Coinbase UX teardown: 5 fails and how to fix them

Digital currency exchange Coinbase has probably done more than most to push cryptocurrencies closer to the mainstream, earning an $8 billion valuation by private investors along the way. The company is reportedly eyeing a public listing next year, and is inarguably doing a lot of things right. However, that doesn’t mean its product experience is perfect. In fact, far from it.

In our latest UX teardown, with the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of Coinbase’s biggest user experience failings and offer ways to fix them. Many of these lessons can be applied to other existing digital products or ones you are currently building, including the need to avoid the “Get Started” trap, the importance of providing feedback, why familiarity often wins and other principles.

The ‘Get Started’ trap

Only use CTAs like “get started” or “learn more” if you’re actually teaching users something.

The fail: Coinbase doesn’t actually have any onboarding — but it looks like it does. It has a very prominent “get started” CTA, which actually just puts bitcoins in your basket. This isn’t helping you get started, it’s nothing more than an onboarding Trojan horse.

The fix: It’s simple: Don’t lie in your CTAs. You wouldn’t have “Email Support” as a CTA, and then just show the user a bunch of FAQs.

Steve O’Hear: This feels like another classic “bait and switch” and reeks of dark pattern design. However, what if it actually works to get users over the line and purchase their first bitcoin? Growth hackers, rejoice, no?

Peter Ramsey: You’re absolutely right, this may convert better. From a business point of view, this could be a brilliant little growth hack. However, something converting well doesn’t mean it was a good experience for the user. Look at clickbait-y journalism — it gets more eyeballs, but people aren’t generally happy with what they read.

I’m convinced that in the long term having a great product will perform better than frustrating short-term growth hacks.

Feedback architecture

As a general rule of thumb, all “states” — e.g., success/failure of an action — need to provide feedback to the user.

The fail: After adding a card, you click “Add Card,” and … it takes you back to the homepage. There’s no notice if it was successful or not. The user has no awareness if the action they were trying to do failed and they need to do it again. This is a real problem with digital products: All feedback needs to be thought of and built.

The fix: During the design phase, consider statuses and what the user will want feedback on. For example, if they’ve just added an item to their “wishlist,” how will you show them that the action was successful?

Welcome raises $1.4M to streamline the hiring process

Thinking back to the last time I accepted a job, I can’t recall actually reading any of the material that was sent over. I think I skimmed some docs to make sure the numbers written down matched what I had been told over the phone, but after that it was a blur of digital signing and emailing and precisely no due diligence from myself.

Not great, really. I bet that your experience accepting new gigs has been somewhat similar. In startups, jobs are offered with exotic types of pay, chock full of startup stock options in all their 409a and vesting-period glory. Some folks might not really understand what is being offered. Like what the value of their full comp package really is, when performance pay and other sweeteners are stacked on top of base rates. With remote learning in the equation, it’s even more confusing.

This is the market space that Welcome, a startup that is announcing a $1.4 million fundraise, wants to fix.

The company told TechCrunch it is a “first offer management and closing platform.” Its service helps provide a clear picture of total comp to candidates, helping them accept or deny an offer that they can fully understand.

Here’s a screengrab, from the candidate’s side of the employer-employee divide:

If “offer management and closing” sounds like a small niche to target, it both is and is not.

It is, in that if Welcome stayed in its current market-position forever it would have a smaller product target than most startups. But the company has plans to expand its product-set over time. For example, its co-founders Nick Gavronsky and Rick Pereira explained that Welcome wants to offer real-time salary data in the future, based on the information that will flow through its service.

Want to close a engineer in North Carolina with a high level of confidence in the offer? Welcome should be able to tell you, later on, what a comp package should look like if you want make sure the candidate will accept.

Gavronsky and Pereira have experience in product and people work, respectively, making their union at Welcome a good fit. The company’s team is currently just four folks, though the startup expects that it will double in size this year. The capital it raised in January, but is only talking about now, is making the hiring possible.

Now, the $1.4 million number is pretty dated. Normally I’d skip over a round so far from the past, but Welcome caught my eye as I’ve recently written about another HRtech provider, Sora, and the Welcome deal felt like an illustrative event: This is how Seed rounds are announced, long after the fact, which makes reporting on Seed-stage trends really hard. Something to keep in mind.

Welcome is barking up a winsome tree with its product, not only because the offer/offer acceptance process is garbage today — let’s email some PDFs and hand a candidate off between departments! — but because it has seen strong early demand from potential customers. Its service is currently in a private alpha that was a bit oversubscribed, though the company is not yet charging for its service. (Welcome will be a SaaS play, priced on company size, which seems reasonable).

Past all that, what’s exciting about Welcome is that if it can get a number of customers aboard when it makes it to beta or launch, the company will have placed itself in a position where it can expand in several directions. It could, for example, extend its feature set to help with pre-onboarding or onboarding itself, given that it already knows a new candidate and their new employer. Of course, the startup wants to talk more about what it’s building today, but it’s also fun to look ahead.

That’s enough on Welcome, we’ll chatter about them again when they formally launch, or share some neat growth metrics. Until then, good luck getting into the alpha.

Leverage AI to optimize customer service outcomes

As offices worldwide shift to remote work, our interactions with customers and colleagues have evolved in tandem. Professionals who once relied on face-to-face communication and firm handshakes must now close deals in a world where both are rare. Coworkers we once sat beside every day are now only available over Slack and Zoom, changing the nature of internal communication as well.

While this new reality presents a challenge, the advancement of key technologies allows us to not just adapt, but thrive. We are now on the precipice of the biggest revolution in workplace communication since the invention of the telephone.

It’s not enough to simply accept the new status quo, particularly as the overall economic climate remains tenuous. Artificial intelligence has much to offer in improving the way we speak to one another in the social distance era, and has already seen wide adoption in certain areas. Much of this algorithmic work has gone on behind the scenes of our most-used apps, such as Google Meet’s noise-canceling technology, which uses an AI to mute certain extraneous sounds on video calls. Other advances work in real-time right before our eyes — like Zoom’s myriad virtual backgrounds, or the automatic transcription and translation technology built into most video conferencing apps.

This kind of technology has helped employees realize that, despite the unprecedented shift to remote work, digital conversations do not just strive to recreate the in-person experience — rather, they can improve upon the way we communicate entirely.

It’s estimated that 65% of the workforce will be working remotely within the next five years. With a more hands-on approach to AI — that is, using the technology to actually augment everyday communications — workers can gain insight into concepts, workflows and ideas that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Your customer service experience

Roughly 55% of the data companies collect falls into the category of “dark data”: information that goes completely unused, kept on an internal server until it’s eventually wiped. Any company with a customer service department is invariably growing their stock of dark data with every chat log, email exchange and recorded call.

When a customer phones in with a query or complaint, they’re told early on that their call “may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.” Given how cheap data storage has become, there’s no “maybe” about it. The question is what to do with this data.