NFTs, crypto, Web3, blockchain—all of these are eye-roll-inducing buzzwords these days. But before we dismiss them as such, it’s worth a deeper dive into the opportunities they present for designers. Beyond creating NFTs to sell, the new wave of tech is ripe with unknowns and challenges that are exciting for a certain type of product designer; those who yearn to create unique and complex digital experiences. If that’s you, this is your sign to find an NFT project and build its eCommerce experience.
My background is deeply rooted in art and design. In the past decade, I’ve worked on an extensive range of projects: app and website development, user journeys, research, content strategies, sales pitches, advertising, fashion, social media marketing, game design, etc. All those experiences led me to become a product designer—a discipline that does it all. Having worked in-house and at agencies, for startups and storied institutions, I led and built experiences to realize others’ visions. But I always wanted to build something that brought my own vision to life.
Sometimes, the universe truly delivers. In the summer of 2021, a random chance led me to meet Audrey Ou, the founder of NFT startup TRLab. We became friends instantly, drawn together by our interest in each others’ fields. Then, we recognized the opportunity this friendship held—to build a unique product experience by combining our knowledge in product design, art, and NFTs. Over the past year, I’ve lent TRLab my expertise and advice to help drop two ground-breaking NFT projects: AI2041 and Your Daytime Fireworks. Both sold out in minutes and generated multimillion-dollar business revenue.
Before you find your own NFT project, know that there will be some culture shocks. I found that if you’re new to the crypto world, it might take a while to wrap your head around the basic verbiage. After that, there were three main culture shocks I overcame while working with TRLab.
The complexity of the mechanism of an NFT project
Blockchain created tons of new experiences and considerations that never existed before. In order to reduce gas wars, control bots, ensure timezone agnosticity, adapt to crypto market fluctuation, and establish fairness and inclusivity, NFT drop mechanisms become very complex, very quickly.
The Your Daytime Fireworks digital experience had 6 stages: Announcement, Golden Ticket, Gap, Sales (4 tiers), Daytime Firework, Special Edition, and Firework Forever. While having that many stages is complex in and of itself, each was carefully designed and built to add emotional and effort value to the final NFTs awarded in the end.
For example, during the main event–Stage 5: Daytime Firework–participants had 45 days to burn digital firework packets to get the final firework NFT. When setting off fireworks in the physical world, you have to check the day’s weather as well as local regulations. These factors determine what the firework will end up looking like, which influences when you’d actually want to set it off. The vision I had for the online experience was to treat the homepage as the daily weather report, bringing these tangible considerations to life in the digital world. This made the online experience more relatable, and made the complex drop mechanism easier to follow.
The entire online experience for Your Daytime Fireworks is an event-based design. It sits between game design and traditional eCommerce sites.
Though the website for Your Daytime Fireworks changed at every stage, some information carried over throughout to onboard new participants quickly. While thinking the experience through as the lead product design advisor, I had an aha moment when I realized goals for different events change because target users change. An ever-changing site seems complex, but it needed to be because we were speaking to different users at every stage.
For example, the public sale event and the firework explosion event spoke to different groups. The users in the former group joined the experience towards its end, whereas those from the latter group were in it from the beginning. They were immersed in each stage and invested in the project to a higher degree, and required different information and actions.
Online content inevitably needs to be tailored to reach target users effectively. With a strong and consistent design vision, thoughtful content planning, and a superstar dev team, a site can be truly dynamic, transforming freely. One static website is rarely going to be able to speak to all user cases.
NFT projects sell an investment
In everyday life, what we buy online is a one-and-done deal, like with digital games or streaming subscriptions. However, in the NFT world, purchasing a product is just the beginning of the journey. A successful NFT project needs to have a strategy to continuously generate benefits for the end product to increase its value, like low royalties that encourage secondary market trading volume, awarding long-term NFT holders extra discounts on future drops, or offering exclusive collaborations with other platforms for NFT holders. TRLab is unique because they focus on this long-term investment angle that benefits collectors (as well as high-quality, fine art that intrinsically holds value).
Because of this, Your Daytime Fireworks embedded all the above benefits in the process. In the Sales stage, the team designed four tiers of rewards for different types of TRLab supporters: TRLab NFT holders, Friends and Family, Golden Ticket holders, and collaborative communities. They could purchase the firework packet NFT at a lower price and in higher quantities, putting them in a better place for future value returns.
In the Special Edition stage, holders of works from certain collections had the exclusive chance to mint a high-value art piece made by internationally-renowned artist Cai Guo-Qiang. In the last stage–Firework Forever–the NFT firework will continue increasing in value because it’s tied to the TRLab membership program. The more NFTs you hold, and the longer you hold them on TRLab, the more special perks and advantages you get down the line. Sounds a lot better than the one-time deal you get in traditional digital eCommerce, right? Post-purchase strategy is a differentiator that can foster and increase customer trust and loyalty, and it’s a must-have in the early phases of NFT startups.
Community is everything
Community is treated as an independent aspect in the Web2 world. However, in Web3, the community is everything. NFT projects are all about co-creation and individuality. In Your Daytime Fireworks, participants chose the date to set off their firework based on weather and location, resulting in unique NFTs. Community was an indispensable part of generating the final work. Read Cultivating collaboration across large product organisations.
Watching the positive and organic involvement from community members fulfilled my mission to create delightful designs that make the world a better place. The Your Daytime Fireworks project got tons of shoutouts from the community, including from big players such as Edison Chen (Instagram handle: edcee3000) and Snoop Dogg (Twitter handle: cosimo de medici).
Joining early creates more opportunities to shape a new industry
As mentioned before, Blockchain enables so many new experiences that never existed before. While we’re still in the early stages, it’s crucial that experienced and passionate product designers get involved. There’s an exciting opportunity to define and shape experiences by constantly considering the big picture, and thinking about how we can harmoniously serve communities while achieving business goals.
Most NFT projects in the market now are end-product focused. TRLab is rare in that they were aiming to build a unique experience for all stages of the drop. I’ve received so much positive feedback from the community around how intuitive and beautiful the website experience has been. It’s a nice ego-boost, and reminds me how my expertise in product design can help inform and improve experiences across a diverse array of projects. It also sets my personal bar high; I’m excited to continue pushing myself to help shape the future of technology.
There’s more where that came from! Access more great content on Mind the Product
- Web3 for product managers
- Creating for creators – Peter Yang on The Product Experience
- Beyond Amazon.com: Amazon-as-a-Service