This is MTRPLS, an unofficial iOS companion app for OpenBazaar. OpenBazaar is a decentralized marketplace for the buying and selling of goods and services. There are hundreds of people contributing to this open source project. I’m fascinated by the potential of this platform, which omits any sort of middleman during transactions. There is even a baked in arbitration layer that allows for conflict resolution. There is a powerful motive behind the potential to connect sellers directly with buyers and vice versa. It opens up a plethora of new opportunities in the space for discovery and creation. A truly democratized platform for the digital age.
The success of the OpenBazaar platform is paramount to a true mobile experience. As of currently, there is no mobile user interface for the platform. I set out to solve this challenge by crafting a companion app for OpenBazaar. You can imagine this as a layer on top of OpenBazaar that allows you to seamlessly connect with the platform. MTRPLS is a fully integrated end-to-end experience designed to connect you directly with the OpenBazaar network.
There are severe technical constraints in creating a mobile experience for OpenBazaar, due to the decentralized nature of the platform. However, I set out to emulate the core experience of the platform, while taking into consideration the technical constraints to the best of my ability. As to whether or not a native iOS app is achievable remains an open ended question at this point in time.
I set out to craft an experience based upon many of the preexisting conventions of the OpenBazaar desktop service. I closely emulated many of the design patterns already in place, in order to create a seamless experience. With that said, I worked on fine tuning and simplifying interactions where I found necessary. I also created an entirely new branding structure, MTRPLS, that is designed as a standalone experience that accompanies the main platform.
Project inception began with a technical analysis of the platform, and coming up with necessary design constraints. I worked on crafting an initial UX flow around these features, getting a better understanding of the flow between the app for users. From there I sketched out wireframes for the individual pages to structure the content and features accordingly. After that, I digitized the wireframes into more granular visual treatments for each page. And finally, I pieced this all together by creating a top-level UI flow that shows the interactions between all the states of the app.
MTRPLS incorporates monotype typographic treatment, a pastel color palette, and isometric iconography to create a visually enticing and modern brand. The name of the app is referential to futurist philosophy, playing on this idea of having an interconnected city with millions of participating actors. This ties in quite nicely with the cryptographic and decentralized nature of bitcoin and OpenBazaar. It’s time to build the digital city of tomorrow.
The app's onboarding walks you through several key steps in the profile creation process. You’re asked to define your currency of choice in order to help convert the prices of the products from BTC. Next, you can add a bitcoin address of your choice in order to facilitate return transactions (in case you decide to dispute a transaction). Finally, you’re able to define a profile image and handle. Here you’re able to connect directly to the Blockchain by using a service known as OneName to simplify the process. After all this is completed, you’re connected directly to the OpenBazaar network.
The explore tab allows you to easily find and explore items and stores in the network. You can filter your results via categories, popularity, alphabetically or price. You can also search directly for a product or store that you’re looking for. Selecting an item brings up that item’s page. From here you can see more detailed information on that item (such as description and photographs), the store owner, or bring up the quick purchase flow.
The quick purchase flow streamlines the checkout process. The first step requires you to confirm or modify your shipping address. Tapping 'next' brings up the option to add moderation. If you turn on moderation, your transaction is protected via a 3rd party arbitration service. In case of conflict resolution in the future, the arbiter will work alongside both parties to come to a swift judgement on the matter. This option adds a potential donation fee to the total cost. In order to complete the transaction you must send over the necessary funds to the store owner. The window prompts you with the total cost and gives you the bitcoin address to send the funds. Once funds have been received the transaction is complete.
STORE CREATOR / MANAGEMENT
Here you’re able to create and manage your store. Setting up your store is easy – you’re guided through the process to fill in the necessary information. Once you’ve created your store, you can manage it by adding items or modifying existing items. Similar to the store creator, adding a new item is quick and seamless. Store management is vital to the thriving ecosystem of the network.
Sending messages on MTRPLS is fully integrated. For instance, if you’re viewing an item and have a specific question for the store owner, you can tap on the message icon to prompt a new message. You can also initiate a new message thread via the message tab. Having the ability to quickly respond to messages is crucial for sellers and buyers alike.
ACCOUNT / NOTIFICATIONS
Your account tab allows you to view your purchases, items you’ve sold, and ongoing cases for your items. Cases are related to the integrated arbitration, so you're able to view potential disputes on items you may have shipped. You can also modify your account settings or other general settings. The notification tab also allows you to keep track of feedback and activity related to your account.
NEXT STEPS / LOOKING FORWARD
Informal user research was conducted via close friends to ensure flow logic. However, I’m still missing key insight into the daily habits of potential users for this app. Ideally once there is measurable data, I would be able to formulate user personas to drive more informative research sessions. Continuing, there are already several features I would like to explore more in-depth:
– Arbitration has been skimmed over in this proof of concept. I’d love to spend more time fleshing out a standalone experience designed around moderation for OpenBazaar. This could come in the form of an app that allows them to easily manage conflict resolutions and improve their services.
– Selling metrics/analytics. I briefly explored this in some initial sketches, but never got to fully flesh this out. The idea would be to give more extensive data behind what’s driving your products to sell (or not to sell). This could include integrated graphs and analytics.
– Social. In the OpenBazaar proof-of-concept right now there is the ability to follow people/stores. I omitted this feature to focus on what I deemed primary use cases. However, I believe that social integration in the platform has a lot of untapped potential. I would love to explore more around the idea of recommendations based upon your purchases, social feeds, or more customizable user pages.