How to Make Bitcoin Accessible and Readable
I finally finished my research on how to display units for Bitcoin and satoshis readable. I had to look very exhaustively at how units and prices are generally displayed around the world, and the varying size of these numbers, and also some research into types of colour-vision impairment.
I started many months ago, back when I was contributing towards a project, Cash Consortium, for building best practices and guidelines for wallets and other suggested standards. Currently, that organisation has been on hiatus for a long time, and no idea if it will come back since SV and BCH split.
Luckily, the research and suggestions apply to any kind of chains and displays using the same units as BTC and Bitcoin SV.
I think it is quite unfortunate that many apps and games do not think about colour-vision impairment in mind when being designed, especially when it affects so many people. Because Bitcoin is for all, there was a lot on my mind (and alot of reading to do) about how to crystallize the similar parts of global culture and societies, and their relationship to money, currency, and reading numbers.
So, how do we make something like 100000000 satoshis (1 "Bitcoin") readable?
Or 189325989 satoshis?
Firstly, one might think, "Let's use Bitcoin units! Let's use a decimal":
But what if I want to buy a coffee with BTC (back when it worked), and the cost is 0.00067899 Bitcoin?
Ugh, that is kinda awkward and terrible. In the first case where the amount was big, I could ignore alot of decimals. But when the amount is small, it's harder to know where you should "cut off".
That is the first wall you will hit into when trying to display units: The Bitcoin unit, and the satoshi unit, are very far apart.
And this is where people start shouting: "Let's use bits! Let's drop the Bitcoin unit".
And this is the same point when I want to tell people: "Whooaaa hold your horses. We really don't need to introduce more units. What we need is a way to help people *count* more easily."
With big, whole numbers, many countries have conventions for separating digits at each 1000, like: ¥397,000,000 (Japanese yen)
Pretty easy to read isn't it? But the problem with Bitcoin units, is they dont fit into these nice sets of 1000s, a "Bitcoin" has a very strange number of satoshis making up a whole unit.
So what are we to do?
Instead of looking at things in black and white, why don't we look at them in colour?
The previously "awkward" set of 8 decimals places of satoshi values for one Bitcoin is much clearer when you look at them as "areas".
When a number is very big, which area should I focus on? With the colour coding, the information given by the *colour* of the starting digits, is already alot of information in itself too. It gives you a delineation of under or over 1 Bitcoin. And there are other useful delineations.
For example, with the current price of BSV, I can pretty much ignore all the yellow values because they are in sub-cents. Yet, it is good I can see all of these satoshis, because the value can fluctuate alot: BTC at current levels, or at peak, meant that part of the yellow values also had some relatable value, like cents.
The idea is to help people focus on the part of the number that will indicate something to them about the cost and value of that transaction. In this way, it doesnt really matter if Bitcoin gradually increases in value: You would use the same colour system, but just re-calibrate your own idea of what is "expensive" and what is not (which is personal to yourself, and depends alot on your socioeconomic status along with the price of Bitcoin).
Currently, for BSV, the red digits in the middle might represent everyday use values (buying coffee, or food items, or clothes), so if a number starts with red, with no blue, a user can already subconciously know it is a kind of "normal" payment if it starts with a red number If however, a number is starting with blue values, they already know it is expensive.
And all these colours were chosen for their colour-impairment friendliness: All kinds of colour-vision impairment that I researched are able to differentiate those three colours quite clearly (enough contrast). For myself, I also found the delineating between big numbers and smaller numbers, to be useful.
Thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts!
You can access the entire study via the paywall below, if you like.
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