Sole Product Designer
Ideation, User Research, Prototyping, Figma
Fall 2020, 8 weeks
Before it became the millennial-friendly platform that fueled the American economy to new heights during a global pandemic, Robinhood was originally intended to be a way to share stocks with your friends. Over time, through countless iterations and redesigns, Robinhood has moved past its original mission, becoming a trading platform instead of a trade sharing platform. While this focus on simplicity has resulted in a growing amount of users, it also means that Robinhood lacks many features, making users use outside resources instead of
Like many others, I started investing this summer (2019) during the pandemic. I mean, it was the perfect opportunity. I was initially drawn to Robinhood because of its slick UI and beginner friendliness. However, I quickly found that the app lacked a lot of features for my personal use case as a beginner. I would often have to turn to other platforms to learn more about investing and to see other people's thoughts about a stock.
Thus, going into this, my original hypothesis was: If Robinhood had more built in discussion/social features, people will use Robinhood more instead of using alternatives like forums or messaging apps.
My goal when conducting user research was to find out how Robinhood users currently learn about stocks and how they interact with other stock traders. I also wanted to find out what resources users need to invest. I interviewed several students with differing levels of Robinhood and investing experience. This is a summary of the user responses I collected:
Here are the key insights I synthesized from all of my findings.
These user interviews helped me understand the importance of community and of knowing how others invest to Robinhood users. I revised my problem statement to be as follows.
When I invest, I want to be assured that I'm making the right choices so that I can overcome my fear of losing money. I can't do that well because:
I recruited 2 of my friends to (virtually!) brainstorm potential solutions to Robinhood’s social problem. After exploring many ideas: we identified a few opportunities for improvement:
My first iteration was spent exploring several potential features that could address the opportunities I laid out above.
✔️ Extensive, most user needs will covered.
❌ Feasibility, hardest to implement.
❌ Might overwhelm users due to complexity.
❌ Would directly compete with Twitter & Stocktwits.
✔️ Would allow users to easily discuss stocks with friends and family.
✔️ Users can easily find discussion about topics that they care about.
❌ Initial launch/onboarding may be difficult due to lack of communities.
✔️ Could be highly engaging with the right incentive
❌ Logistics: how can we incentivize users to participate responsibly. Should competitions use fake or real money?
After a process of elimination, I decided to follow-up with my second feature idea: communities since it seemed to be the most feasible while also best solving the user problem.
Before moving onto prototyping, I made sure to create an information hierarchy for my new feature.
I initially wanted communities to be at the forefront of my app, electing to allocate a whole tab for communities to make them very visible. I also included cover photos in my design to make communities differentiate themselves from one another.
I also replaced Robinhood's existing stock notification feature with a messaging feature as users didn't find the current stock notification very useful. In designing this feature, I asked myself: what can I do to make my app unique? What could Robinhood do that other social platforms can't? Robinhood, unlike sites like reddit or twitter, has stock data built in. Thus, I integrated a built-in ticker in this messaging feature.
I wanted to make the Communities on-boarding process fast and simple so there would be as little friction as possible when starting a new community. Thus, my create a communities flow only consists of three quick pages.
I conduct a few more user interviews to gather feedback on my initial designs. Simply put, I still had a lot more to do. My user testing showed that people thought that this design was too complex for Robinhood. They didn’t want to familiarize themselves with large social media feature like this when they could just open up twitter and do the same thing. Upon rethinking my design, I realized that they were right. Robinhood’s whole identity is to be a very simple user-friendly app, and this was the opposite of that. I had to focus on something more simple. Going back to my original user research, I remembered that users would often talk to their friends and families about stocks, so I wanted to make a feature that felt a bit cozier and thus easier to use.
Users expressed that my previous designs felt too complex for Robinhood, so I decided to combine my messaging and my communities feature together into an overall social feature. By placing communities and private messages next to one another, I hoped to encourage users to more actively engage with these features. I explored a few entry point explorations before settling on Option A mainly due to its simplicity. Option A fits Robinhood's design system the best while remaining fairly usable due to the inclusion of a search bar. Additionally, I didn't envision that users would be involved in enough communities and conversations that there would be a need for a sub-menu as found in Option B and C, though more user research would need to be done to clarify this.
Above is my main community flow. As you might notice, I’ve changed a lot from my medium fidelity designs. I elected to make communities cozier by turning into more of a chatroom than a full-on forum. Essentially, think GroupMe or Discord instead of Reddit.
My create a community flow has not changed much. I added a tag feature, a few icons, and removed the fully colored buttons as I received feedback that they were too eye-grabbing and powerful for their simple purpose.
I also revamped my auto-suggest flow. I received feedback that instead of one or the other, users wanted both an auto-suggest feature to add stock charts as well as a way of manually adding stock charts to messages.
I believe that these features would keep more Robinhood users on the app itself instead of having to migrate between different apps to talk to others about stocks. This feature isn't meant to be an all-encompassing forum, but rather a simple discussion chatroom with direct stock integration. I believe that this feature will also increase stock trading activity since it reduces the amount of interactions needed to go from reading discussion about a stock to trading it.
This project was my first time doing any type of UX design. The main thing I learned is that there is no one right solution in product design. As a math/science oriented person, this was something I initially struggled to grasp which resulted in me being solution-oriented at first. I now realize that the best designs are made through iteration. I initially took an all-encompassing approach to this problem, creating a complex feature which didn't fully fit Robinhood. In response to critique and user feedback, I streamlined my designs, creating a more minimal and consistent feature.
If there was more time in this project, I would definitely explore more entry points, particularly from the stock trading side of the app. I would also focus more on visual design in an effort to better match Robinhood's minimal design system. While it was at times frustrating having to scale down my ideas, I quickly understood that iteration is what makes the design process beautiful. I look forward to creating more designs in the near future using the skills I learned from this semester-long case study.