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Designing user experiences for the decentralized web

The decentralized web is rapidly gaining steam in privacy and security circles as the promise of a "Web 3.0" begins to take hold. Nonetheless, among all of the challenges facing the nascent decentralized web, perhaps none is as pressing as user experience. Though many tout network effects and convenient features as the leading factors that led to the Big Tech walled gardens characterizing the web today, the attractive and seamless user experiences that the closed web offers are far too frequently ignored.

In short, without good user experience, the decentralized web will have no users.

If we are to democratize the web so it benefits all users, prioritizing a user experience that not only matches but exceeds current interfaces today is paramount. Today, many decentralized web experiences suffer from esoteric terminology, developer-oriented interface design, and poorly written help text — many of the same issues that plagued Drupal for years. Fortunately, improving the user experience of decentralized applications is one of the least costly means of driving adoption.

In this talk, we'll kick things off with a broad discussion of some of the issues surrounding user experience on the decentralized web and an examination of some of the most heralded examples of the decentralized web and how they fall short of some of the key best practices of usability. We'll dive into some of the most difficult — but surmountable — issues that confound interfaces on the decentralized web today and how a design-first methodology can obviate the need to expose the guts underneath. In the process, we'll take inspiration from other communities such as Drupal that have successfully implemented well-designed user experiences.

This talk has something for everyone and will consist of some discussion about the future of user experience on the decentralized web.

Here's what we'll cover:

  • User experience is not developer experience

  • How Big Tech has dominated good user experiences

  • Abstraction vs. education: How to bring everyone along

  • Why the decentralized web needs good UX

  • Examples from the wild: Complexity and confusion

  • Challenges facing UX on the decentralized web

  • Inspiration from efforts in Drupal and other projects

  • Designing for self-sovereign identity

  • Designing for distributed systems

  • Designing for transactions

  • Epilogue: The future of UX on the decentralized web

This session is geared toward designers and usability specialists interested in how their best practices translate into the leading edge of the decentralized web and blockchain applications, developers interested in the current state of the decentralized web and how to drive its adoption, and Drupalists interested in learning more about the decentralized web in its current state.

This session is a sequel to "The decentralized web and Drupal" (Drupal HackCamp Bucharest keynote) and "Decentralized Drupal: The decoupled Drupal endgame" (Drupal Europe Darmstadt 2018). No knowledge of Drupal is presumed, though some familiarity with the decentralized web, such as that provided by "The decentralized web: Locking the web open" (BADCamp 2018 proposal by Matt Davis), is helpful. Nonetheless, this session has something for everyone.

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