Let’s set the scene.
You’re a normie who has finally decided to give Web3 a go after reading about all its opportunities on the internet. Emboldened, you set up your MetaMask, a cryptocurrency wallet built on Ethereum – a major blockchain. You can’t wait to start using your crypto tokens to access a whole library of decentralized apps (dApps), which are Web3’s version of Web2 apps.
But you quickly run into difficulties. Firstly, you can’t use your Ethereum-based crypto tokens on a dApp you want to use. After digging around for many frustrating minutes, you realize that’s because the dApp is built on the Arbiturm blockchain. Arbitrum is a Layer 2 chain, meaning it technically supports the main chain Ethereum while simultaneously being separate from it.
To work around this setback, you are forced to make manual changes to Metamask. But matters are further compounded when you are hit with eye-watering gas fees – the price you pay to miners who execute your requests on the blockchain – to move your funds from Ethereum to Arbitrum.
You bite the bullet, hoping finally at long last you can actually use the dApp. But no! You moved USDT to arbitrum, but you need ETH to pay for gas to do anything. So you need to send ETH too, and once again pay the eye-watering gas fee. By now you can’t afford to use any of these dApps’ features and all your enthusiasm to try it has been sucked out.
Deeply frustrated by the obstacles you need to overcome, you give up on Web3 entirely, vowing to never use crypto again. Disheartened, you return instead to the familiar comfort and ease of Web2 applications.
Web3 user experience is still fraught with friction and frustration
The above scenario is one example of the frustrations that new users experience with dApps. Interfaces on many dApps are akin to something one would find on Windows 95, making them cumbersome to maneuver without technical understanding.
Moreover, executing what should be simple requests on a dApp, like using a token to purchase a non-fungible token (NFT), will require users to pay an additional gas fee which can sometimes exceed the value of the NFT itself. Average gas fees on Ethereum, which many dApps are built on, are around $46. This is 20 times more higher than any other chain.
There has been much hype about how Web3 was to usher in the next era of the web. DApps built on blockchains are decentralized, incorruptible and protect users’ privacy. This is in contrast to Web2 where users’ data is exploited by big tech firms. While all of this is true, the fact remains that dApps have a major user experience (UX) problem.
If we look at Web2 applications, there is rarely any friction when it comes to onboarding users. If someone wants to create an account on Facebook, all they need to do is fill in a digital form with their personal details and within seconds they have an account. Transferring money from one bank account to another on a mobile banking app requires minimal effort.
By contrast, moving an asset from one crypto wallet to another can leave you with a migraine.
If dApps are to fully realize their potential and become the next evolution of the Web, then the user experience needs to be seamless. This is what users are accustomed to from using Web2 services.
Of course, blockchain is an emerging technology, so flaws are to be expected. Having said that, it doesn’t mean Web3 developers can’t begin rectifying the onboarding complexities and UX pain points inherent in many DApps.
We have previously established that gas fees, particularly on Ethereum, can be very high and costly. As a result, the onboarding process for dApps is not only difficult but expensive.
Although the cost of gas fees on Ethereum can vary, due to several factors, ultimately fees are high because of congestion on the blockchain. Simply put, there are too many people using Ethereum-powered dApps. In order to execute all these transactions on Ethereum, miners need greater remuneration, resulting in high gas fees.
So far, those working on this high gas fee problem have turned to Layer 2 solutions. These are chains that operate on top of the Ethereum blockchain and transmit transactions as bundles, therefore paying only one gas fee for multiple transactions. This takes the burden off of the Ethereum chain and lowers the cost for users.
This has created a situation where there are multiple Layer 1 blockchains like Ethereum, Avalanche and others along with Layer 2 solutions that operate on them. Connecting these chains into a multi-chain operation for Web3 means higher scalability which also translates into lower gas fees as the congestion is spread across chains.
A gasless future
For Web3, the future will only be bright when it is gasless. Unfortunately, due to the massive computational effort that is still required to keep blockchains running, gas fees aren’t going to be completely eradicated anytime soon even with all our scaling solutions. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be offloaded elsewhere so users don’t have to pay.
Rather than requiring users to pay gas fees to do anything on a dApps, this cost can be absorbed by the app instead as part of operational investment. For example, traditional web2 dApps pay for cloud hosting and server costs themselves for all their user activity. If dApps can eliminate gas fees for users, by covering or sponsoring gas fees, this removes a major barrier to entry for new users who are dipping their toes into the world of Web3 for the first time.
Significantly reducing, or better yet, eradicating gas fees altogether is definitely a step in the right direction. But the issue of gas fees is not the only problem that new users experience with dApps.
Using dApps can be fraught with frustrations and this can be largely attributed to how users are required to use a dApp’s native token to do anything on it. If you’re a new user and you don’t have any ETH, then a lot of dApps in the Web3 ecosystem are unusable. This puts users in a difficult position of having to either swap any existing tokens they have for ETH or punish their digital wallet trying to purchase some.
To create an enjoyable experience on dApps, Web3 developers need to implement solutions within their applications that enable users to interact with dApps with any token they like. Whether it’s paying for gas fees or carrying out an action, users should have a choice in how they want to pay. By giving users options, rather than limiting users to only one token for payment, the user experience is not only smoother but significantly scales dApps’ accessibility.
Seamless multi-chain experience
This token payment option is not the only way that the current Web3 experience is siloed. The stand-alone nature of the different blockchains makes navigating and interacting with the space difficult.
Currently, people need to know the different chains, what they do and the specific tools needed to interact with each. A multi-chain experience would mean that a user wouldn’t even need to know which chain they are on while using it. Rather they would simply complete the tasks while the dApp takes care of the nuts and bolts in the background.
They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. In the case of Web3, imitating how Web2 developers streamline the UX experience is more than flattery – it’s a necessity. Making a comparison between Web2 and Web3 apps is unfair, seeing as how Web2 developers have had at least two decades to perfect the UX experience.
But in many ways, this is also a blessing for Web3 developers because the playbook for optimizing UX design has been established. The next step now is for Web3 builders to implement the right solutions into dApps to create a frictionless and effortless way for people who want to get in on the Web3 action without having to be a tech whizz or spend a fortune to do it.
The future of the web is still blockchain. It just needs to smooth out a few kinks.
About the author
Ahmed Al-Balaghi, CEO and Co-Founder of Biconomy, a multi-chain relayer network that simplifies the Web3 experience. As a developer platform, it empowers blockchain developers to enable a simplified transaction and onboarding experience for their Web3 project, is a company striving to bring simplicity to DeFi.
With over three years of experience within the blockchain industry, spanning China, the UK, and the UAE, Ahmed is working towards advancing a multi-chain future. He passionately believes that the future of the blockchain ecosystem will only be secured if all blockchains are able to integrate with each other.
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