Blockchain Development Case Study – Bitsapphire and Moonstone


This case study shows an ever-evolving approach to blockchain solutions. It can be used as a guideline for any startup looking for insights into blockchain development, more specifically our application named Moonstone.

Information gathered over two interviews. One is from our UX designer, Ymer Bruti, and the other is from our Chief Scientist, Taulant Ramabaja. These interviews will discuss the development process, stepbacks, and lessons learned from Moonstone.

Blockchain the “Messiah”

During the early days of blockchain development, the technology suffered from an affliction that Susanne Langer describes in her book, Philosophy in a New Key. This essential idea is interpreted by the American anthropologist, Clifford Geertz:

“Certain ideas burst upon the intellectual landscape with a tremendous force. They resolve so many fundamental problems at once that they seem also to promise that they will resolve all fundamental problems, clarify all obscure issues. Everyone snaps them up as the open sesame of some new positive science, the conceptual center-point around which a comprehensive system of analysis can be built. The sudden vogue of such a grande idee, crowding out almost everything else for a while, is due, she says, “to the fact that all sensitive and active minds turn at once to exploiting it. We try it in every connection, for every purpose, experiment with possible stretches of its strict meaning, with generaliza­tions and derivatives.” [1]Clifford Geertz – The Interpretation of Cultures

In short, blockchains were expected to solve the fundamental issues of the internet and the financial sector. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Thus, Moonstone is a prime example of the Law of Instruments: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Creating Moonstone took six months (Aug 2014-Jan 2015). During that time we brainstormed, built a functional app, and initiated a launch campaign. Now, we will look back at each phase and analyze all available information.

Solving Issues With the Future In Mind, August 2014:

As of 2018, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple are still the most well known and primarily used tokens. In 2013, however, we did not experience the same massive volume of new tokens hitting the market. Use cases were scarce, and people focused on more grandiose ideas within the blockchain. While there were much fewer projects when compared to today, these projects were on a much larger scale.

In 2014, we saw a significant expansion. Peercoin became the first to use Proof-of-Stake in its blockchain.[2]PPCoin: Peer-to-Peer Crypto-Currency with Proof-of-Stake SwiftCoin developed a proto smart-contract called Solidus Bond.[3]System and method for providing debt securities denominated in virtual currencies Ripple introduced its peer-to-peer debt transfer. More examples include NXT, Bytecoin, Litecoin, Omni, Emercoin, and the infamous memecoin known as Dogecoin.

During August 2014, Bitsapphire brainstormed a use case that had been previously discussed, a first of its kind multi-token wallet called Moonstone.

At the time, the ever-changing and ever-growing blockchain scene was too complicated for a significant portion of users (mainly beginners with little background in computers). The idea of staying on top of every new ICO, creating accounts, new wallets, storing tokens, remembering the accounts, etc. was way too complicated to be successfully performed. It was a mess.

After brainstorming, Bitsapphire hired another company. Kokrra was brought into the fold to complete the sketches and drawings for the application.

From Sketch to Wireframe, September 2014:

After a month of brainstorming, sketching, and drawing, Bitsapphire developed a vision of how Moonstone should look and feel.

September was dedicated to UI and UX.

We began with the design of the information architecture, and from there constructed a layout of how the pages interact with one another.

Moonstone’s features are listed below:

  • Transactions – A record of all your purchases and sales
  • Contacts – Adding friends
  • Assets – Creating financial instruments within the Bitshares environment
  • Market – An exchange market for tokens
  • Crowdfunding – A feature still in development – Creating crowdfunding campaigns for tokens in your application

We designed with usability in mind. More specifically, usability means the extent to which a product can be utilized to achieve its defined goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. [4]Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs)

This process was completed in several stages:

  1. User Flow
  2. Wireframe
  3. User Interface Design

In the interest of the reader’s time, this case study will only skim through the remaining months before the launch in February. We will only discuss the critical elements, leaving out topics such as software development or UI & UX design methods, since these are all dependent on branding.

Issues During the Early Years of Blockchain Design

Poor instruments were a major design hurdle during development. At the time, the only platform that enabled proper instruments for development was Bitshares. Although Bitshares was faster than most other platforms, its speed was mitigated by the horrible user experience it provided.

Bitshares is built on an open-source blockchain named Graphene. This toolkit caused two severe issues for Moonstone (note that Ethereum was not live at the time).

  1. Bitshares was not commercial-grade: Bitshares was built for industries with a particular focus on developing financial applications, functioning as a framework. Anything outside this industry, such as a startup, had to operate in an entirely different way in order to target and develop. This closed environment created a struggle to create.
    1. Ethereum is a Turing-complete programming language. It shares logic and syntax with three major programming languages: C++, Python, and Javascript.[5]Solidity v0.4.21 Documentation
  2. Inexistent UI & UX Practices: Unfortunately for all developers at that time, very little time was dedicated to the UIs and UXs of blockchain applications. Decentralized apps were all about functions and data, which created cluttered messes of information. Since there were only a few digital wallets and no multi-token wallets at all at the time, it was very tough to develop a UI and UX.

Time was efficiently divided between software and UI & UX development to ensure that Moonstone continually cycled through testing, feedback, and debugging. Even though it managed to become semi-functional, software development proved incredibly difficult.

The crowdfunding campaign hit our desired targets, but the idea of Initial Coin Offerings was still largely unknown, so we did not connect with as many people as we could today.

We accumulated USD $23,027 worth of funds. [6]Moonstone Case Study (note this is an earlier version)

Unfortunately, the app failed to maintain a steady development, and the cost of transferring to Bitshares v1.2 or the Ethereum stack was high as well. These factors delayed the project and Moonstone is still in revision as of now.

The Utopian Multi-Token Wallet

Referring back to the Clifford Geertz quote in our introductory paragraph, Bitsapphire suffered from these exact ideologies. Since blockchain technology was so young, people were skeptical and not as inclined to invest in the idea.

With all of this in mind, we continued developing a digital wallet that could store everything. We even gave the master key to the user. The user had full control over his or her account and wallet.

The concept provided us with a safety net for feedback. We relied on the idea that people want complete control, and our features would satisfy that want. Unfortunately, when we were faced with cost issues, we realized that this idea did not have mass appeal.

After gathering and reflecting on all of our user information, including interviews, demographics, etc., we concluded that giving the master key to the user was not a good idea after all. A large majority of potential users found a client-side key to be burdensome and a security risk. Unfortunately, the initial idea that led us to develop in the first place backfired.

Inductions from Moonstone

  • Moonstone was a pioneer for digital wallets. The features it offered were visionary and the UI & UX practices we developed for it are now being applied to numerous wallets in just the past two years.
  • Due to the inferior instruments that were available during Moonstone’s development, it fed too many errors to function properly on a day-to-day basis. Now, we are continuing development with all of the feedback, and the application is expected to yield a much smoother user experience.
  • The idea of absolute power via a client-side key proved to be unfavorable to most potential users. It proved to be a counterintuitive concept that led to the dApp being seen as “overly-complicated”. Now, utilizing the correct research methods, we are moving forward by handling the keys in private servers.
  • Our targeting was performed correctly but we did not engage nearly enough users. Bitsapphire has switched the marketing strategy for Moonstone and will continue development with a combination of different personas in mind.