Many of the most popular decentralized finance protocols are getting a front-end makeover, but will the new looks and sleeker interfaces bring widespread adoption?
Critics have long held that the barrier to entry for DeFi is significant, both for the amount of knowledge required to participate as well as for oftentimes clunky interfaces. However, a spate of projects including Sushiswap, Curve, Yearn.finance, BadgerDAO and Synthetix have recently rolled out or are planning new front-end releases, ones which may make interacting with the protocols easier.
The new looks are occasionally coinciding with significant technical developments. Synthetix’s successful layer-two launch led to a sundowning of the popular Mintr app in favor of a new “Staking” front end, and Yearn’s once-simplistic user interface was overhauled with some distinct stylistic touches that coincided with the launch of v2 vaults.
Yearn also commissioned a slick promotional video to celebrate the launch:
According to 0xMaki, a core contributor at Sushiswap, the promotional and UI efforts are a sign of healthy growth.
“I think it doesn't matter at the beginning but the more your project becomes serious and you want to mature,” he said. “It should be the focus #1 because users who aren't power users are never going to join our ecosystem otherwise.”
0xMaki said that Sushiswap is beginning to focus on marketing in tandem with development, with a 2021 roadmap that includes an effort on original content from a dedicated design team, as well as user education initiatives.
“We just hired 4 new core devs and are about to add for the first time contributors in the comms/ops/design in a fulltime manner,” he said. “It will exciting to see how they can perform when given this type of responsibilities.”
But Brian Flynn of RabbitHole, a DeFi participation incentivization platform, isn’t convinced a new lick of paint on the front end will be enough to generate a significant uptick in new users.
“Many would say having a great UI/UX would help adoption, but the reality is that anyone can create an interface for underlying smart contracts in DeFi,” he said. “Solving scalability is more important for the adoption of DeFi rather than having good design.”
Moreover, he implied marketing may not create real, "sticky" users who routinely leverage a protocol over an extended period of time.
“Marketing materials are generally low cost to produce and can generate a ton of hype & engagement. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, just an observation.”
0xMaki agrees that the rise in users from new UIs will ultimately pale in comparison to more important events, such as integrations with traditional finance rails. But until scalability and integrations come more clearly into the picture, he recommends a balanced, tempered approach to user experience and marketing:
“It is fun, not over done (no need to post daily, yo), good marketing is meaningful and educative. This is just how I see it bringing hype + visuals from time to time :)”