New Schwab Front End: Retail Design, Wholesale Benefit

Yesterday, I attended the launch of retail broker Charles Schwab's new SmartStreet Edge trading front end, which is geared for Schwab’s most sophisticated active traders who make a minimum of four traders per month—but with 10 trades per month, clients get free Level 2 market data.

Yes, there's a major difference between what professional traders and retail traders require of their systems. For example, the new platform doesn't support algorithmic trading at the moment, but you can see how the broker is slowly inching in that direction by offering what it calls a "bracket order," where traders enter their trades to get into the markets while also defining exit points if the market moves with or against them.

What really caught my eye was the level of intuitiveness that Schwab has brought to bear on the user interface (UI) and which designers of wholesale trading systems can use as a good example. Sitting in front of the system, the trading work flow comes naturally. Each mouse click gives way to the next logical step in the trading lifecycle.

Schwab can claim all the credit for the design, since it hired Austin, Texas-based UI-design shop Projekt202 to handle the field research among the broker’s active trader client base. Projekt202 staff examined how each user consumes and synthesizes information and then acts on it.

The result proves that if something is not designed well, people will not use it. Since beginning beta testing in November 2010, client feedback has been very positive, according to officials.

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