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Wu & Associates

[E*Trade Homepage Screenshot]

Case Study: E*Trade

The Challenge : Don't become a commodity

E*Trade needed to offer more to their customers, something that would set them apart. Online trading was quickly becoming a commodity, but competing on price alone was a losing proposition.The company needed to give their users something not available anywhere else – up-to-the-minute market information, securities research, investment ideas, and online trading all in one place. This new site's interface would have to be powerful enough for the serious trader, yet easy enough for the novice.

The Solution : Expand and tailor services to your users’ needs

E*Trade makes money from each trade, so one of our goals was to help the customer make the decision to trade. But what does a trader need to make that decision? And are all traders alike?

Using our field research techniques (contextual inquiry), we identified many types of traders, each with vastly different needs. For example, a professional day trader, who thrives on identifying minute up and downturns in the market, needs quick screen refreshes, up-to-the-second charting, and comprehensive market information. A long-term investor, on the other hand, primarily wants reassurance that their investment is safe and secure.

We also found significant patterns in our research. Customers spend much of their time gathering information about their investments and investment opportunities, and they have specific triggers that cause them to make trades. For example, professional day-traders subscribe to specialized services and chat rooms. They search for pre-market news. They make the decision to trade by identifying daily trends and through technical analysis. They crave information and quick use of that information drives their trades. Buy-and-hold investors, however, are different. They tend to track the indices, often in their daily newspaper. They go online to research their company when they read about it in the news and tend not to trade unless something significant has occurred.

This type of basic user research and analysis informed the revolutionary interface redesign of E*Trade. Other online broker's trading sites at this time were bare-bones affairs. They offered little more than a trading interface and account access, thus requiring research to be done elsewhere. Our redesign of E*Trade organized site functions by task, aggregated robust market information and research functionality in a single location, and provided tools for users to manage their investments.

E*Trade's overwhelming success is an example of how good research makes for good business. The new design drove revenue by providing users with the specific information they need to make trades. It introduced new avenues for customer conversion. And with all this, a refreshing and professional new look and feel.

Methods and Documentation

Contextual inquiry in user work areas for user research. Research results and analysis, information architecture including site maps, page mockups and functional specifications. Once the general look was chosen, I gave direction to visual designer for fleshing out the individual elements.

My Role

I served as the information architect within a seasoned design team at Studio Archetype. The team consisted of an architect, visual designers and a research specialist.


#1 Ease of Use - Gomez Advisors
Gold Pencil Award - Direct Marketing (e-commerce) website category, One Show Interactive Awards

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