Fantasy is great.  What's even better is when fantasy become reality.
Fantasy is great. What's even better is when fantasy become reality.

A dummies guide to evaluating DApps

How to find your ideal DApp

I like fantasy. It's a reality with unlimited possibilities that exist only in my imagination. What’s even better than something perfect in my imagination though, is something imperfect in reality.

Blockchain, and specifically the Ethereum blockchain, is the unicorn I’ve been looking for. That elusive world of possibilities that breaks the mold of our current societal beliefs. It makes the impossible possible. That’s my kind of unicorn!

The Ethereum blockchain is kind of like the Google Play Store, except that it’s no longer for playing only. You can do a lot with the apps (called DApps). You can play, but you can also buy and sell on marketplaces, find a job, exchange tokens, save, borrow and so much more. In fact, the biggest benefit of the Ethereum blockchain and ecosystem is that it has the potential to totally replace the banking system as we know it.

Like the Google Play Store though, there are so many choices that it’s really hard to know which one to pick. So I’m embarking on a little pet-project to curate the available DApps and try to make some sense from all the chaos. How do you choose the best one for you?

1. Custodial or non-custodial

Possibly the biggest flaw of our society today is that we trust blindly. Our bosses, leaders and other authority figures tell us this is what we should do because it’s for our best interest. But more often than not it turns out to be in their best interest rather than ours.

Time to take back your power and make choices based on your best interest over what someone else believes is best for you. After all, only you know what you really need and want.

So first and foremost I’ll look at who owns the assets.

Custodial means it’s similar to a bank where you freely hand over your assets hoping they will take good care of you. But ultimately, if you don’t own your assets, you’re not in control of it and that means it's not really yours to begin with.

Non-custodial means you take full responsibility for your assets. No-one to blame when something goes wrong. But also no-one to exploit you and lead you down the wrong rabbit hole. No buts. No small print.

To read more about what custodial means, read more here.

2. Accessibility

Big word that means different things to different people.


I like to keep things simple though and for me this means your ability to access the intended functions when you need and want it. Regardless of where you are, your education level, or whether you have any disabilities that prevent you from interacting with technology in the same way as the average Joe on the street.

If you can’t find it or use something when you need it, there’s no point in having it in the first place. I can do nothing with a MetaMask account if I can’t deposit funds in it. I can't earn money on my assets if I don't know how to invest it intelligently.

Access-ability. Your ability to access something.

For me that means everything that relates to your ability to access the DApp. It includes support of different geographic locations and currencies, because there’s no point in downloading the fanciest app but you can’t be KYC’ed in the country you live.

It also includes whether it’s available as a web app or a mobile app or both (in my opinion, everything should be progressive web apps!). One of the most annoying features (in my opinion) of native over progressive apps is that you can’t do what you can on the web app version and vice versa, which impedes the accessibility of the functions.

Ask yourself “Can I find it?” and “Can I use it when I need it?”

3. Trust

This is a hard one, as trust is much more complex than a simple yes or a no. It depends.

Each person might need different things to trust an app, but this is how I decide whether something can be trusted or not:

  1. A whitepaper and security audit available on the website, with proof that the audit issues are being looked at or resolved.
  2. Is it open source that can be audited by any member of the public and its users?
  3. At least three independent sources I trust gives a positive review on the product.
  4. Say what you do. Do what you say. No shiny promises or buts or hidden small print. If you say you can do something you must be able to do that something.

In essence, the main question to ask is “Does it live up to its promise?” and on the shadow side “Are there any hidden agendas?”.

4. Usability

If it is not easy, it doesn’t work.

This is probably the biggest differentiation between the winners and the losers in the overcrowded tech space.

Usability means a lot. More than what can be described in one paragraph, but simply put, it relates to how easy it is to do what you want to do with this tool.

It always boils down to purpose and goals and your ability, and the efficiency, in being able to achieve a goal with the least amount of friction and cognitive overload.

Usability very much relates to how we think and decide and a subject I’m super passionate about. The primary questions to ask are “Is it easy?” and “Does it solve a real problem for me?”

5. Available features

The terminology used in the Ethereum space can be extremely confusing. A wallet to one person means something different than to someone else. There isn't a standard shared library of words that clearly define what something is. Yet.

To make it easier, and to clarify the confusion, I’ll list the main features as jobs-to-be-done relatable to an average person. Argent, for example, has a wallet, but they also offer a bunch of other banking features. You can deposit money, you can exchange coins, you can save, borrow etc. Luno, on the other hand, also a wallet, offers a fraction of the options and can hardly be compered. They had (until about a week ago) two supported currencies vs close to a hundred (I stopped counting at 40…) on Argent. They offer a simple buy and sell, whereas Argent offers integration to a few of the existing protocols allowing you to trade, save and borrow.

Questions to ask are “What can it do?” and “How complete is the service offering?”.

6. Cross-chain support and integration

Monopolies are bad. Usually, they are there in the first place because of a selfish intention. Sharing is caring.

It is extremely important that blockchain technology remains community owned (or decentralized) and that there are always alternatives available. By default most of the DApps are open-source and most have API’s available to build on each other like lego blocks. This helps the growth as well as the usability to a large degree. Integration is thus a big deciding factor as to whether one DApp is better than another.

On top of this, cross-chain support is a big deciding factor for good long-term investment decisions. When there's bridges between different blockchains, the security risk doubles.

I don’t ever want to feel locked into something without the ability to get out, as what I did until recently with the banking system.

There should always be a choice. And there should always be a fair competitor to keep things in the best interest of everyone. The ability to transact across chains within an app is thus a big decider for me.

7. Support

The DApp world is pretty new and that means that it’s far from perfect. Usability should definitely be the first priority in terms of design, however support is equally important to make one DApp better than another.

The level of support available and the quality of support is a crucial decider for me. It’s simply not good enough to wait a week to get a response for a financial transaction.

8. Fees

Pricing is often the difference between a product being a success or a failure. Make it too cheap and you don’t have a sustainable business. Make it too expensive and no-one uses it or expects too much from it.

If I’m going to make use of your DApp, I want to at least have some surety that it will still be there in a year from now.

The fee structure is also an indication of the trustworthiness of an application or business in my opinion. You can see a business’ intention in their pricing just as you can clearly see the culture and level of agility by interacting with a product (or I can at least because I know what to look for) or the people who work there.


Ownership, trust, accessibility, usability and functions.

These are the things most important to me in deciding whether one DApp is better than another one.

Originally published on medium