Trust and transparency in DeFi’s UX layer

Innovations in crypto user experience have lagged behind innovations in crypto infrastructure, and this makes sense. The pressing need has historically been to scale Ethereum – it doesn’t make much sense to improve the UX of an application that is already too expensive to use.

But the advent of layer two scaling and account abstraction are dovetailing into a pivotal moment for the space, where the onus is finally shifting onto the user experience. The puzzle pieces have been laid, and the next wave of innovation will be about connecting the dots – bringing the technology to the user.

Infinitely better

Derivatives volume in CeFi is still towering over volume in DeFi, despite the two sides being in an arm wrestle on key features like liquidity, leverage, new pairs, etcetera. But you could say that self-custody and transparency are infinitely better features of decentralised trading, since there’s no comparison on the other side.

And yet still this is not enough to pull the user across the chasm of adoption. Why could that be? It has to be because CeFi exchanges have their own infinitely superior features – the feeling of familiarity that someone new to crypto gets from a centralised exchange is powerful, and hard to measure. This gridlock in the infinite space gives users a one-or-the-other ultimatum that is keeping everyone in their own camp.

The holy-grail of derivatives exchanges would therefore require:

  1. A user experience that is equal to (or better than) that of a centralised exchange, encompassing:

    • Conventional security modules, onboarding, identity metaphors, and account recovery

    • A strong sense of direct manipulation

    • A UI that looks good

  2. The properties of decentralisation that give DeFi its infinite advantage, importantly:

In order to build this, Infinex is taking a pragmatic approach to decentralisation. We’re distilling it down into the properties it enables for trading specifically, and interrogating them one at a time. By doubling down on what gives DeFi its edge, and shedding any dogmatic constraints that are weighing the experience down, we can trade what is not important for what is important; we can bring the technology to the user without compromising our competitive advantage.


When we use the term trustless, we don't really mean that trust doesn't exist at all, but rather that the level of trust required is so minimal that we consider it to be zero. When we hold money on-chain, we trust that the Ethereum network will work as it should. When we control our own private keys, we trust that we won’t rug ourselves.

This second point is an interesting one. Questioning our own trustworthiness may seem silly, but strictly speaking, anybody who lost their private keys placed more trust in themselves than they should have. If crypto people can make this mistake, should your mother be the sole bearer of the keys to her entire financial existence? I’m not sure, but mine certainly shouldn’t. My mum is left with two options:

  1. Trust someone else (like a centralised exchange)

  2. Opt-out completely

We have to provide a third option. We can’t keep waiting around in hope that the next zillion users will realise that it’s the decentralisation that really counts – they won’t. They’re out driving around with their centralised exchange who is cool enough to hold their trust for them.

So how do we win her them over? Well, we should still be authentic – we’re decentralised, and that is cool. But when the next bull cycle comes around, it’s our responsibility to give them something to trust that is truly trustworthy.


Why do we trust the floor that we stand on? Well, because we know that it’s concrete, or dirt, or whatever, and there’s hard, solid stuff beneath it, which becomes harder and more solid the deeper it goes. We understand how the floor works, and it is when we no longer understand it that it becomes unsafe (turns out the floor is actually lava). In other words, it is not trust itself that is dangerous, but rather trust in what we don’t understand. Trust in a centralised exchange is trust without transparency.

Smart contracts can facilitate trustless systems because they provide the ultimate level of transparency – not only in how the code is written, but in how it is executed. We have the technology to expand on this and add trusted actors with specific roles, cauterising the trust we place in them, and importantly, **verifying their limits.

An example of this is social recovery with an MFA-gated guardian that is centralised by default. Advanced users can always opt-out of this and be their own guardian, or assign my mother or whatever, but this just isn’t an option nor a necessity for the users who don’t exist yet. Applying this security model to a decentralised exchange lets us match that human-feeling side of CeFi, while verifiably preserving self-custody – one piece of the UX layer is laid.

What’s next

This post is the beginning of a stream of the philosophical and technical musings to come while we’re building Infinex. The series will converge into a technical litepaper detailing exactly how we will build the UX layer for DeFi. We’re calling to the world to help sharpen our ideas via twitter and discord.

This is DeFi’s greatest chance to take on centralised finance – it’s our responsibility to make it count.

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