Resources and Methodology
The research was carried out by one professional UX designer (Patrícia Estevão) with previous knowledge of Bitcoin’s workings, assisted by one professional programmer (Marco Agner) with a deeper technical understanding of Bitcoin. There was no budget or greater resources to be applied and the hardwares used were personal laptops, where the needed software was installed to create the Lightning Network transactions.
The method of UX research chosen was the Heuristic Evaluation.
“Heuristic evaluation involves having a small set of evaluators examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the "heuristics”).” - Jakob Nielsen (1995)
There were two main reasons for that choice:
- The scarcity of resources to be deployed wouldn’t allow for a complete research since methods that include a interaction with system users (usability testing, field studies, focus groups, etc) require a financial investment.
- The current state of the Lightning Network isn’t that of a product that can be easily tested by users. The possible actions are still very limited, there’s no functional user interface and the difficulties one encounter require specific knowledge to be overcome.
The heuristics or principles of User Interface Design used as guides for the analysis were as stated by Nielsen (1995), and can be listed as follows:
- Visibility of system status
- Match between system and the real world
- User control and freedom
- Consistency and standards
- Error prevention
- Recognition rather than recall
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Aesthetic and minimalist design
- Help users recognize, diagnose and recover from errors
- Help and documentation
The summarized explanation for each principle can be found in the author’s article.
In order to guide the evaluators, the research also included a simplified construct of user personas and journeys. They were formed based on a general manifestation of the user's profile and objectives which can be taken of public space discussions such as social media.
Note on the moment chosen for this study
One might ask if it was a good choice to carry out such a study right now, as the current state of the Lightning Network implementations and interfaces is still premature.
When we talk about the creation of a product/technology, many cycles compose the development process, from the conceptualization to the usable version, passing through sketches, brainstorms, tests, implementation phases, etc. And the concern about the user experience is as much a part of all these steps as the writing of code itself. That is, if the desired result is a product that can be used by its public audience. That's because design decisions about how the interaction should be implemented are occurring all the time and, the sooner misconceptions are discovered and turned into better decisions, the easier it is to transform the product. That's why it's worth it to do this UX review even if there's so much unfinished and unpolished. We hope that giving some insights in this early period, we'll be helping the software creators to point their efforts in the right direction.