Enterprise Ethereum

Designing Trust at Scale: Hiding Enterprise Blockchain Complexity in Products

Questions to ask when integrating design thinking into enterprise blockchain development and some measurements of success.
Bring Ethereum to Your Business

Let’s get it out of the way — people don’t trust blockchain.

Remember when you explained to your grandpa that depositing a check on a banking app is the same as having a teller at the bank do it? Remember those resistant proclamations about trusting a contraption with your life’s savings? Alright, now imagine trying to set grandpa up on MetaMask and stake some tokens for a financial investment.

Kind of makes you think, showing grandpa to use the ol’ banking app wasn’t so bad. But how do you get him, or yourself for that matter, to trust in the decentralized blockchain future?

You do that by design.

Specifically, by having design experts participate in co-driving blockchain product decisions.

Businesses live and die by the experiences of the customer. Good design will keep a user coming back, allowing the business to thrive and grow.

Enterprise-grade Ethereum projects are about meeting the users where they already are and it’s our responsibility to not turn them off completely as we continue to mature. The initial approach to the blockchain space was, “If we build it, they will come,” via dapps. However, that space is a long game largely inhabited by crypto-enthusiasts and hobbyists.

So what do we do for everyone else?

First, we’ve gotta keep these already comfy users satisfied. With emotions as the new currency and frictionless experiences a non-negotiable, we don’t stand a chance to get access to the dirt to plant our blockchain seeds without these considerations.

It’s time to get some dirt under our nails. And when it comes to Enterprise Ethereum we should approach the space with business value propositions as our crops. Even using the word ‘dapp’ sets us apart in a way that isolates and intimidates users instead of ushering them down the path of blockchain “being the better way.”

What Even Are Blockchain Problems?

Blockchain won’t solve all of your business problems, but certain issues make more sense than others. One question we ask frequently at ConsenSys Solutions, “Can you replace the word blockchain with distributed database?” If “Yes,” then it’s not the right fit.

However, there are enterprise business problems blockchain successfully solves. In order to graft Ethereum to your enterprise business, it’s essential we verify the strategy-problem match. The following statements are useful for determining if your enterprise has a potential fit for blockchain solutions:

  1. My business will reduce administrative costs by removing intermediaries and instead allow for direct reconciliation of payments with smart contract execution on the blockchain.
  2. My business will increase value by pushing only what needs to be pushed through smart contracts automating workflows based on need.
  3. My business will fend off competition by replacing corruptible people with incorruptible smart contracts.
  4. My business will expand its ecosystem by being a source of truth via immutable ledgers.

The gut check is to make sure you’re using the right tool for the right job. You don’t need a backhoe to plant your seed, but you still need to plant something to grow onto the Ethereum ecosystem.

Think Big, But Think Like A Scientist.

When building your Enterprise Blockchain Solution your North Star should be lofty, big and bright because this guides us all towards the underpinning goal of this technological revolution; transparent immutable trust.

By pushing the adoption of blockchain, we by proximity evoke social impact and disruptive change. As an individual enterprise you aren’t just building solutions for identity, or even sovereignty over your data, you’re making sure all refugees have an identity no matter where they are in the world.

And that’s amazing!

But solving the refugee crisis is so lofty and immeasurable that we must break this goal down into testable units to monitor and track progress. In other words, using a scientific method to evaluate such outcomes is a great place to start.

At ConsenSys Solutions we approach building client products with a blend of the scientific method, the lean impact model, and a healthy criticism when applying blockchain for enterprise problems. Our goal through employing our Discovery Phase is to get everyone aligned on vision, before initiating the more expensive build phase. This only works by incorporating design to co-define pragmatic outcomes along with success metrics against adoptions, conversion, and retention.

The Ruler For Measuring Enterprise Ethereum Success

Now that the method is clear, let’s talk about success.

Metrics so commonly prescribed in typical Web 2.0 models need to be thrown in the garbage and possibly lit on fire.

Defining success metrics for blockchain integration to your business looks closer to these examples:

  1. How decentralized are your firm’s transactions? Web 2.0 companies may perform thousands or millions of transactions a second, but how centralized are those entities?
  2. How transparent is your company? The more transparent you are, the less customers think you are hiding. Good open source utilization of on and off-chain activities will go a long way to building trust and customer loyalty.
  3. How is your company benefiting the world and how can blockchain improve your enterprise’s social impact? It may be hard to measure, but at least enterprises can start with the testable units we mentioned earlier.

In regards to the last metric, companies can start enhancing their social impact by becoming a participant in the blockchain ecosystem.

Many of us are in the blockchain industry to prove our hypothesis that Ethereum will help make the world a better place. As experts that have a guiding North Star and defined metrics for success, it’s our duty to help simplify blockchain and make it more accessible.

Making Enterprise Blockchain Development Accessible

Enterprise-focused Ethereum groups are actively working on some of the initial design complexities of blockchain for the end-user. However, we need to design for exceptional user experience when developing enterprise-grade blockchain solutions. Enterprise teams need toolboxes that are easy to understand so that companies can quickly deploy an army of “Buidlers” or blockchain engineers.

Before developer tools like Stripe came along and removed the complexity of storing credit cards, engineers had to navigate the nuances of PCI compliance. Stripe was vital in creating a tool designed by-and-for developers, which eliminated frequent security mistakes associated with handling and storing cards. Proper design and tooling enables efficiency and mass adoption for both users and enterprises.

Stripe was immensely successful because it invited design to the development table at the beginning. Starting with design as a co-driving force resulted in the development of functional tools that users were able to understand and work with.

The blockchain ecosystem needs to enable engineers, designers, and product managers alike to build without having to learn the nuances of blockchain transaction signing. This needs to naturally be secure, especially when dealing with the mainnet. The ecosystem needs to create tools, like standardized restful APIs which are familiar to existing 2.0 web developers and allow easy interaction with the Ethereum blockchain.

Don’t Forget Your Trust

ConsenSys Solutions is developing and implementing enterprise-grade solutions with key and wallet management. Our team invites UX and UI design to sit at the table from day one when developing blockchain solutions. From that foundation, the rest will begin to grow so enterprises can thrive and provide value for customers.

Bringing forth technology that promotes global trust and evokes systemic change is no small task. However, by reusing familiar methods that already work for application adoption, we can expedite the time in which it takes enterprises to adopt blockchain technology. By doing this, we can continue to focus on maturing the Ethereum ecosystem for enterprise while simultaneously working towards completing our grande vision.

For now, our North Star must be a beautiful marriage of engineering and design by combining functionality and usability.


This article memorializes a SXSW 2019 talk that Consensys Solutions members Alix Keller, Missy Kelley and Jonathan Belelieu presented about Designing Trust at Scale for enterprise focused Ethereum. This article was written by Jakob Haglof, Senior Product Designer at ConsenSys Solutions and Alix Keller, Enterprise Blockchain Product Leader at ConsenSys Solutions.

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