to know what they’re doing because there’s no margin for error. In addition, mining for bitcoins is no longer lucrative, or as some would argue, relevant. But blockchain technology will be the next linux, not the next internet - it’s likely to become the underlying technology for the future which will be invisible to the masses. Finally, because it’s based on code, it’s open to abuse due to it being open source. 

The following report outlines some of the differences between wallets, pros and cons. This led to the formulation of a research question.

If the use of a wallet is influenced by its UI/UX; what kind of wallet does each user prefer?

We created a game that can give us insights on what users want so we could build better wallets.

Collaborative Ideation

With Per Halstrom’s persuasive design lecture and Ian Boghost’s work on procedural rhetoric as inspirations and guides, we started brainstorming collaboratively in rounds, adding and iterating on each other’s ideas. These ideas ranged from creating a fool-proof physical wallet or an extremely safe one (operated by a blood sample), to a game placed on a central pillar where users understand transactions through playing. 

The game was a favourite among the group and went through several iterations following this brainstorm session. We chose this direction because the variables of space, duration and repurposing are the most flexible among our options.

Gameplay Metaphor & Emotional Design

The farm metaphor is relateable and easy to grasp and a nod to predecessors like farmville that achieved great success. In a way, this emotional design connection between future technology and traditional imagery helps explaining an abstract concept with an added game layer for the fun factor. How? The farm simulates a blockchain market where farm animals represent miners, and currencies appear as bacon, milk and wool. Gold simulates a fiat currency, and an offline walled is represented by a vault that protects the users' assets if they choose to use it (with a password in place) from thieves (hacking). Every game must have an endgoal, and in this case, players race to get the most coins before the timer ends.
 

Game Structure

I created a structure that progressively introduces new levels and challenges to the game. Below is an early samples of the gameplay rounds flow.
 

Rapid Paper Prototyping

Throughout the process, the team asked individuals to play the game in order to improve the flow and experience. Paper prototyping helped with improving the narrative and progression of the game, but it didn't come without its limitations - namely the restriction to turn-based gameplay. While this form of gameplay gave users a chance to pause in a longer game, it didn't simulate the real experience. The move from analog to digital afterwards allowed us to experiment with the time factor and we opted for a shorter timed/live game. 

Exploration through sketching

A wallet as a skeumorphic farm

UI explorations: switching between viewing modes in-wallet as cards, re-inforcing the gamified mentality. Finding a medium between skeumorphism and a sleek, modern interface.

More sketches and ideas for the UI/UX of the game, showing new game element pop-ups, features and notes.

Visual Design & Outcome

I created a moodboard of the design style for the visual designer to follow. While the storyline is fun and childish, I wanted the design style to be stylized in a more mature way, inspired by the style of IBM and editorial illustrations. Screens from the actual game can be seen below.

Abstract, mysterious, mature, colourful

A Benevolent queen recruits her farmers to combat the corruption of her officials and their rates. Every farmer is given an amount of gold to compete to become her new master of coin.

The game features a market where the player conducts most of their transactions, a vault, where users can keep their goods protected from thieves (as offline wallets can do) while being protected by a tricky password that needs to be remembered in the form of icons. Every user has a chance to buy add-ons, which equal wallet features. This is where we can observe which strategy the user will take and how they build their wallet. Finally, action cards are introduced later in the game. These can be offensive or defensive and aim to raise the fun level of the game.

The game was featuerd on the Institute of Network Cultures website and can be found here.