As an everyday consumer, can you rely on exchanges to facilitate a positive overall experience when discovering Bitcoin for the first time?
This is a question we at Cointelegraph have been asking ourselves a lot recently. Following publication of our extensive reviews series
, which evaluates 10 of the most well-known exchanges in detail, we thought it was only reasonable to test our own data.
As such, this series of articles will test the top five exchanges under review anonymously, allowing us to see if the user experience matches their credentials. As well as performing some basic operations, we will also evaluate features most likely to be used by first-time users, such as registration, account setup and account funding, in order to see how today’s exchanges really compare for mainstream adoption.
First under the microscope was hitbtc, a relatively new exchange which nevertheless boasts some impressive high-end technical features and a sanitized user interface.
In our review, we noted that hitbtc was able to provide a well-rounded experience for both novice and advanced users, and thus sent one of our journalists to test out its basic functions in regular operation.
- Account setup;
- Account verification;
- Account deposits and withdrawals (fiat and cryptocurrency);
- User support system.
Entering the site and registering for an account was very straightforward, as might be expected. The signup button is not visible on the initial homepage view but is the first item to load on scrolling. A dialogue box then loads, inviting basic user details to be entered. Once successful, an email with a confirmation link is sent to the desired address, as is standard with most registration procedures. The email arrived immediately and contained a one-click activation link, which loaded the user account.
Upon signing in, the trading page which loads can be fairly daunting for a first-time user. Hitbtc’s division of accounts into ‘main’ and ‘trading’ results in balance fields being duplicated, creating a sea of figures in addition to the technical trading charts.
The information necessary to provide in order to start trading more than crypto-crypto must be entered using the ‘account’ button at the top of the page. There is also a separate ‘settings’ button which is potentially confusing, but information on that page is laid out clearly so that it is obvious which functions are able to be changed using it.
For fiat functionality, the account page is well-thought out, with appropriate sections for each stage making information easily available.
Linking a bank account was straightforward enough, but the restrictions on new accounts (and others) are noticeably not easily viewable. Instead, it is relegated to a discreet link at the foot of the page. Once a bank account is linked, a deposit must be made from it to the hitbtc account, whereupon trading can commence subject to various limits. These are restrictive without proof of address and ID documents being provided due to AML (anti money-laundering) regulations beyond the control of exchanges, but are considerably relaxed once this is done.
Desposits and withdrawals
BTC was deposited from a Blockchain.info wallet for conversion into Euro and withdrawal to the bank account linked. BTC funds entered the main account within seconds and were then transferred to the trading account for conversion.
The BTC balance was to be converted in full. Trading takes place on the ‘terminal’ page, with the amount to be converted entered below the live exchange rates information, allowing clear confirmation of the current rate when clicking the all-important ‘sell’ button.
Following conversion, the withdrawal feature is used on the account page, with the available balance in EUR also shown. Funds must first be sent to the main account from the trading account, something which seems confusing but for which hitbtc has provided easily-visible help.
Once funds had been successfully sent from hitbtc (see below), the transfer was very quick, even reaching a non-EUR denominated bank account within 48 hours for a SEPA transfer fee of 0.90EUR.
User's account tab
User support system
While attempting to complete the withdrawal, it happened that the hitbtc website became unavailable. Following an email to the support team, a response was had within around 15 minutes which confirmed the service would be available again within several hours due to maintenance. While inconvenient, this promise was made good and around two hours afterwards, the site could be accessed once more, seemingly with full functionality.
Another test of customer support came when our journalist required the payment to be canceled at short notice. A response was similarly had within 15 minutes or so, and while the payment had already left hitbtc and thus could not be canceled, this aptly demonstrated the efficiency with which the exchange was running, even following considerable technical difficulties.
The Quickstart guide
For an exchange which revolves around state-of-the-art technology and advanced tools, hitbtc’s interface is perhaps the most well-conceived as it organizes vast amounts of information in such a way that even novices can navigate the site without too much confusion.
Explanations of some of the more unclear aspects of basic trading, specifically the ‘main’ and ‘trading’ account setup, is perhaps necessary but easily available and clearly explained in the ‘getting started’ section. In all, hitbtc provides an excellent user experience for a new exchange, and while there are clearly still some kinks to be ironed out, this is to be expected; the organization behind the scenes is doing everything right.
Keep checking Cointelegraph for the next part in our beginners’ exchange evaluation series!