Over the past year, options trading UX has grown in importance, with almost 39 million options contracts exchanged on an average day­—up 31% from 2020 according to the Options Clearing Corp. Though more traders are using brokerages to trade options, they are not using their firms’ options-related research tools to evaluate their trading strategies. These tools are underused due to poor UX, including unintuitive site placement and a lack of integration in key locations—such as trade tickets. Despite these tools receiving positive investor feedback for their real time dynamic hypothetical trades results, investors’ limited awareness of these features forces them to look elsewhere for strategy validation. In CI’s upcoming UX Options Trading webinar, we explore how firms can follow best practices for options trading UX to increase usage, as well as review other key findings from recent options trading user tests.

This image lists the background of users including in our options trading UX studyCorporate Insight options trading UX research

In September 2021, CI released an Online Options Trading report (subscription required) that evaluated the secure site options trading experiences provided by 18 firms we cover in our e-Monitor subscription research. The following month, we completed a series of user tests (subscription required) to understand options traders’ mental models, digital expectations and strategy-informing techniques. We held one-hour interviews with 10 respondents that had at least one year of options trading experience. For each session, participants interacted with live versions of options trading tools, resources and tickets from at least two of the following firms: Charles Schwab, E*TRADE, Fidelity, Merrill Edge, Robinhood and TD Ameritrade.

Research tool findability and usage among investors

Overall, our participants liked the firms’ options trading research tools. Unfortunately, users struggled to find these tools. Most respondents began their search for research tools from firms’ options trade tickets; however, most brokerages do not link to their tools within tickets. They instead house them in separate parts of the sites. This separation caused many investors to overlook the broad range of options-related features offered by brokerages. Even when users were aware of these tools, many were perplexed by the barriers between the trading and research/tool experience. Likely as a result of these discoverability issues, several respondents noted that they perform little to no options research on the brokerage websites where they trade. Instead, many users stated that they preferred to conduct research on third-party sites such as Motley Fool or Investopedia. When users do use brokerage websites for research, they tend to gravitate more to stock research data rather than options-specific research tools. In order to get more usage out of options-related tools, firms should introduce trade ticket integration. Intuitive integration could supplement or replace investors third-party research and increase overall user engagement with firms’ website.

Several users noted that they perform little to no options research on the brokerage websites where they trade.

When users were able to locate options research tools or were directed to them during testing, they were drawn towards profit/loss charts and other tools that graphically indicated the results of a hypothetical options trade.

  • Robinhood’s profit/loss chart is integrated into its trade ticket, which is where users most often searched for tools. The chart was popular among users, with one stating, “I like that you can see exactly what’s projected, and that you are basically able to do this in real time because it’s dynamic [based on changes made to the trade ticket].”
This screenshot shows Robinhood's expected profit and loss tool for options trading
Robinhood Options Trade Ticket – Expected Profit and Loss Charting Tool
  • Charles Schwab offers another integrated tool—its Trade and Probability Calculator—within its All-in-One trade ticket. However, discoverability played a major role in the tool’s findability during our tests, as users were more likely to use a legacy options trade ticket, rather than an All-in-One trade ticket, and thus, never discovered the tool.
This screenshot shows an example of Charles Schwab's option trading probability calculator
Charles Schwab All-in-One Trade Ticket – Trade & Probability Calculator
  • Merrill Edge’s Options Strategy Builder was particularly popular among users for its ability to generate options strategies based on price movement and volatility outlook. Despite its popularity, Merrill silos this tool away from the actual options trade ticket in a dedicated options research section, causing users undue difficulty in locating it.
This screenshot shows an options trading UX example from Merrill Edge
Merrill Edge Options Strategy Builder Tool

Learn more about the online options trading experiences at leading discount brokerages

To hear more about our recent user testing and research on how investors interact with firms’ online options trading, sign up for our upcoming webinar UX Spotlight on Options Trading.

Veronica Zabala