Why exceptional UX features matter

With a surge in retail investors in recent years, the online trading market is no stranger to competition. Brokerage firms that offer standout UX features have an opportunity to gain a competitive edge in customer acquisition. For example, Robinhood quickly gained success, in part, by enticing new investors with their easy-to-use gamified experience. The firm’s easily navigable features are a crucial aspect of their user experience, providing intuitive tools—like the Options Strategy Builder— that even those with minimal trading knowledge can navigate. As a result, the firm stands out from competitors for offering a trading platform geared towards beginners.

A screenshot from the Robinhood options strategy builder desktop webpage
Robinhood Options Strategy Builder

Exceptional UX features set firms apart from competition, offering clients and users unique tools and resources that cater to the needs of online investors. In a market where investors have a myriad of firms to choose from, standing out is essential.

New e-Monitor Report: UX Highlights

In October, CI’s Brokerage Team published a UX Highlights e-Monitor report (subscription required) that identified standout UX features across firms’ secure sites. Some innovative features covered in the report include Robinhood’s Options Strategy Builder Tool, Merrill Edge’s Idea Builder Tool and U.S. Bancorp Self Directed Investing’s interactive demos. All three are explored below:

Robinhood’s Options Strategy Builder

With a dashboard organized into tabs, Robinhood’s Options Strategy Builder tool is designed to help clients easily build out options trades based on their expectations of future stock and ETF performance. Not only does the tool feature digestible color-coded graphics, but extensive help materials appear on the page as well, both of which are particularly useful for novice traders—a target demographic for this tool. Clients can continue on by selecting a strategy, which opens a slightly modified options chain with expandable sections and tooltips, providing an explanation of the selected strategy, and ultimately, a standout UX feature geared towards beginners.

A screenshot showing the long-call option builder on Robinhood's desktop site
Robinhood Options Strategy Builder − Long Call

Merrill Edge’s Idea Builder

Encouraging exploration, Merrill Edge’s Idea Builder tool provides clients with a research tool that allows them to easily explore a wide variety of firm offerings, including investing themes, products and strategies. The sleek landing page is organized by tile-based sections, allowing clients to browse and preview various products and themes on dedicated pages, where the user experience continues to shine. Notably, a Recently Viewed section at the top of the page highlights themes that clients have already navigated to, making for a quick return to idea exploration.

This screenshot shows Merrill Edge's idea builder landing page
Merrill Edge Idea Builder Landing Page


This screenshot shows Merrill Edge's cybersecurity theme page from the desktop site
Merrill Edge Idea Builder − Cybersecurity Theme Page

U.S. Bancorp Self-Directed Investing’s interactive demos

While many firms in the coverage set offer exceptional UX features, the research team identified U.S. Bancorp Self-Directed Investing as one firm that offers a particularly novel UX feature: interactive demos. These interactive demos, which are available to users on the firm’s Digital Explorer page, provide step-by-step interactive demonstrations on a variety of account and investing topics. Featuring dynamic blue rectangles and accompanying descriptive text boxes, these demos effectively exemplify guided learning in an easy-to-use format. For example, the How to Manage Your Security Rating demo effectively walks users through implementing various account security settings.

This screenshot shows U.S. Bancorp Self Directed Investing page with interactive demos
U.S. Bancorp Self-Directed Investing How to Manage Your Security Rating Demo

Notably, and unlike many other firms’ UX features, U.S. Bancorp Self-Directed Investing’s interactive demos are available on both the public and secure sites. As such, this UX feature not only satisfies client’s desire to find investment information via brokerage sites, but the feature may also reduce the number of clients requiring direct support from customer support resources, all while cleverly promoting firm products and offerings to prospective clients via the public site.

The future of UX trends in brokerage

Across CI’s research, the best UX doesn’t come from deep-pocketed legacy firms or creative startups. Rather, the best overall UX comes from firms that are willing to track and adopt best practices wherever they arise. This is especially important in brokerage, where UX features are becoming a key differentiator. Over the past 18 months, several firms have enhanced their UX features, particularly focusing on research capabilities, trade tickets and account security. Accordingly, new trends that emerge within the brokerage industry will drive the future of design across the industry, compelling firms to take action by providing clients with tools and resources that enable a seamless and informative online trading experience. Firms must continue to embrace the influence of current trends and implement new features in order to further differentiate themselves from competitors, retain existing clients and attract new ones.

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