Thinking Beyond UI — A Simple Model to Improve Mobile UX in Web3

6 min readDec 22, 2022

Mobile user experience (UX) in web3 has historically been a challenge, as the technology is still relatively new and many of the tools and interfaces available for web3 applications are not optimized for mobile use. This can make it difficult for users to access and interact with web3 applications on their mobile devices, which can be a significant barrier to adoption.

Additionally, the complexity of web3 technology can make it difficult for designers & developers to create intuitive and seamless mobile experiences for their users. It is therefore a priority for the web3 community to solve these issues and improve mobile UX in order to make web3 more accessible and user-friendly for a wider audience.

There are many new elements that separate web3 from web2 — gas fees, tokens, wallets, smart contracts, and much more. To create a smooth experience with all these elements, we need to think beyond just the UI. There are levels to this.

Photo by Etheric on Dribbble

The Layers of Web3 User Experience

To improve mobile UX for web3, we need to tackle all these layers, not just the UI. These layers can be broadly classified into four categories:

  1. Visual layer: the appearance and aesthetics of the web3 application, including the layout, color scheme, typography, and overall visual design. This layer is important because it can affect how users perceive and engage with the application.
  2. Functional layer: the specific features and functions of the web3 application, including how it performs tasks and provides value to users. This layer is important because it determines the utility and usability of the application.
  3. Access layer: the various ways in which users can access and interact with the web3 application, including through different devices and browsers. This layer is important because it determines how easy it is for users to use the application and how widely it can be accessed.
  4. Technology layer: the underlying technology that powers the web3 application, including the protocols and frameworks used to build it. This layer is important because it determines the stability and scalability of the application.

Improving UX at all of these layers is important in order to create web3 applications that are intuitive, easy to use, and provide value to users.

Image Credits: John Crabb and UX Collective

The User Journey

Think of a normal web2 app that you have on your phone right now -

The UI of that app is just the final piece in a long chain of experiences that starts in the real world and goes through all sorts of different physical and digital spaces. It involves all kinds of hardware and software, and eventually, you end up tapping on a button that someone designed.

For example, you want to play music on your phone, so you open your music app. But your wanting to play music was prompted by something in your physical surrounding — perhaps you’re in the car or at a party.

The “UX” of this experience begins long before you take the phone out of your pocket.

This mental model is understood in web2 applications. Apps invest time & resources into thoroughly understanding user behavior and psychology, and attempt to trigger your need to use their app before you even use them.

This is under-appreciated when building for web3. Going back to the fundamentals, let’s have a look at the Nielsen-Normal Model - a holistic UX model.

Holistic user experience (UX) models are frameworks that aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the user experience. These models typically take into account a wide range of factors that can impact the user experience, such as the user’s emotions, needs, and behavior.

By considering the user’s experience from this perspective, UX designers can create more effective and engaging products, services, and experiences.

The Nielsen-Norman Model for User Experience

The Nielsen-Norman model is a framework for understanding and evaluating the user experience of a product or service. It was developed by usability experts Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman, who are known for their work on usability and user-centered design.

This model dives into the ocean of a user’s mind and their relationship with a company or product. There are 3 levels to it:

  1. The single-interaction level
  2. The journey level
  3. The relationship level

By considering these three dimensions of the user experience, designers can create products and services that are aesthetically pleasing, emotionally engaging, and functionally effective.

Image Credits: Nielsen Norman Group

Single-Interaction Level

This level has to do with the experience a person has while using a device to perform a task.

Interaction-level UX is all about designing a single, specific interaction that a user has with a company to accomplish a task. This could be anything from navigating screens, creating an account, editing details, learning about the product, etc.

It’s all about creating a smooth and enjoyable experience for the user in whatever way they’re interacting with a product. Smooth & enjoyable experiences are good signs that users will come back and use your product. Deep research into user psychology & visual design is essential to creating these smooth experiences.

Journey Level

The next level is the journey level. It’s the entire experience that the user goes through to accomplish a goal.

The journey level of UX is all about designing the overall experience that a customer has as they work towards a goal over time. For example, buying & selling an NFT. The entire experience a user has — from buying to listing it for sale to finishing the sale.

Most customer journeys involve a series of related interactions, and designing a good experience at this level means paying extra attention to things like making sure the messaging is consistent across channels, creating smooth transitions between channels, and having a cohesive look and feel.

It also requires making sure that the back-end technology is integrated well so that the customer can move between channels without any hiccups.

Relationship Level

The final level refers to all the interactions between a user and the product/company. This level could be thought of as the Customer Experience level.

The relationship level of UX is all about designing the overall experience that a customer has with a company over the course of their relationship.

Instead of just looking at a single interaction or journey, this level is concerned with the person’s entire experience as a user of the product. It’s all about creating a positive impression and making sure that the user has a great experience from start to finish.

For example, the combined experience of using a wallet — ease of onboarding, creating your wallet, conducting transactions, depositing money, signing transactions, troubleshooting, etc. The whole nine yards.

To create a great relationship-level UX, it’s important to have good experiences at the interaction and journey levels, but it takes more than that. You need to think about how all of the different pieces fit together.

It’s about making sure everything flows smoothly and there are no rough transitions between different interactions and journeys. All of these things come together to create a truly great relationship-level experience.

Think Beyond UI

Photo by Matt Ridley on Unsplash

When we talk about improving mobile web3 UX, we often limit our conversations to UI/UX. In order to truly improve the mobile web3 user experience, we need to start thinking beyond just the user interface, and toward the entirety of the customer experience.

In other words, think beyond the Single-Interaction level and all the way up to the Relationship level.

Take a truly holistic approach to user experience — it’s the key to creating powerful mobile experiences in web3.




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