My role: Lead user researcher on a team of 5 researchers and 2 shadows
Project type: Volunteer
Project length: 8 weeks
Stakeholders: Tech Fleet Community DAO
Enaging with blockchain technology is difficult and confusing, especially on the Kadena blockchain thanks to its multi-chain infrastructure that can sometimes lead to extremely costly user errors.
Creating a cross-chain wallet extension that's accessible to newcomers but flexible enough to support the needs of power users could prevent user error and help boost the viability of the Kadena blockchain.
Leadership & directional problems
A lack of leadership on the research team at the start of the project caused chaos for the entire team until we spoke up and course corrected for everyone.
The stakeholder already had a rough prototype for us to use as a baseline, but user testing revealed it would require a near entire overhaul.
A shift in target users
Based on stakeholder feedback, we originally spoke with users relatively new to crypto, but our initial exploratory research proved they weren't our target audience at all.
A visual reboot
Despite a strong visual identity created by the design team, our user and preference testing revealed that users weren't fans so we had to deliver bad news to the design team.
The Tech Fleet Community DAO set out on a journey to create a cross-chain crypto wallet extension built on the Kadena blockchain and forked from the open source MetaMask application.
Specifically, they wanted to address gaps in cross-chain functionality and create an "all-in-one" wallet that would let users store all their tokens and NFTs in one place while also being approachable and easy to use for complete crypto newcomers.
The DAO laid out their vision for the extension before the start of the project in great detail. I highly recommend reading it for more info.
Tech Fleet runs projects in 8 week phases, with each week being made up of its own Agile-based sprint. Because it's a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (or DAO) and believes in sharing with the community, at the end of each week, the team publicly demos what they've been working on to the rest of the community.
In the 8 weeks I worked on the project, we started from zero and ended with a fully functional, user-tested prototype.
Though some members of the team had prior experience/knowledge about crypto (including myself), the majority didn't. I knew this would be a huge impediment for the project, so I gathered everyone's questions in Slido then together with some other team members hosted a series of blockchain demonstrations and Q&A sessions to get everyone up to speed.
All told, we spent about two weeks as a team at the start of the project simply learning and teaching each other all the basics we needed to know before we could get started in earnest.
I wasn't originally the lead researcher on this project; I interviewed for and was hired as an apprentice researcher. However, after several weeks of unsuccessfully trying to coordinate with our team lead and get everyone on the same track, management on the project chose to promote me to the lead position.
I'd never held a lead user researcher position before, so I was a little intimidated by the prospect of managing 4 other researchers and 2 shadows, but I accepted and immediately got to work creating sync among ourselves and the other teams.
Early on in the project, the team had major problems keeping our research well documented and easy to locate. Members were often asking for the same files and links repeatedly, or double posting them, so I created a single source of truth for us in the form of a research hub.
This greatly helped us stay in sync, review each other's work, and make sure we weren't contacting the same users. It also made it much easier for the design and product strategy teams to see what we'd done and refer to our research.
To make sure the research team stayed on the same page, I organized regular meetings for us throughout the week to chat about research plans, scripts, recruitment, synthesis, or anything else we needed to cover.
I also organized weekly team lead meetings among the research, design, and product strategy teams to maintain a consistent project direction and cross-functional sync.
To better understand the needs, expectations, and vision of the project's stakeholder, I thought it would be a good idea to host a stakeholder interview. I wanted to make sure that the entire team had the ability to ask questions and feel like their individual team's needs were addressed in the interview, so I organized a group brainstorming session where we all presented our questions and voted on them.
With the team's questions solidified and agreed upon, I hosted a group interview with Morgan, the project's primary stakeholder. Each team selected a representative to ask their respective questions, and together we worked on a series of tickets in Trello to lay out what Morgan wanted and expected to be in the MVP.
Before taking any action on the highly useful feedback we'd gotten from Morgan during the stakeholder interview, we worked together as a team to hammer out a plan for our first round of research.
We were most interested in learning more about problems or difficulties users have with blockchain technologies and what gaps or opportunities existed among our competitors.
With the plan in place, we also decided to split the team into two different tasks: half of us would conduct usability tests, while the other half conducted user interviews.
Since Morgan had already had a low-fidelity prototype created, we decided to use that as a baseline for our first round of testing in a combination of moderated and unmoderated usability tests.
We conducted 4 moderated sessions and 4 unmoderated sessions to learn more about the following:
To save time and gather data more efficiently, we also decided to simultaneously conduct exploratory research sessions with crypto users who had 1-3 years of experience in the space. We hoped this would help us identify potential gaps and opportunities for Kadet Wallet.
We conducted 5 interview sessions in which we wanted to learn about:
During our first round of research, we realized that the data we'd gathered thus far about users was only sufficient enough to form one proto persona.
While we had some rough ideas for other user types, we weren't confident enough in the data we had to back them up, so we created one persona that we passed to the other teams and decided to focus more on validating our other persona sketches in round two.
To synthesize the large amount of data we'd gathered from both the usability testing and the exploratory interviews we'd conducted, we put everything into one affinity map.
However, the other teams found its original iteration difficult to parse, so we added Key and Positive Takeaways to both types of research and then presented our findings to the entire team.
Our main takeaways were:
While discussing our plans for the next round of research, we realized that our intial target audience of newcomers to crypto was incorrect. In speaking further with the stakeholder and other subject matter experts, we determined that most Kadena users were blockchain enthusiasts with a lot of experience in the space — which meant the people using our cross-chain wallet were unlikely to be brand new.
We also realized that everyone we'd spoken to in round one had a background in Ethereum, another blockchain that works very differently from Kadena. After discussing this with the stakeholder, we decided to target experienced Kadena users going forward to understand their experiences and frustrations transitioning to Kadena from other blockchains.
By this point in the project, we were quickly running out of time in our 8-week timeline. Because of this, we decided to combine usability testing and exploratory research in our sessions for round two.
We also again decided to split the team in half to cover more work, but this time around, half the team would conduct sessions while the other half simultaneously synthesized the data as it came in. Synthesis of our round one research took a full week and we couldn't afford to lose that time again.
Because we were so close to the end of the project, the design team decided to move into higher fidelity earlier than they were originally planning. They also began experimenting with light and dark versions of the visual design, which they asked us to test.
The design team asked us to test out:
Because it worked so well for the first round, we again synthesized all our findings and insights into one affinity map.
Our main takeaways were:
I've already agreed to return for phase 2 of the project as lead researcher. Most of the other research team members are moving on to other projects or changing roles, so I need to build my team for phase 2.
Though this team already created a sample plan and script for round three, we decided to hold off on finalizing it until the new team is formed so that they have input in its direction.
The design team has already implemented revisions from our second round of research, but they've also added several new features that need to be tested (transaction history, NFT support, and more).
I didn't expect to be leading a team on this project when I was hired, but I'm so happy I got the chance to push myself and that I was given the opportunity to play such an instrumental role in the project's overall success. I surprised myself!
If the various teams on a project aren't regularly and openly communicating with each other, it only leads to chaos. I've learned that this level of integration among teams has to be established and nurtured from the start.
Because it's still a relatively new space, the UX of most blockchain projects just isn't up to snuff yet — especially when it comes to Kadena-based projects. I hope to do my best to help change that, because I really believe in this technology to revolutionize the Internet.