What is UX and why it's the #1 Problem holding Steem back.

in #steem3 years ago


So I was listening in on the MSP Waves show earlier and some of the usual suspects(@aggroed, @whatsup, @llfarms) were there talking about Steem, the path forward, their thoughts etc.

I had to bounce a little early because the Night King was calling, but I got the gist. As people went through their thoughts about what our problems were and potential solutions, I felt like some IMO were way off, and some were pretty close, but not quite there. Here's my two cents on what the real issue is.

First off. I am a visual designer. I have two degrees in different areas of this field. I have worked as a UI and UX designer in the past although it's not my primary specialization. I teach at the university level about design and visual communication. I can tell you all from the perspective of someone experienced in this, IT'S THE UX.

Now something that I realized is that I've said this before, but I've never really explained what UX is and many people here might not really know, so here's a simple explanation.

UX stands for User Experience. I guess UX looked cooler than UE. Anyway, user experience design is not about visuals. Some of the Steem interfaces have rather nice user interface(UI) design, but they all have TERRIBLE UX design. Part of this is not really their fault I imagine, it has to do with limitations of operating in a decentralized system, as well as the overall maturity level of the crypto industry.

Regardless, this is the issue. UX design deals with the psychology of the user and mapping out their "story". A well designed UX will enable the user to complete their tasks/goals in an intuitive, easy, and stress free way. We all know Steem is SEVERELY lacking in this area.

The reason that DLive was able to do so well, so fast was because they centralized everything and were able to design their UX carefully and completely from end to end. I went through the process there and it's just like signing up for any modern platform. If we want Steem to succeed, WE HAVE TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. It's that simple, it won't matter how good the tech is, or our transaction times, or how much potential Steem has. If we can't deliver a solid UX, nobody will use it.

So let's lay out some of the goals/tasks a new user has and I'll just give my opinion on where it lies on a spectrum of really easy to really hard.

  • Creating an account (Hard)
    This is the very first thing they need to do and it's already a poor UX.

  • Buying Steem(Very Hard)
    From the perspective of someone who is not crypto literate, this is insanely hard. There are no instructions on site how to do this, you'll have to look it up, then(U.S. easiest flow as far as I know) you'll need to download Coinbase, buy a large cap coin, go to your wallet on Steemitwallet, understand which of the three you need to buy, click buy, go to blocktrades, define your swap, deal with wallet addresses, and get your Steem. If you don't have someone walking you through this, it is very easy to make a mistake, and if you make a mistake nobody can help you.

  • Discovering relevant content(very hard)
    No algorithms to help find stuff you want to see.

  • Creating a post(easy)
    This is pretty easy, but there are some options that you probably don't understand what they mean yet, and there are no instructions on site(Steemit) 50/50 or 100% Power up.

  • Creating a comment(very easy)
    This is pretty straight forward.

  • Powering Up Steem(Medium)
    Well first you need to learn what that is without any thorough onsite instructions. Once you understand it, it's pretty easy.

  • Selling Steem(Very Hard)
    Basically the same process but in reverse from buying it.

I feel that the reality is, that for Steem to get mainstream appeal, this list has to top out at "Medium". Right now, it's mostly hard and very hard. The ONLY reason it's lasted this long is because the system ultimately pays you to use it, and blockchains are hard to kill. Even with that, we still have poor retention, which brings me to the next point.

Understanding the product/service.

Most of the users on Steem are using the blogging frontends. We need to understand that that's what they are...blogging interfaces. This is not about what we want them to be, or what they should be, or what they could be, it's what they are...right now. They are not social media, it's blogging platforms that pay you to participate. Everything else is extra and not a part of the objective design.

This is important because this needs to be understood to understand the users goals, and what they actually will want from our products/services. For example:

People that create blogs typically don't create them with the idea of earning money as the primary goal, because blogs are typically not very lucraive. What they DO want is engagement. They want people to read them, and they want them to comment, and they want to engauge with them. We have to start at understanding what the users want, then figure out how to deliver that.

Now not all the frontends are for blogs obviously, there's Dtube, appics, steepshot, etc. Each one of these applications has to design their own UX flow that's specifically tailored towards their app, their users. A one size fits all UX is absolutely not a thing. To me it feels like this hasn't been thought through much at all. Probably appics is one of the best and it's why they're still in testflight mode. They know they can't deliver a complete user experience so they just stopped there.


  • Each application needs to develop an end to end User Experience that is tailored to their app, from account creation to selling Steem.

  • Personally I think in a decentralized ecosystem, this is best accomplished by developing tools that everyone can not only use, but integrate and BRAND into their own projects. If you have to leave the application/website to complete a task, this is a poor UX design. I think @steem.ninja's integration on @steempeak is a great example of this. It says "Powered by Steem.Ninja", but it's integrated on Steempeak. We need this for @blocktrades on all the frontends as well in my opinion. A flow that doesn't require you leaving the app, but still allows you to use blocktrades features. This might already be possible, but it needs to be integrated.


  • The applications need to develop features centered around the user, not the technology. The technology is a tool to service users. Not the end in and of itself.

  • As we develop, we need to be asking, How does it "feel" to to use this app? Is it confusing, frustrating, disconnected, fun, exciting, boring? I think if we took a poll of new users, we wouldn't like the results, but none of us would or should be surprised.

In closing

If you agree with anything I've said here, please resteem this post, because not enough people are talking about this. Let's make some noise!


Finally, someone else talking about UX. I've been banging on about it for some time and since it's something I am passionate about and work with daily. I think if we really want to take UX seriously we should work together with one of the dApp front ends like busy or steempeak and start creating wireframes and pushing our regular releases with updates on improvements based on heatmapping and analytics. Adopting an Agile approach to UI and UX

Once we prove the various use cases they can be absorbed by Steemit.

I would love to get involved if possible

I’ve already reached out to devs at Steempeak and they are responsive, I think they just need people asking for particular features which is why I do post after post saying a lot of the same thing haha, but yea let’s connect on discord and chat about what can be done, I have the same name on there, I’ll reply later with the specific number, I’m away from my computer.

Would you perhaps use telegram as well @midlet?

I would love to get in touch with you, especially if you're already in touch with Steempeak


I do, same name :)

Shot I think I found you on discord, sent you a DM

Indeed you were "banging" on it for quite some time @chekohler

The problem is that noone seem to have any clue how to "reach out" to Steemit Inc devs :(

I've been brainstorming how we can create a better system of connecting people with relevant skills. Looking at the latest ads for Twitter Steemit developed, I feel like they need help on the branding and design side as well. I'm sure there are people here who would be willing to help.

"Don't make me think!" This is the number one rule for UX design. Using the interface should create a minimal amount of cognitive load.

Even when using an app or a site for the first time, it should be clear what can be done with it and how. The user interface should guide the user to accomplish the tasks without leaving the app/site for any external actions or documents. Also the terminology should be clear and consistent throughout the app/site.

I fully agree with @midlet that the UX is one of the biggest issues for mass adoption. This is all too complex for the average Joe. I really hope the Steem and dApp developers hear this and really consider the UX and ease of use.

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Well finally someone who understands me🙌🏼

Although you have all the reason, i think the steemit team isn't doing all this because they still want to see where is this all going, how the community self-organizes or what tools they create. I suppose after realising SMT's will work on UX, or at least I hope so.

Have a nice day!😊😊💙

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Haha, really hope that's not the case actually. That would be like watching your own house burn down to see how your neighbors put out the fire.

Well seems they have listened a little bit. Are doing marketing and are going to open a way to logging with google, facebook accounts

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login with Google or Facebook sounds like an other attempt at user data phishing...

I think you make some excellent points! I'm starting before this...

What is the vision. If we don't know who we are trying to attract and why... We can't define the UI (oh it seems we all have different jargon too. :) -

thank you very much for this post and while I agree with what you've said here, we have to back up and get everyone to know where we are headed and why!


Thanks! :) I think the vision has to be app specific. Steem is a platform, there can't and IMO shouldn't be some singular vision for Steem. These blogging frontends I think should attract content creators because those are the people who typically create blogs. With an SMT system, we can create legit social media applications that are just about connecting and sharing. Gambling apps will have their own demographic. We can't try to lump everything into Steem, I feel like that's saying what is the vision of iOS or Android. If anything their vision should be to create the most robust, flexible, and feature rich set of tools for developers and creators to execute their own specific visions, maybe that's a decent answer actually.

The stakeholders of Steem need to also have a filter.
How do they decide who to delegate to?

How do we ask them to support onboaring, dapps, etc.?

While I agree the future should be dapps and Steem right now that isn't the case.

We will move towards it, but right now I think we are suffering from too many people are frustrated because they do not know what to support and why they are supporting it.

Ahh, okay, I think I see what you're saying now and I agree. Basically, before we can even develop a good User Experience, which one? How to support it? What to build? etc. That's your point right?

Exactly! :) Small community limited funds, we need a filter to determine what to support, focus on and move towards.

Well, it's definitely something that I think would be great to frame the conversation around. My personal opinion


I think they're the closest to delivering something that could potentially be ready for the mainstream.

I like the look and feel of APPICS as well, even if it is still in TestFlight

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Great comment @whatsup

Thx for taking the time to share your view.

Yours, Piotr

Yup almost all the major issues keeping Steem away from small/medium scale adoption are front end level / UX issues, although actually there are blockchain level reasons why mass adoption literally can't happen at the moment. There are real constraints on number of users who could have enough steem power to post/comment/vote and those numbers are WAY smaller than "mass adoption". The only real chance for actual mass adoption in the millions of users, is if the majority of the interactions that the masses have are off blockchain.

Are you familiar with @theuxyeti ? Experienced UX professional who for a while was working on a front end focused on UX experience, although I believe that project has been shuttered to the best of my knowledge.

One interesting thing RE user retention here is I don't actually think user retention is as bad as people think, or at least, the user retention issues are not necessarily specific to Steem. As you rightly point out, the primary use case remains blogging. I don't know hard numbers but I am absolutely positive that the vast majority of all blogs are abandoned, regardless of if they are blockchain based, or wordpress, or blogspot, etc. That is the nature of blogging, not necessarily anything wrong with Steem itself IMO. It is the rare person who will actually stick with a blog and keep writing regular content for it, and it is the totally normal person who will create a blog, write a few posts (or even a lot of posts) and then lose steam ;)

I actually wouldn't be surprised if Steem blogs have higher user retention than WordPress blogs. It is certainly much easier to monetize crappy content on Steem, and you can monetize your Steem blog even if you don't have any viewers! Try that trick on WordPress :)

I don't know the macroscopic picture on user retention and my perspective on that is largely anecdotal. I've onboarded plenty of users myself and I know why they eventually left, and their complaints were legitimate.

I don't know much about the technical limitations stopping mass adoption either, but I would love for that to be the problem we're facing instead of what we're dealing with now.

Not familiar with @theuxyeti, I'll check some of their stuff out, if they're still around.

Yes you definitely have to be willing to put up with a lot of crap to stick around on Steem, not arguing that point LOL But I just think a lot of people have unrealistic expectations for user retention given that this is still primarily a blogging platform. Blogs never have high user retention, and as long as that is the primary use case, no amount of UX improvement will change the fact that most blogs are eventually abandoned.

I agree, blogging is dead. although occasionally I still stumbled upon Medium (or Smashing Magazine for free wallpaper :D).

Is there any demographic data of the steem users? I always feel that steem is for old folks. Lol. (By old, I mean, > 30s) Even the best front end like steempeak still gave me those feeling...
IMO marketing without targeting the right demography is almost impossible. It will also defining how the UI/UX based on that demography preferences...

I always feel that steem is for old folks. Lol. (By old, I mean, > 30s)
Hey I resemble that remark!

Moi aussi. Just turn 35 this month. I'm feeling old. Lol.

Old people unite! Lol

Brilliant comment @carlgnash. Seriously one of the best feedbacks I've read so far.

Thx for taking the time to share your view.

Yours, Piotr

If you want to use this platform as a blog, some of the top 3 witnesses come down on you with placing smearing bot comments and downvote every post you make on your personal blog profile.

So the top-witnesses deliberately and systematically chase away the people who want to use this platform as a blog.

I think a more forum-like format might solve a lot of problems. People would no longer post randomly with random tags and navigating toward content a user is interested in would be a piece of cake.

Very well said.

Fortunately, the community won't have to wait around for Steemit Inc to solve this problem.

If a few rogue developers can create SteemEngine,
then the same thing can happen with the user experience.

I have to agree though that a lot of people ignore how important this issue is or simply don't know about it.

It's like designing a sword that is unbreakable and can cut through anything, but not bothering to put a handle on it.

LOL there's more than one issue that metaphorically matches that description.

Great comment @edicted

Thx for taking the time to share your view.

Fortunately, the community won't have to wait around for Steemit Inc to solve this problem.

Let's hope so.

Yours, Piotr

I might want to disagree with some features you counted as hard, to be sincere, system works for newbies by there tine and understanding the system. Even if you make some features as simple as ABC, some people will still not get it. The best thing is to let them grow into it.

For example, when a newbie comes in, all he know is how to post and claim reward, he from there knows how to change it to all powered up and later get to know more features. We all that came, knew these things bit by bit.

Thank you, thank you! I've been trying to say this in different places, but never get an adequate response. They just seem to ignore or skirt the issue and go on to something else. I figured Steemit out when I joined becauseI was determined to give it my best shot. I struggle to explain it to anyone else and as soon as the passkeys come up, the response is just "nah! I'll stick to facebook. That's way too complicated."

Steemit is still the most accessible and consistent interface, unless it's under attack. Steempeak is great, but not useable on a mobile device and since most users access steem via a mobile device, it's cutting a lot of us off. Partiko is great, but still had a long way to go. It cuts out on me at least once a day and really struggles with a lot of photos in the post, usually crashing. I can't access my wallet from there and have to return to Steemit for that and the search option only searches users, at least on the android one it does. DTube makes me want to weep. It's just so random as to whether it's going to work our not from one day to another and I've never managed to upload. There's a chance it's the dodgy nbn, but YouTube can manage it, so it why move from there?

Lastly, there's the Steem account. "Here is your giant, unmemorable passkey. If you lose that you lose your account with any Steem you have in it and there is no way to retrieve it. Save it and attempt to write it down, hoping you don't write it wrong. Then feel free to put your money in this account, which may be lost forever if you lose that passkey." Imagine if the banks said that!

I'd like to see more vendors enticed onto the Homesteaders Co-op from outside of Steem, but if that's their livelihood, they're going to be cautious risking their earnings on Steem and aren't going to enjoy having to figure out how to move their Steem earnings back into fiat.

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I had to download remote desktop software to walk people through the different parts of the process, basically just taking over their computers and doing it for them. When it comes to that, good indicator the system isn't designed right lol

Good grief, that is a bit crazy, isn't it! I'm trying to help a friend with it when I see her, but even being there to walk her through is awkward. She asks how to do something and instead of clicking one simple button it's a string of things. Yes, I'd say very much an indicator the system needs to change.

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Great comment @minismallholding

Thx for taking the time to share your view.

Yours, Piotr

IMHO the solution could be a DAPP on top of STEEM that can give the easy experience they had with other social media.

The DAPP will give them an easier login mechanism like we had with keychain, but with the specialty to register freely. Yet, to register freely someone have to pay for it.

So what if there was a Wealthy sponsor for account registration. The only thing the user needs to do is watch ads or do some survey from the sponsor. Then they get an account.

How about that?

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Absolutely, it doesn't need to be Steemit. We just need one Dapp to be the leader. It terms of methods for account creation I think lots of options would be good. Some people might rather pay a couple dollars than watch ads, and some would rather watch ads, or wait. I think having plenty of options would work best.

How about we start create a fun post of steemit redesign. Just for fun. Haha. Making a buzz of this issue maybe could attract others UI/UX designers to join the fun 😁

Sounds like a great idea! I’m down 😀 #steemitredesign

Agree with everything you've written. I've had ppl sign up only to get frustrated and quit before they even set up their profile all the way.

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Yea, whenever you have these huge friction points it's not a question of if people will drop off, it's how many, and with how rough these are on Steem, if we had the tools to see analytics on this, a 90% dropoff rate wouldn't surprise me.

There are benefits to a daunting learning curve tho. Folks that end up here tend to be fairly intelligent. There's a notable IQ gap between Steem based bloggers and other platforms, IMHO. I can get pretty frustrated on other platforms because of that very thing, and almost like the fact that barrier exists.


Also, the best data I've seen on retention has come from @paulag, and the last figure I recall was about 7.5% of users would remain after 1 year.

urgh! That is not a great retention rate. While I can relate to what you are saying about having a more educated userbase, I think that the overall value would certainly be better with more people using the platform. The way it is now this is highly unlikely because it is very difficult to search for content you are interested in using the current categories and what not. I struggle to find things I am interested in because the UX is really quite bad.

I wish I had answers :(

I actually agree regarding our userbase, quite strongly. Communities self organize for various reasons, and we all have room on Steem to coexist to our mutual benefit.

User experience is alot.

Personally you bring up great points.

Except one. The tribalism and the negative crowd on steemit.

Killer thoughts and great job!

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UX seems like a dorky way to say something we've already been learning about and using for centuries, but the gist of your article here made sense to me. Plenty of good points, well thought out.

Excellent review hope @Partiko will lead the way for UX improvements, ASAP!

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It feels like @partiko set their sights on a limited set of functionalities and focused on making those really good. I think they've done a good job on that front, but I think the next step is imagining Partiko as if it were a standalone app. So providing users with EVERYTHING they need all within that app, from buying, to powering up, to selling, as well as account creation. When that becomes the norm, world domination is right around the corner.

I agree, is @Partiko hearing this? 😀

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I agree. It is difficult to convince even seasoned social media pros to try it simply because of the difficulty in setting up the account. In addition, once you have set up the account, there isn't much reward happening until you have been at it for quite some time.

I started in September last year and I think I have a fair handle on all of it now. It took some effort to figure out how to buy more Steem. Now I do it routinely. However, at the beginning it was a very tentative process.

Ultimately we're dealing with a lot of really new technology, and that's great and exciting, but we don't need to hit a brand new user with everything at once. We should think about a gentle on ramp for these users, because at the end of the day the things that sells Steem the best, is the experience of using Steem. So all we need to do is get them here, and do our best to make it a good experience. If people are enjoying themselves, the technical aspects of Steem will sell themselves.

I've been testing appics for two weeks now. Yes, they have the best user experience of steem IMO. It's intuitive. I hope it will be more smooth in the next release.

Great article!

This post was shared in the Curation Collective Discord community for curators, and upvoted and resteemed by the @c-squared community account after manual review.
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This is a great post and well-written. It presents the main problem very clearly and I would love to resteem it to let more people see it. WHERE has the resteem button gone?!!!! DANG; I think it leaves after post pay-out! So posts have NO VALUE once they have been paid out? I strongly disagree. Information ALWAYS holds value. Another UX mishap?

Yes, there’s apparently some resource reason, but nobody who’s using the platform cares about that. They’re just wondering why it doesn’t work in a way that makes logical sense.

I think that all of us at Steemit have experienced the same thing. It is an open secret.

It's like feeling abandoned to your own fate. If you do not have someone to guide you in your first steps, the beginning can be quite hard.

Applications need to develop user-centric features, not technology. Technology is a tool for service to users. It is not the end in itself.

This is where the essence of everything lies.
And not only the new Dapps are the ones that should focus on improving the UX. It is the same Steemit, who needs it urgently.

All best, Piotr.

I would love to upvote it but I drained my voting power (below 70%) so I need to recharge it first. Till next time :)

Thanks @crypto.piotr :) No problem, I'm just glad people are sharing it. That's a lot more valuable to me.

Makes complete sense. I couldn't agree with you more.
I think you missed the login process as well which is pretty terrible as of yet.

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And there's me thinking the hassle is just part of steem's character'.

But seriously, an excellent but daunting breakdown of what should be some of the key goals for steem. Hopefully we can find some way of rewarding people to actually get on this massively important to do list!

A lot of things on this list would be good use-cases for worker proposals.

It’s not an accident that I’m creating this post right before the launch of the WPS. 😉

100% .. When Steem Monsters was only a few days old I suggested to the founders that they invest in some market research and start with a focus group around the... UX!

I suppose for everyone that understands this, we've all just gotta be broken records to keep it in the devs head that it's SUPER important.

Man, we're on the same page... like you I'm a visual communicator/graphic designer and since I started using Steemit I've had those same complaints. The user experience is very poorly focused and difficult to learn for many, that's why so many users even after waiting so long to have their account write a couple of posts and never come back.

Yes, I've invited people here and had that same story. I can tell them about the merits of Steem until the cows come home, but at the end of the day it's on us to make it fun, easy, and friendly.

Too true most the people i try and get to join can't get past the sign up process or lose their password.

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I wanted to resteem this post, but what I got was a dropdown vith the voters. Not a very good UX.

Haha, well looks like it worked, I got a notification it was resteemed. Thanks!

Highly rEsteemed!

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 9.35.29 PM.png

I have to agree, too many things are 'hard' to do for the average Facebook goon, and it's not going to change until you can click 'BUY' and it does it all for you.

One day, it will happen. Someone could do it, if they wanted too.

It's absolutely necessary that it becomes brain dead easy. We're not trying o put people on Mars, this is totally doable, we've just gotta get our collective shit together and execute.

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