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Disruptive Design: Staying ahead of the curve for AI and Web3 products

In this article

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the pace of digital transformation globally, interweaving technology more closely into our daily lives. And with Facebook’s announcement of its foray into the metaverse in 2021, and the dramatic fortune reversal for NFTs and cryptocurrency in 2022, AI and Web3 are arguably two of the technologies that have gripped the most public attention.

This article will examine these two technologies, some real-life applications, and considerations for product design that can help create smoother user experiences. Even if these technologies are not specifically applicable to your organization, thinking through design decisions may also help your product strategy for other disruptive technologies, such as automation.

Applied AI


Investments in AI have almost tripled between 2018 and 2021, growing from $66 billion to $165 billion. At its heart, applied AI refers to the process of using models trained in machine learning to predict and act on patterns of behaviour. Methods of AI include computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), deep reinforcement learning, and knowledge graphs.

Case studies

Source: Amazon

  • Healthcare: Buoy’s AI solution listens to patients’ symptoms, provides them with some answers on their symptoms, and directs them to doctors who can help with further diagnosis.
  • Financial services: Zest AI helps companies review borrowers with minimal or no credit history, which helps lenders reduce losses.

Design considerations

What problems does your company and/or its users currently face? How can using AI solve those issues in a way that other solutions can’t?

  • For instance, Amazon tackled the problem of inefficiency in the locations of its products; Buoy addressed the issue of many people being unsure of the severity of their symptoms; Zest targeted the problem of needing to assess traditionally “at-risk” borrowers in a timely manner. What problem will your product solve and how will that design look like?

With private information requested of users, how might companies help users feel reassured about the data they are handing over?

  • While data security protocol is critical, users might also be feeling unsure about why certain information is required. Explaining why the information is needed can help set users further at ease.

Image from Buoy

Clicking on “Why am I being asked this?” brings up a modal explaining that certain diseases are correlated with age.

How might companies design AI models in a fair and equitable manner?

  • Algorithms are not free of human biases (a 2018 Berkeley study has found racial bias in mortgage interest rates, with Black and Latino borrowers paying more than their white counterparts). While part of the problem likely lies in the dataset the model was trained on, the other part of the problem also lies with whether and how it was tested to rule out biases. How can your organisation ensure that adequate testing across a diverse sample of users has taken place?


Although Web3 is commonly associated with cryptocurrency, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and the metaverse, the technologies that it runs on — the blockchain, smart contracts etc — have wider implications for our daily lives. Unlike Web2, where big companies control users’ data, Web3 enables users to have a greater say in their digital lives and identities by decentralizing the storage of information.

Specifically, Web3 is designed to cut out the middlemen, enabling users to participate in trustless transactions with verified users on a publicly accessible blockchain. It also enables users to own and verify their digital assets in a way not previously possible. For instance, the transaction history of each NFT is visible to all, enabling people to verify the NFT’s authenticity. NFTs can also have royalties written into their smart contractors, enabling artists to profit not only from the primary sales of their NFTs, but also earn secondary income for each NFT resale.

Case studies

  • Retail: The most common application of Web3 by far has been to create loyalty programs and raise brand awareness. One of the most noteworthy players has been Nike, which has developed a dedicated space on Roblox called Nikeland where users can interact with each other and be part of special events such as celebrity meet-and-greets. Since users can travel to other parts of Roblox, they also act as Nike’s brand ambassadors. Nike has also released a collection of co-branded, limited edition NFT sneakers with RTFKT known as CryptoKicks that can be personalized.

Image from CNET

  • Financial industry: DBS, one of Singapore’s largest banks, has begun a partnership with The Sandbox, a decentralised gaming virtual world, to explore the metaverse as an additional engagement platform with their users.

Design considerations

  • The current onboarding experience for Web3 is cumbersome and people are generally unfamiliar with the technology. How could the onboarding process be made smoother for users?
  • The carbon footprint of BitCoin mining is comparable to the carbon footprint of an entire country’s (Colombia as of early November 2022). How could a Web3 project be more sustainable?
  • How can Web3 ecosystems be integrated with existing Web2 systems in a way that’s least disruptive for users?

Looking ahead to the future

While there can never be crystal-ball clarity into which technological trends will take off and which will not, companies can better position themselves to stay ahead of the curve by understanding the application of AI and Web3 to their industries, and designing their products around issues that users might face from the get-go.

After all, the technologies may be new, but people’s needs and cognitive processes remain the same. Users expect a seamless experience and a product that can help solve problems, not add to them. It would be a shame (and a big hit to the bottom line!) if poor designs result in unpleasant user experiences that negatively impact perceptions of the product. Any product will involve an interface. As you think through the design questions above, consider also how your interface will perform against these ten usability heuristics.

If you want to know more about building better user experiences for AI and Web3 products, do check out our other resources available on our websites, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts.