Ladder is a stock trading platform designed for novice traders to learn basic knowledge of stock trading and discover tools for their growth. The product’s ultimate goal is to enable novice traders to swim in the stock market.

Capstone Project

Research Goals

How to help a novice trader become better at stock investments?

What are the positive and negative influencers?

What are the novice trader pain points regarding using the trading platform?
Understand the context
What are the popular tools and what are the common problems?
Who are the stakeholders in this ecosystem? What are their business models?
What are the terminologies?
Understand the user needs in depth
What do they believe?
What motivates them?
What is their decision-making process?
What do they look at when they choosing brokers?
What do they think of stock trading? Why do they like it?
How did the users become interested?
Who is succeeding and who is failing? Why?
What are the attributes of novice behavior in stock trading?
How does stock trading change one’s lifestyle?
What does stock trading mean to people’s social life?
How much time/money do users spend on trading?
When did users start trading?

Research Process

User Interview
Use “laddering” technique to understand user-needs at an in-depth level
What are the terminologies?
Data mining : Keywords Analysis & Topic Modeling
Utilize Python with Reddit API to scrape data from SubReddit: “Stocks” by searching multiple keywords. Topics, comments, and replies were scraped and studied, seeking to understand the major hot topics and areas discussed by the community in regards to novice traders and trading platforms.
Market and Trend esearch
Include analysis of major trading platform and communities testing and online reviews, seeking to understand the positives and negatives of current platforms and the potential pain points of users.

Key Takeaways

Four major takeaways from research

“I was trying to use IB because my father use it. However, I gave it up as soon as I saw the interface. Full of terms I do not understand and buttons I am scared to click…”

- Steve

Overcomplicated or over simplified platform is not helpful to novice traders.

Based on my research, one of the reasons why trading platforms are considered so complicated is because, for Gen X and Babyboomers, most start stock trades before using a computer. And so, the brokers designed the software for experienced stock traders. However, And so, the brokers designed the software for experienced stock traders. Users need something more intuitive and easy to use. Robinhood is going in this direction but I have heard from both novice and experts that ” it is a toy”. They have over killed on simplifying the interface and features which has caused users to abandon the tool when they grow to a certain level.

“Improve your mood by turning your phone or computer to grayscale so you can't see the red… I've found that in times like these it helps a lot to stay on top of your emotions, particularly depression from thinking about all of the money you've lost.…”

— SumRegis

Personal emotions are influencing novice traders’ decision making process.

According to my user interview, expert interview and information research, being influenced by personal emotions and making irrational decisions will result in:

1. Trading frequency increases with anxiety.
2. Modifications to investment decisions while following the herd and chasing winners.
3. Overconfidence and investing in a business they do not understand with failed risk management.
4. Using a personal sense of a company's fundamentals to inform short-term trades.

“…When I share my gains and losses with my friends, I am sharing the drama more than numbers…or so to say, I don’t want my friends know the exact number…”

— Zack Wang

Stock trading is a social topic. Novice traders grow with their close friends.

Many of my interviewees talked about how they use stock trading drama or information as a social topic and conversation starter. If we look at a novice trader’s decision making process, friends have a huge impact. Novice traders listen to people they trust. It is simply fun to share their stories with their friends.

“…I always wanted to learn how to trade, but I don’t know where to start…”

— Zack Wang

For one to learn stock trading, it is hard to start.

Reading is the most popular learning method from my research(both interview and data mining). However, when we learn stock trading by reading books, most of the time authors are talking about a stock from 10 years, or even 100 years ago. We need to first understand the ancient market and then understand the stocks being discussed. Understanding this context is not very easy for beginners. Not to mention, the amount of terminologies are unfamiliar to novice traders.

What If?

We have a trading platform that makes everything suitable for novice traders and takes a lead on their learning experience?

1. Self Iteration

What if the trading platform started with very basic and simple tools but that grow with the novice traders? What if when novice traders learn a new indicator, the new indicator will be added to their toolbox? What if we learn from our users’ behavior and make suggestions on updating the interface? Facebook and Google has been reading user behabior and feeding ADs to us all the time, but what if we can use data to create value for our customers?

2. Responsive Learning

What if we can feed knowledge just when our users need it? Let users learn “how to trade” when they trade? User feel it is difficult to learn when they do not know where to start or when they need to understand the circumstances before learning. But, it will not be a barrier if we feed knowledge based on our users’ stock and the condition of the stock.

3. Emotion and attention control

What if we can help our users become more focused? For instance, a button to turn charts into grey scale? What if we can remind our customer that his/her trading frequency is higher than usual and let them choose if they want to lock the trading function for a couple hours?

4. Stock Social

If stock is part of a trader’s social life, how can we improve it? How can we make their social experience more accessible and more fun? Most people use only text to share the drama, but what if we can let our users to share an animated story they have experienced?

User Persona

User Journey Map before using Ladder

User Journey Map using Ladder

System Map