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Right now, blockchain and cryptocurrency have a two-minute rule problem: They are too complicated for most users to fully change their habits and adopt Web3 into their everyday lives.
The two-minute rule was created by productivity consultant and author David Allen, who stated that for anyone to start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. Not only is Web3 a complicated concept, but the product designs are lacking — remember MS-DOS, anyone? — and require multiple steps to execute transactions. During his opening keynote speech at Circle Converge 2022 in San Francisco, the stablecoin issuer’s chairman and CEO Jeremy Allaire noted, “Users don’t need to know what chain they are on or what stablecoin they are using, they just need to know that it’s a frictionless interaction.”
This user experience (UX) challenge goes all the way to communications. Currently, blockchain companies are set on relating every detail about their technology as if speaking to another technologist — quickly putting your average person right to sleep. These barriers create far more friction than most users are willing to put up with and thus create high attrition.
I worked on language simplification ad nauseam when I was a journalist writing about a complicated, niche topic for a large audience: The wine business. I constantly edited my pieces to strike a literary balance between creating new, cutting-edge stories and keeping the language and concepts relatable so readers would be inspired to try the wines I wrote about. I took these lessons to my communications firm, Man of the World Media, where my day-to-day is filled with constantly finessing clients’ messaging so that it accurately conveys their products’ highlights without losing potential users along the way.
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Here are three ways to simplify a Web3 company’s messaging so that it accurately explains its product, all while creating stickier adoption.
1. Use clear language to improve UX
Nailing the UX is ultimately what will entice the next billion users to adopt blockchain technology, and this is where the industry needs to do the most work. The Crypto Research and Design Lab (CRADL), whose vision is to champion a humanity-centric Web3 for everyone, just released a comprehensive report called UX in Cryptocurrency. CRADL works with the World Economic Forum’s Crypto Impact and Sustainability Accelerator (CISA) to “shift the crypto industry from being tech-centered to people-centered.” At my firm, I keep this top of mind when I consult on Web3 clients’ brand messaging and positioning. For some audiences, particularly initiated crowds and investors, it’s important to drill down into the technology. However, I really challenge founders when it comes to B2C branding, where I think it’s far more important to plainly explain what the product does than to describe the underlying technology.
So far the biggest success story in Web3 is NFTs, and there’s no bigger catalyst to this than Dapper Labs, which created the NBA Top Shot phenomenon. If you look around Top Shot’s website, there aren’t any of the traditional Web3 words — blockchain, cryptocurrency or even NFT — which is completely by design. Dapper is more interested in users understanding that they can fully own a digital collectible of their favorite player instead of trying to wax poetic about the virtues of NFTs, crypto, blockchain, custody and other industry parlance. Their numbers line up: According to Dapper’s site, Top Shot has 1.5 million users, over 20 million marketplace transactions and an astounding $1 billion in transactions. By being relatable and explaining the experience in plain English, they’re showing how simple language can lead to more activity.
2. Explore pain points known and unknown
Another technique I employ with clients is to build out pain points to illustrate new opportunities created by their blockchain products.
For example, if a company uses NFTs to create fractional ownership of art, homes, etc. I start by laying out the problem: “It’s difficult to buy art at auction unless you have a lot of money. But now, anyone can be a collector and art owner. How? Using NFTs on the blockchain to create fractional ownership! NFTs are…” This elegantly sets up a real-life, familiar scenario that can put someone into a mindset receptive to learning.
There is also the larger conversation about data ownership, and how Web3 tools put that back into users’ hands. It’s true that most people want this: A study conducted by BritePool and the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations found that nearly 90% of survey respondents would select a “Do Not Sell” option if they encountered it on a website.
However, this is often too vast a concept for non-Web3 users, and the current way builders talk about it goes over their heads. Instead of giving the 30,000-foot view of why people shouldn’t share their data unthinkingly, break it into bite-sized concepts. Start by explaining that using a Web3 wallet to connect with a webpage allows the person to decide firmly what data they do or don’t share.
Next, take it further and explain the new possibilities that come with this approach to their data. Explain that they could now monetize it, in the same way big internet companies do, and keep the money. Or they can have multiple wallets with different personal data, and create multiple digital identities. As wallets become more seamless experiences, the relatable soundbites that communications teams employ will play a big role in the entire adoption process.
3. Tell stories that illuminate real-life Web3 opportunities
Web3 builders throw around concepts like decentralization, privacy and data ownership. This misses the mark for most people. Users want to know what your product means for them, not every detail that went into creating the product. I tell my clients: Customers don’t want to know how the sausage is made; they just want to know it’s delicious. That’s why I challenge clients to be explicit about what their product means for end users, and not to expect customers to infer use cases based on the underlying technology.
Instead of a game company telling gamers that it now deploys NFTs, it should explicitly explain to its gamers that they now fully own the assets they pick up while playing. But don’t stop there. Give gamers examples of what that actually means: They can now save and own in-game purchases, transfer assets to additional supported games or sell them to other players. This language more clearly articulates the qualities that make owning an NFT a better user experience without losing users in jargon.
If a platform provides cryptocurrency instead of made-up rewards, explain to recipients that they own these rewards as if they were in their own bank account. They can spend them how they’d like or even turn them into cash. Remind users that while centralized rewards go down in value or expire at the whim of issuers, these new benefits are in their full control and aren’t subject to those practices.
Peter Weltman is a storytelling entrepreneur who founded the strategic communications firm Man of the World Media in San Francisco.
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