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Interview with Shawn Roller, Co-Founder of GeroWallet and UX Researcher

I interviewed Shawn Roller, Co-Founder of GeroWallet and prominent UX researcher who has worked for Google Stadia and NASA in the past. The topic of our discussion focuses on UX and its importance in the crypto space.

1. Could you give a brief overview of Gero wallet, current themes that you’re working on and perhaps the biggest challenges you face?

GeroWallet started with UX in mind. There is a major lack of focus for user experience in blockchain, Cardano, DeFi. Many of the projects are created by devs for devs. What I mean is they are developed with like minded people in mind. We are building with a focus on the user first. Here’s is a clip for inspiration:

We will be an all in one solution to meet users goals throughout DeFI/RealFi. Instead of requiring users to navigate across several sites and use many different endpoints, pay several transaction fees, enter passwords. We will be providing everything in one platform. All with a focus on UX backed by research and insights. A challenge is how to make the eUTXO model digestible for an average user. The blockchain is rigid and that’s a strength but people are not rigid and want to go with the pathway of least resistance. The normal account banking system makes it really easy to use currency by swiping a card. The goal is to make Cardano that easy. It’s going to take a long time. Our hands are tied in many ways but we try our best to be creative.

2. In terms of UX/UI, we’ve come a long way in recent years by improving the designs and user experiences of decentralized applications – how much focus do you think the industry puts on UX and do you think it’s enough?

75% of the industry says they focus on UX but most don’t truly understand what it means. Many think it’s just aesthetics but really that’s only a small slice of the pie. In reality, everything is a part of the user experience. I think a very small percentage focus on applying true UX principles to design and development. I suspect under 3%. The biggest UX teams I know of working in crypto are Coinbase, Robinhood, PayPal. They actually have full UX teams. I’ve never seen a UX researcher on a team outside of those 3. Most teams don’t really get it when it comes to UX. They just design something they like and look good but the problem with that is it’s subjective, it’s anecdotal. Great user experience comes from a user-centered approach with individuals versed in HCI, human factors, psychology that use design methods supported by scientific research and insights from experiments.

3. With the rise of new blockchains and huge networks surrounding these new communities, how important is it to integrate inter-chain and cross-chain swapping capabilities for dApp developers? Gero wallet prides itself on exactly that, how crucial is that aspect to the business?

It’s important to break down the barriers between chains. It’s the next step, it’s naturally the future. If we don’t support interoperability then others will. The restrictions between the chains don’t need to be there anyway. Many bridges are starting to come out now so it’s happening.

4. With your future plans to include fiat on and off ramps, do you maintain a relationship with regulators? and if so, could you talk a little bit about your experience with that?

We currently have a fiat on ramp now. We’re working with MoonPay to provide an off ramp as well. We will likely add additional options for fiat on/off ramps as well. With our partnership with MoonPay we are able to not worry about regulations. Our experience with the SEC and regulations has led us to incorporation outside of the United States. You can never be too careful. We expect there to be increased pressure on KYC to utilize crypto functionality.

5. Out of the browser extension, mobile app, and hardware wallets, which would you say was the most challenging to develop in terms of a successful user experience? Are there any particular challenges with any of them?

Actually staking was the most difficult to get to work and have a decent user experience. We still have room to improve. Before that it was the browser extension. Mainly because it was the first thing we put together. We had to figure out the organization of the team, how plutus/haskell worked, etc. Many things were new. Hardware wallet support has been tough but not as much as the extension. For mobile most of the work was already done from the extension.

6. What limitations in Metamask or other popular wallets do you see that Gero aims to improve on for its users?

Metamask is limited in functionality and user experience. They don’t even display NFTs properly. There are many principles that wallets and projects do that incorporate in general. Cardano wallets on average are some of the better ones. The teams are very passionate. But what is majorly lacking for Cardano wallet is the UX and ability to facilitate new users to Cardano. Most if not all offer way too much of a cognitive load, they are not accessibility friendly, there is a lack of transparency, communication, feedback, information architecture. I could write a whole report on each wallet. And admittedly we are not great either. But all things considered balance everything we can to provide the best wallet efficiently. If we had more time and money we could do amazing things. Unfortunately crypto is hyper competitive and we have to keep up to stay relevant.

7. You include a lot of information within wallet transactions to help users understand staking and other functions better. How do you balance giving the right amount of information and not putting users off with too much information?

Yes, for staking it was difficult. There is so much information we can provide but the extension is very limited in space. To initially launch the staking feature we chose to only provide the absolute most important information to get started staking. A beginner staking will not understand more of the information anyway. We just want to get them staking. There is very minimal risk involved with staking and it’s mostly to their own benefit. But we did include links to adapools for those that want more expert feedback. There’s no reason to invent the wheel when most people utilize adapools or for information. In the future we aim to improve it a lot more though.

8. Lastly, you’ve previously talked about your background in Psychology and how you’ve applied it in your previous work in video games development. What do you think is the greatest psychological barrier to widespread crypto adoption?

The first thing that comes to mind is education. Other things that come to mind is the stigma around “crypto”. I’ve started using the term digital assets to sound more real at least. Many people think it’s a scam, it’s not a physical thing so how could it work, it’s associated with crime etc. The reality is their native currency is robbing them and they don’t know any better. People are comfortable sticking with what they already know works and fiat mining.

Please follow Shawn on Twitter, here are his latest tweets:


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