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01 05

Overview

Personally speaking, this was a very challenging but interesting project for me. I had to push myself really hard to learn as quick as possible the basics of trading and finance worlds and I have to say, I was navigating in unknown territory since I was completely new to the trading world but at the same time I was intrigued by this specific set of users and see the different user patterns and behavioral trends when these people were performing a trade. I was the lead designer in this engagement and my main job was to create a simple and lean blueprint and workflow to adapt and create a web based trading application based on the current desktop application.

The challenge here was that the users expectations were already set, meaning that the new web experience had to have ALL the functionality, interactions, visualizations and same components as the desktop experience not to mention that we also had to think about on how to make it better from a user's experience point of view and let me tell you, we haven't talked about performance here! (Phew!) Everything had to be super silky smooth and at the same time it has to be as fast as possible to deliver the best web experience possible. So, how did we do it? That's what you are about to learn here.

02 05

The Work

As I mentioned before, the desktop application was Thinkorswim. Thinkorswim is an advanced desktop platform targeted at professional and advanced traders who are active in retail trading. The platform focuses on transacting across stocks, futures, options, and foreign currencies and supports 150,000 users every day and billions of dollars in notional value.

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I want to see the prototype!

03 05

The Process

From a product and business perspective, the main goals were to have a web based application with most of the current functionality (determined by user testing feedback aligned with business considerations) and also it had to be responsive and mobile friendly. This web experience had to consider international markets and users which will provide an increase of the number of trades per day and last but not least, deliver an improved analytics system for tracking trader usage.

We spent around 3-4 weeks centering around the basic knowledge to understand the world of trading and also, playing with the desktop application to understand the existing workflows, learn the most common trading strategies and how they are performed in the application with the goal in mind of mapping out the integration landscape more thoroughly.

In terms of feature prioritization, we tackled first user interviews with traders on the existing application. We started with internal people; considered experts with more than 10 years of experience of trading and then we were given access to end customers to also see the behavioral patterns and start a user centered design approach.

The learnings from how users were interacting with the current desktop application helped us inform priority for the first set of pain points, desires and overall expectations which, will later translate into a set of features the team would develop and collect feedback on.

We were also able to create our focus personas and main users for this first MVP (Minimal Viable Product) thanks to these first round of user interviews and I started putting together a design canvas to specify and keep in mind the priorities for the team and the progress of the initial research.

04 05

The Challenges

One of the main challenges in this project was getting the correct type of users to tackle all the priorities defined in our discovery phase. We have 3 different types of users such as the options traders (our main focus group), portfolio managers and swing traders. They have very similar characteristics but the biggest differentiator was the way they think about performing a single trade.

We spent a lot of time with people who were part of these 3 categories but they were not specifically options traders and we had to rely on third-party group to initiate a research market study and start recruiting users in our behalf.

Another challenge was the incredible amount of features the desktop application had and strategize the way to incorporate the essential ones into our web application was definitely a huge challenge, not only for meeting users and business expectations but in terms of web performance, the development and design teams had to work very closely to figure the optimal way to implement and build these features and utilise the resources we had, in this case basic front-end frameworks, as well as vanilla JS and a lot of CSS.

05 05

The results

8users

Interviews

2target users

options traders

1design

interactive prototype

Once we covered the basics and started understanding the behavioral patterns and interaction workflows as a result of these user interviews, we were able to start wireframing our first lean prototype and started testing requested features, new functionality, usability for web and mobile devices and testing the best ways to provide users the visualization components such as charts and balances in a more friendly way.

The first tests with the users and the prototype were really insightful and we manage to accommodate user feedback by prioritizing the common comments users made regarding pain points, positive feedback, workflow patterns and general interactivity for web users. The project is still going and we have had different life cycle feedback loops and implementation in prod is being made at the same time we are testing the next features to implement.

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