Robinhood is a platform where people can invest in stocks. According to my user research, amateur users on Robinhood have been struggling to start investing due to their lack of knowledge. I helped design a news feature where users can follow news about stocks based on their interests, which can expand their knowledge and hopefully lead to their first investments.
Sprint Duration: 5 days
Team: Hiroo Aoyama (this is a personal project, not part of Robinhood)
Process: The Double Diamond with User Testings
1. Understanding Robinhood
Founded in 2013, Robinhood is the fastest growing financial service application in history. Millions of people use Robinhood to invest in stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies, all commission-free, right from their phones and desktops.
The pain-point that Robinhood solved was that “big Wall Street firms paid effectively nothing to trade stocks, while most Americans were charged up to $10 for every trade” (Our Story). This meant mostly only the wealthy were able to access the financial market to invest.
The founders then went on to create Robinhood — a company that leverages technology to encourage everyone to participate in the financial market.
I first used LEMERS method to discover more about Robinhood and its competitors in the market.
It is interesting to note that Robinhood performed relatively low in learnability and satisfaction. In order to find out why, I also performed contextual inquiry to observe the user behaviors and write down any insightful quotes:
• “I like Robinhood since it gives me a free stock first. But then it took me weeks to invest in other stocks, since it only provided news about that free stock I got.”
• “It was hard to know which stocks to invest first. I had to browse New York Times and Techcrunch to explore and understand more.”
• “I wish Robinhood could combine with Techcrunch or Twitter. I‘m new [to investing] so I want to read more about the market.”
Problem and Opportunity
After reviewing the research from above, I noticed a common journey map especially with the amateur users.
I noticed there is often a gap between the user’s first free stock and later stocks. Many users revealed that this is because it’s hard to explore stocks, as Robinhood currently provides news only about the stocks they own(a.k.a. their first free stock). As a result, users are stuck without any new discoveries or investments. This may cause a drastic decrease in the retention rate — why would users stay on Robinhood if they aren’t investing in stocks?
There is an opportunity here. In order to encourage more users to invest in stocks, Robinhood should design a news feature for users to read about various stocks and to gain more knowledge in the hopes to apply the following sequence.
If Robinhood makes a news feature and users begin to gain more knowledge about stocks, then they will begin to invest and use the app more often.
We can test this by performing an A/B test — one group with the news feature and one without. After a month, we can check both group’s retention rate and the amount of stocks users in respective groups invested in.
2. Gathering Feature Criteria
Product Market Fit
The Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen mentions the importance of looking at the target users and their underserved needs. From my user interviews, I came up with a set of underserved needs to keep in mind while designing.
Need to diverge: Users want to explore stocks from various fields.
Need to learn: Users want to constantly read and learn about various stocks in the field.
Need to connect: Users want to follow the stock price as they read the news. The stock and the news aspects must feel like a single experience.
I brainstormed and sketched various wireframes based on the user needs and behaviors. I digitalized my sketches in order to show it to the users and gather their feedback.
Users mentioned that they aren’t sure about which categories to follow. I would want to introduce a general category called “Top stocks” to reduce any friction of choosing categories in the beginning.
Users requested a quick way to switch between news from their categories and from the stocks they own.
When I asked if users cared more about the thumbnail, title, description, or tags, they were not sure. I have to hand them a set of designs to gather more insights.
Users mentioned a bookmark feature to read later and a share button to share on social media.
One user suggested an accessibility feature to increase the font size.
Another user found “topics” to be more fitting than “categories.”
User feedback informed me about required features and how they should work, which I organized with the following task flow.
3. Designing User Interface and Experience
UI Design Decisions
Based on the task flow and the current Robinhood UI , I designed multiple versions of each interface to diverge and weigh the pros and cons.
Left has more categories, while right is more simple.
Here, I went back to our persona. Our target user group is those who are new to stocks. Less is more for them, as they can choose more easily among fewer topics (The Paradox of Choice).
Left has multiple sections, while right combines into one page.
Here, I asked the users. Most preferred left, as they fear that putting all in one page may get too crowded. On the other hand, users preferred view count on the top line as seen on the right design.
Left is current Robinhood design, while right is a redesign.
I ignored the potential product limitation and designed the ideal interface according to user feedback (bookmark, font, link to stock). I removed features like open on Sarafi, since we want to keep the users on the app. Lastly, I changed the bottom navigation icon color to grey to keep the focus on the article.
I took the above decisions and followed Robinhood’s design system to design high-fi versions. Below is the user flow, as well as the prototype separated into 3 GIFs.
I mirrored the prototype from Origami Studio to users’ iPhones and allowed them to interact. Overall, everyone, especially the amateur users, gave positive feedback.
“This news feature is exactly what I wanted. I love the Pick the Topic part, I’m so going to use this.”
“I see you added the See Stock feature, and I think it’s simple and very effective. I really appreciate how you took time to solve this problem.”
“I’m not a beginner at investing, but I would still use this feature to keep track of different news… both that I own and that I’m interested in.”
I also took notes on negative comments.
A user was surprised that there was no screen transition. Robinhood has an interaction behavior where many screens swipe from the right, so I should have implemented the same expected behavior.
Many users thought the News icon was not clear. I have to study more about iconography to explore the most effective representation.
4. What’s Next
It is Friday and a 5 day design sprint has finally come to an end. If I had more time, I would have definitely incorporated the comments from above to create an even better experience.
I would also think more about the ways to validate the hypothesis of “users who read news about stock Y would most likely invest in it or add it to the watchlist.” I would want to track metrics such as news article clicks, direct referrals to stock Y, future investments of stock Y, and investments of other related stocks. Other ways to measure success include:
More usability testing: at which points are the users leaving?
More user feedback: what are users’ behaviors and opinions?
Traffic analysis: how are the users interacting with the new feature?
A/B testing: is this news feature really effective in increasing users’ likelihood to start investments?
I learned a lot while doing this case study.
The most important lesson was to introduce the users early on, and I’m very glad that I did at the problem stage. We were able to find solutions together and also at the wireframe stage to incorporate their feedback even before the low-fi stage. I know in a short design sprint, you want to design as much as possible, but it is essential to leave your computer and go talk to the users.
Edit: On March 25, 2019, Robinhood acquired MarketSnacks and released Robinhood Snacks, a short daily newsletter and podcast with financial news. This addresses the similar problem but solves it in an approach outside of the Robinhood app. To be honest, I love the approach they took — a newsletter ties in with user’s life much more smoothly and adds various entry points such as from Emails, Spotify Podcasts, and Google Home, etc. Overall, I’m so glad Robinhood introduced ways to explore financial news to us users.