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Building an NFT-gated e-commerce experience

The advent of Web3 and NFTs has generated immense enthusiasm for the potential of these new “commercial” technologies. Shopify, always eager to embrace new technologies, decided to create an NFT-gated shopping experience for unlocking a storefront ahead of their annual Summit. To achieve this goal in record time, they enlisted the expertise of Humanistic, who contributed their research and product design capabilities to bring this groundbreaking project to fruition.

a photo over the shoulder of a man holding a phone with the shop app on screen

As of 2022 most people had very little knowledge of NFTs; even fewer knew how NFTs worked, what crypto wallets were, and absolutely no idea what any of the crypto-specific terminology meant. This provided a challenge in our approach to designing an application that leveraged the power of NFTs and the usability of a modern shopping app. How do we make it usable for regular non-crypto people, AKA “normies”.

To understand the mindsets and level of “crypto-concept” understanding prospective users held, I worked with Shopify's team to lead ethnographic interviews with a wide range of individuals and crypto “experience” levels. Speaking to users with as much experience as Bored Ape holders to those just dipping their toes into the world of NFTs, we learned quite a bit about shared understandings and deep knowledge deficiencies people have towards this new space. The results were as expected, the highly-technically NFT/Crypto ecosystem would impose serious challenges incorporating terminology and interaction patterns into the application. A lot of care was taken to guide, abstract, and remap complicated crypto metaphors for novice users.  

Equipped with this knowledge, our collaboration with Shopify set out to design not only the interface and experience as it would exist with the Shop app, but also the wallet connection logic and a complete UI component design system. This enabled Shopify's development team to build the multi-platform app with remarkable speed, while maintaining an experience that adhered to the findings from our user research.

sketches of the shopping experience
sketches of the web landing page
screenshot of high-level app flows
a selection of the app screens
a selection of the app screens
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Using this product, Shopify was able to facilitate an NFT airdrop to select employees before the Summit, allowing them to unlock an e-commerce shop store and claim a limited edition print. Our work helped expedite the development of the experience by ensuring as few revisions as possible. The end result was a beautiful, easy-to-use experience that delighted users and showcased the power of blockchain technology in e-commerce.


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