How one designer is bringing blockchain to the masses using interactive prototyping
Blockchain is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the tech world. Almost daily you can read articles about the rise and fall of cryptocurrencies or how blockchain is going to transform the world as we know it.
Often heard in unison with the word bitcoin, blockchain is the underlying technology behind crypto. But it can be applied in other ways too.
Essentially, blockchain is a trusted, distributed ledger stored on a peer-to-peer network with shared business processes. Blockchain helps remove any intermediaries to manage processes (like foreign exchange of money, for example.)
It’s growing in popularity and slowly entering the mainstream. As more people come to understand blockchain, they can see it has uses outside of strict cryptocurrency.
Scale, without the risk
If there’s someone who understands its potential, it’s Zac Parker, VP Product at Provide Technologies, a blockchain startup in Atlanta, Georgia.
He is a man of many talents. Zac’s career has taken him from software trainer to business analyst to product owner. He also dabbles in UX / product design and it’s said he’s got an uncanny knack for finding the strangest software bugs. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking and spending time with his family.
Now, he’s on a mission to make blockchain accessible to more businesses using Justinmind as the critical design prototyping tool.
“We’re building a blockchain platform as a service. It’s a way to rapidly prototype and scale blockchain applications at very low cost and with minimum resources.
Unless you happen to know how to write the code yourself, the cost of development would almost certainly be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and potentially millions of dollars. If you don’t know how to write the code, the time to develop your own blockchain would very likely take several months (potentially a year).”
Zac and his team understand the power that blockchain has to potentially transform many traditional business processes, and that’s what propelled them to develop Provide, a Blockchain Platform as a Service company.
Out with the old, in with the new
Let’s imagine you want to do a transaction with somebody in a foreign country who speaks a foreign language.
Quite quickly points of friction start to reveal themselves. Translation services, signings, lawyers, contracts, trust levels among the parties involved… very quickly the money starts to add up and the time it takes to complete a transaction is enough to put anybody off doing business.
The integration of blockchain technology with smart contracts breaks down those barriers. They are a way for people all over the planet to do business. Language differences are less costly to overcome than they were ten years ago.
There is one fairly sizable problem, though. Finding developers who can write code for blockchain can be very expensive. And implementing blockchain processes takes significant time. This puts the technology out of reach for most development teams.
“Finding a developer capable of writing code for blockchain development is exceedingly difficult, and even after having found one, the cost to employ that one person is astonishingly high.
Most enterprise applications require several people like that to produce anything within a reasonable timeframe.
Our approach is to enable enterprise-class businesses to rapidly prototype and scale applications on blockchain using our web interface and their existing software development team to accomplish most of the work.”
Provide makes blockchain accessible to more people by simplifying the initial development requirements and dramatically reducing the startup costs.
Finding the perfect prototyping tool
Finding a tool to help you bring your ideas to life isn’t as easy as it may first appear. Before Zac found Justinmind through a Google search, he had been relying on PowerPoint to explain his ideas to his colleagues. But the limited ability of PowerPoint was enough for Zac.
“Originally, I started using PowerPoint because it was the most flexible option, but the amount of time it took to create something like a webpage with any semblance of functionality was ridiculous. Still, visual aids are great for developers because it keeps the guesswork to a minimum on where things should be positioned and how they ought to look.”
That’s when Zac decided to make the switch.
“I used several programs over the years. They mostly worked well, but they were all limited in different ways. In my searches, I found Justinmind. The first time I used it, I said this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Where have you been all my life?!”
The leap from PowerPoint to bona fide prototyping tool was a big one.
It meant Zac could transform his ideas into prototypes in a way that he wasn’t able to before. Now he can create multiple screens, take advantage of powerful events and use built-in sharing capabilities.
These prototypes were understood by developers better than any PowerPoint ever was.
“I started creating a few screens with it at first, and I really appreciated the pre-built UI elements (which I had to been building by hand in PowerPoint for years), but I was delighted when I discovered the Events tool. Everything about Justinmind screams awesome. I love it.”
From initial idea to interactive prototype
Using Events, Zac can get the interaction right for his prototype. He can have an idea and express it directly in the tool.
“What I liked about Justinmind when I first started using it was how easy it was to make sense of it.”
Zac used Justinmind to build the entire interface for his blockchain product. Multiple variations and hundreds of iterations resulted in Provide.
Zac Parker, transforming blockchain one prototype at a time
Getting approval or showing a new design to his partner is a cakewalk. By adding his partner as a reviewer, collaboration is effortless. Justinmind’s widget and customizable libraries allow Zac to try out a limitless amount of variations of his design.
“I’ve spent hundreds of hours in there, trying to get the right look. Changing it. Mixing up things.”
Justinmind is intuitive and easy-to-use. Zac says it’s the halfway point between PowerPoint and an Adobe-style product. Complex enough to allow you to create rich interactions, but not so simple that creating your vision becomes tedious.
“We built the entire interface for our product with Justinmind. We would frequently iterate on a design concept over a screenshare until we were happy with the look and feel. Using that design, I was able to define my user stories and capture design points that likely would have turned out poorly in a first iteration without it, which saved us a lot of development time.”
“It has just the right level of complexity to be powerful, without needing a Master’s degree to decipher it.”
Zac and the team at Provide will be presenting at EthAtlanta, a blockchain conference that wants to bring together business leaders and senior hack teams to explore use-cases, network and create working software for media & entertainment, supply chain, healthcare, payments and automotive.
Find out more about the event here.