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User experience is more important than ever for electronic FX platforms
Publication date: 8 August 2012
Author: Chris Tobias, Director of Consulting, Tobias & Tobias, London
Electronic FX platforms have always competed on pricing, liquidity, connectivity and product range. But with new platforms being launched seemingly every other month, it’s difficult to stand out from the pack. That’s why the owners of the world-leading platforms are placing ever more emphasis on a previously undervalued area – user experience.
When evaluating the differences between the numerous FX platforms available, whether it be large single bank systems, independent multi-bank platforms or brokerage offerings, questions of functionality and features – “what can the platform do?” – are starting to give way to questions of user experience – “how does the platform do what it does?”, or even, “how does the platform make users feel?”
When we talk about the user experience, or UX as it is often called, we are not referring simply to the colours, layout and interactions of screen interfaces, but to the many factors that shape the user’s effectiveness, emotions and environment. What is the first experience they have when starting the interface? What is the process like to get the application on their desktop in the first place? How well are problems handled when things go wrong? What is the visual impact of the interface?
While we can’t control everything in the trader’s or broker’s environment through the FX platform they use, we can influence their state of mind, understanding and ultimately their efficiency, accuracy and satisfaction.
Although the stress of FX trading is often cited as part of the excitement and attraction of the job, it contributes to poor decision-making, lower productivity and, in the long run, more mistakes. Through user-centred design, based around the needs of the user, stress and overall emotional state can be managed and improved. Information and control are two of the broad themes that can help alleviate the potential stresses of daily trading in FX. If the trader feels well informed, understands their position and is provided with the right controls at the right time, then they will be better able to respond to fast-changing market conditions. Within an interface this may be through the style of information display, the grouping of key actions, the hierarchy of data and the ability for the trader to detach themselves from a single trade and instead focus on their overall strategy. Information and control are elements that a good electronic FX platform should provide to traders, and by doing so instil confidence, calm and ultimately a sense of loyalty.
As a design agency working closely with various trading solutions we see the positive, practical effect that user-centred, needs-based design can bring – and not only to users, but to the owners of trading platforms as well. As investment continues in the overall user experience of single bank platforms, additional pressure will also be applied to vendors and brokerages supplying services and capability to the banks. This is less relevant when users are accessing APIs, but whenever interactions are being presented to the user, there is a clear opportunity to differentiate through design. The relationships that the brokerages have with the large investment banks is also likely to require additional focus on the client/trader offering and the overall user experience this entails, going beyond the delivery of capability only.
With the constant battle of functional parity between competing platforms, it is becoming vitally important to differentiate on other criteria. The user experience of trading systems is long overdue for attention – and a clear opportunity for all players to step up.
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