Five Ways to Improve Blockchain Usability

Are you striving to succeed in blockchain? Looking for an edge? Here are five usability tactics that turned a small startup into a global sensation.

Back in the 1990’s there was a company that helped millions of people discover the internet. They led Microsoft and generated billions in investment. Part of why they were successful is also key to your success in blockchain.

The company I’m referring to is Netscape. Not only did they create the world’s first user friendly web browser, they captured 90% of the market. If it hadn’t been for Microsoft they might still be around. So what can you learn from them?

Blockpass CMO Hans Lombardo says there’s a new docudrama from National Geographic that tells the Netscape story. He believes the biggest problem in blockchain is also one of the same challenges Netscape faced – usability.

How to Solve the Biggest Problem in Blockchain

It’s interesting that one of the oldest books on usability is still one of the best. “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug written in 2000 continues to be a top rated book.

Krug’s 5 basic usability principles seem so obvious it’s easy to overlook their brilliance. Intended for the web, they’re just as applicable to your blockchain product or service. Let’s review them.

Krug’s 1st Law – Don’t Make Me Think

Krug’s first law is that a user’s experience should be effort free. You should make it self-evident what people need to do next. One way the Netscape browser did this was by underlining hypertext links. That may seem obvious now, but it wasn’t then.

With great usability your app is more likely to get chosen over others. But it must be self-explanatory. Nothing important should be more than two clicks away. Further, you should speak the user’s language and be consistent.

Krug suggests you imagine a thought bubble appearing over people’s heads whenever they’re forced to think. Reduce their options until there are none and you’ll have great usability.

2nd Law – How We Really Use the Web

Krug’s second law is also known as the K.I.S.S. principle, (Keep it simple stupid!). We’re all guilty of overthinking things at times while expecting everyone to understand everything we say. In reality, they may only spend a few seconds scanning our information before taking action.

Studies show people click on whatever first catches their attention. Netscape’s early version leveraged this principle by using directory buttons like “What’s Cool.” Krug says an actual user’s experience is more like someone driving by a billboard at 60 miles an hour.

  • Users don’t read, they scan. They’re on a mission
  • They choose the first reasonable option
  • They don’t figure things out, they muddle through

3rd Law – Billboard Design 101

If people are going to use with your app or website like it’s a billboard, you may as well start designing it that way. Tell users what you want them to know (and what they need to know) as fast as you can. Here are four usability tactics to try:

  • Conventions
  • Visual hierarchies
  • Spacial organization
  • Content scanabilty

Grouping like items together can help avoid clutter. Further, you should make your copywriting more scannable by using the headings to tell the basic story. Then someone can scan copy and still get an overview of the story without reading the whole copy. People only read books, they scan everything else. Netscape applied Krug’s third law by using background patterns as visual cues.

4th Law – Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

The fourth law says you should make user actions brief, timely and unavoidable. And don’t add more information than absolutely necessary.

The word game “Twenty Questions,” had a classic first question. “Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?” Krug says simple multiple-choice questions like these involve very little thinking. Netscape offered a Prospective view which showed a user the nature of the content on the website they’d be visiting.

While two clicks are the gold standard for usability, you may need more. The book says as long as you give users a clear path to follow you can squeeze in more clicks. Netscape used a breadcrumb trail for easier navigation.

5th Law – Omit Needless Words

To honor Krug’s fifth law of making every word count I’ll keep this section as brief as possible. Below are his best three tips, and you can go here to find a Netscape example.

  • Reduce the noise level
  • Make useful content more prominent
  • Shorten copy so it all gets read

Are You Headed for a Netscape Moment?

Steve Krug’s classic book offers timeless advice. Pick up a copy so your users can think less, and you can succeed more. Further, watch the new docudrama series about Netscape for a bit of inspiration.

There’s no reason why your blockchain product can’t become the next rising star of Silicon Valley, even if you live in Albuquerque. But watch out for Microsoft. Their new Blockchain Workbench and cloud computing platform lets anyone develop, test and deploy a blockchain app in only a few days.

RELATED: This article appeared in The Enterprise Blockchain Insider

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Derek Little
Derek Little is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of He reports on business-to-business enterprise technology that is changing the world. As owner of, he provides marketing consulting, podcasting and copywriting services.