Bridging the Gap: How trading software UX/UI can catch up to the smartphone

By Kenan Maciel, Director – Strategy, Lab49

Three decades ago, financial services software stood at the forefront of technological innovation. Its capabilities were leaps and bounds ahead of any technology available to the average individual. Traders and financial professionals relied on sophisticated software platforms for market analysis, trading execution, and portfolio management.

However, since then, the development of software for personal use has accelerated at an unprecedented rate, outpacing innovation in financial services tech. While financial services software was once considered cutting-edge, the rapid pace of technological advancement in personal tech has left trading software struggling to keep up.

The UX/UI problem

One area where this discrepancy is particularly evident is in UX/UI design. Smartphones have set a new standard for intuitive, user-friendly interfaces that prioritize simplicity, convenience, and personalization. From swipe gestures to seamless transitions, smartphones have transformed how we interact with technology.

In contrast, trading software still suffers from complex interfaces, cluttered screens, and unintuitive workflows. This is a time drain for traders forced to undertake manual and repetitive tasks that could be automated or significantly lessened if their software had better UX and UI.

The ROI of UX investments in technology is increasingly undoubtable, making it more obvious than ever why innovation in this area should be prioritized. Research from CareerFoundry has suggested previously that three out of the 12 reasons for the failure of software transformation projects – an industry which sees over a trillion dollars’ worth of investment annually – can be attributed to user experience failures. This indicates the potential of substantial efficiency gains which could be made through creative thinking on the challenges users face.

So, how and when could trading software ever catch up with the level of innovation seen in the UX/UI of smartphones?

Catering to complex needs

Firstly, it’s essential to recognize the unique challenges faced by the financial services industry that contribute to the slow level of innovation in UX/UI. Trading software must cater to the complex needs of traders, portfolio managers, and other financial professionals who require access to vast amounts of data and advanced analytical tools.

What’s more, the systems must be flexible, scalable and able to integrate easily. Balancing these demands with a seamless user experience is no small feat. However, it’s definitely possible and there are several strategies that can help bridge the gap.

While financial markets are inherently complex, in many cases trading software doesn’t have to be. By focusing on streamlining workflows, decluttering interfaces, and presenting information in a clear and concise manner, trading platforms can become more user-friendly without sacrificing functionality.

Alerts and personalisation

In particular, an emphasis on quick alerts and notifications calling attention to areas where action is required can save a trader from spending time identifying where to direct their resources. For example, trading platforms that only show data related to the context of the user on the screen means someone doesn’t have to hunt for the relevant data they need. By allowing a trader to focus on solving tasks quickly and efficiently, they save time to conduct more high value, strategic work.

A particular feature of a smartphone that ensures its popularity and has cemented its position in our daily lives, is the fact that it’s personalizable. Just as smartphones leverage data to deliver personalized experiences, trading software can utilize client data and preferences to tailor interfaces and recommendations to individual users and their needs.

For example, by having different views for different times of the day, trading software can be personalized depending on what focus is required – drawing attention at the start of the day on when and where to route orders to, versus end of the day when analysis on the day’s activities is most important. This personalization not only enhances usability and efficiency, but also improves user engagement and satisfaction.

 In addition, as software develops, we will start to see a higher degree of machine to human interaction, with machines driving the majority of processes and users supervising and intervening on an exception basis. Improved UX/UI will be a crucial part of this evolution, making the software as simple to supervise and interact with as possible.

Continuous iteration and innovation

The pace of technological change shows no signs of slowing down. To catch up with smartphones, trading software must embrace a culture of continuous iteration and innovation. By soliciting feedback from users, staying on top of industry trends, and leveraging emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning, trading platforms can evolve to meet developing user needs and guarantee engagement from users.

While matching the level of innovation seen in the smartphone in terms of UX/UI may seem like a daunting task, it is not insurmountable. With a concerted effort to simplify complexity, personalize experiences and prioritize innovation, trading software can work to bridge the gap and deliver the seamless user experiences that traders and financial professionals require to stay competitive in a constantly evolving industry. By embracing an inherently user-centric approach to design, we can work towards delivering trading platforms that rival the best that personal tech has to offer.

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