Computer Interface Analysis

7 July 2016

Introduction I have always been interested in doing some trading on-line, so I selected five on-line stockbroker companies: TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, E*TRADE, Scottrade, and ShareBuilder. The reason I chose these particular companies is because I have seen and heard the most commercials about them. These websites are geared towards individuals who wish to do their own stock research and trading. All of these companies offer similar services and features such as investment education, live seminars, mobile trading, stock and option trading, checking and debit card, and a variety of margin rates (http://www.stockbrokers.com/compare). Interactivity

Financial institutions that offer on-line trading services also provide banking options such as checking and retirement accounts. These companies design websites that allow individuals to sign up for these services and can be considered as e-commerce websites. The main goal of the on-line trading websites is to get an individual to sign up for an account. The website need to be useable for the individual to be able to interact with it (Savafi, n.d.). An individual who is interested in on-line trading and visit the various websites must be able to perform certain functions on the website (e.g. navigate, fill out forms, use tools).

Computer Interface Analysis Essay Example

The individual will navigate within the website to research what the on-line trading company has to offer and how it compares to other on-line trading companies by clicking on links or hyperlinked icons and using the search function. To open an account, the individual will be taken through a step-by-step process by entering personal information in form fields. Once the account has been created, then there is the process of the individual making trade transactions using the tools that the website has to offer. Site 1: https://us.etrade.com. This website offers interactive options such as the 360 Dashboard and Quick Retirement Planning tool. The 360 Dashboard provides access to and a graphical view of account details. It allows for the on-line trader to get information on the market and execute transactions from the same webpage.

There is a favorites feature for ease of access to commonly performed actions. Market data is streamed real-time so that the trader has access to the most current information. The Quick Retirement Planning tool is easy to use. It encompasses four steps to where the person enters income and spending figures. It gathers and compiles the entries and creates an actions plan. At any given point, the trader can make adjustments in any step and the action plan is recalculated automatically. There are two horizontal navigation areas. The top one has little contrast, which is harder to see. Site 2: https://www.scottrade.com. This website is the only one that has a mobile trading link in its horizontal navigation menu on the main page. With more an more people using mobile devices, the location of this link is readily available instead of having to go through other pages. Scottrade labels its trader information area as Knowledge Center instead of Education.

This provides a one-stop area for documentation, tools, videos, etc. The trader does not have to go through other links in the main navigation bar. There is only one navigation bar, which is easier to follow and provides the trader with further selection by using hovering drop down menus. Site 3: http://www.sharebuilder.com/sharebuilder/default.aspx. This website offers a simple design and does not have the extra bells and whistles like the other websites.

The navigation bars are a bit twitchy. The hover option of the top bar cause the lower navigation bar to change as its submenu so it is easy to lose focus and forget where you are in the navigation bar. The pages are not cluttered and logically arranged so you do not have to weed through information or links that are not relevant. You do lose the main navigation bars when entering the Knowledge Center under the Education area. It also provides a Get Quote option that is available at the bottom of the page that you can show or hide. Site 4: https://www.tdameritrade.com. This website requires a lot of scrolling in its pages, which tends to requires you to spend more time looking for information. The links in the navigation bars do not offer hover or drop-down menus like the other websites. In the education area, it allows you to select your expertise level hence providing a more customized experience. It provides different media to choose from such as video, courses, and webcasts.

It uses Application Programming Interface, which provides a more seamless user experience. It does not require you to download interface software and is designed to work with existing software. The Thinkorswim interface offers features that the others do not such as virtual practice training. Site 5: https://www.schwab.com. This website is probably the least user friendly of the websites. The arrangement of information does not flow well because it concentrates on general statements that do not provide a value-added user interaction. Again, it is a hunt and peck environment. This is the only website that does not offer an Education or Knowledge Center link on its main page. The Streetsmart Edge is available in client-based or cloud-based trading platforms, but only works in Internet Explorer. For Mac users, you have to download an emulator for the client-based platform and Citrix if you want to use the cloud-based platform. I have dealt with Citrix and it introduces another piece of technology to go wrong. Cognitive Factors

The on-line trading website provides information to the current or prospective on-line trader to allow understanding of how on-line trading works. The information explains common terminology, transaction process, timing, and monitoring. Links to educational videos, tutorials, how-to guides, and help areas provide such information. The information must come at the right time and location. The on-line trading websites provide this, but at different degrees depending on the target audience; novice versus expert. At any rate, the first impression is based upon the on-line trader’s perception of the website’s look and feel.

The user will take this into account by observing and experiencing website content such as arrangement, color, sounds (e.g. person’s voice, music), font, moving graphics, manipulation, and response (Rogers, n.d.). Out of all of the websites, E*TRADE caught and kept my attention since it had a bold color palette and simple, but attractive icons that make sense. Green is a symbol of money and purple is a symbol of royalty. With that combination, it is appropriate for an on-line trading website. The font type and size is easy to read. There is enough contrast without being distracting. Important informational links are the focus of the navigation bars.

Even though the Charles Schwab website gained my attention, but in a negative way. All I wanted to do was leave the website and I had no desire to stay. The different sizes of boxes and fonts were distracting and I did not know where the hyperlinks were going to take me. When it comes to memory, Scottrade had the edge. It had the most consistent looking pages and the navigation bar never changed. This kept the focus on the body of the page. The Open an Account button was strategically positioned in the same area of each page. Even though the coloring was monochromatic for the most part, at least it did not have colors that distracted from the purpose of each page. I will got back to Charles Schwab as being the least effective when it comes to a design that uses hyperlinked boxes and each page I went to did not keep with the same format or flow as the others. Mental Models

The mental models derived from the on-line trading websites will depend on the goals and motivations of the on-line trader. Previous experience, personality, education, and cultural background are major factors, which will influence the on-line trader’s mental model (Stockbee, 2007). On-line trading requires taking varying levels of risk. It is geared for do-it-yourselfers. Because on-line traders do come from all walks of life, mental models will vary. Lawyers will have a different mental model towards on-line trading versus a certified public accountant versus a small business owner. Most on-line traders will have had experience with some sort of banking institution’s website. Like these, there are certain standards features you find (Stock, n.d.). The ShareBuilder website definitely provides a mental model for the beginner.

The website and its webpages are not filled with extra information that the beginner may not want or need. Its design is geared towards making the user feel that trading does not have to be a complicated process and can be managed like other financial accounts such as a checking account. The user does not have to have a degree to learn how to invest or trade. TD Ameritrade also has the novice in mind, but uses a tool to tailor the experience. Both websites do not make assumptions and provide the necessary information for what a beginner may expect. Scottrade and Charles Schwab websites are designed for a more experienced user. Users with more familiarity with on-line trading would be better able to navigate the information. The main pages do not focus on new traders since the links do not readily highlight the beginner user experience. Charles Schwab especially uses terminology that may not be recognizable to the beginner and would need further explanation. Universal Design Principles

Universal design is more prevalent in professional websites, specifically on-line trading websites. It keeps the focus of the on-line trader by using consistency of color, font, size, and arrangement. They all had menus bars that stayed in the same location no matter what page you were on. Clean pages and clutter pages existed amongst the on-line trading websites. Color and font type were the same, but arrangement varied. Pleasant colors were used, but contrast was lacking in some. In this case, I noticed most of the on-line trading websites used colors from one end of the spectrum, such as blue, green and purple. Consistency invokes familiarity (Akoumianaki & Stephanidi, n.d.).

There are universal design principles in all of the websites. Common areas of purpose, education, retirement, tools and platforms, and product information are available in the main navigation bars. The steps to opening an account require the same basic information and have a search function. The retirement tools have similar functions to give a graphical display of where you are at now, where you will be at the time of retirement, and the course of action. Site 1: https://us.etrade.com. Simple and Intuitive Use – It was easy to get from one page to another. None of the websites needed internet browser plug-ins.

Low Physical Effort – The pages anchored the user and allows user to be able to maintain focus on the activities of each page. Size and Space for Approach and Use – The display of content was consistent with different browsers. Site 2: https://www.scottrade.com. Equitable Use – It offers a text resize that allows users to adjust the text smaller or larger which displays more or less on a page. Simple and Intuitive Use – It was easy to get from one page to another. None of the websites needed internet browser plug-ins Size and Space for Approach and Use – On the main page, it has a view or hide content option, which allows the user to chose how much content is displayed. Site 3: http://www.sharebuilder.com/sharebuilder/default.aspx. Equitable Use – It lacks the accessibility factor of being able to roll over links and getting a pop-up that explains what the link is. This is especially necessary for people who are visually impaired and use tools to have the text read out load.

Perceptible Information – It has good use of proximity, which made it easy to separate the content and what goes where. Size and Space for Approach and Use – The display of content makes good use of white space by not over-cluttering with unimportant content. Site 4: https://www.tdameritrade.com. Equitable Use – There were bubbles that popped up when hovering over the majority of links. This is conducive to text-to-speech utilities for the visually impaired. Perceptible Information – Boxes normally imply links, but in this case of the main page, it is not. The use of pictorial representations of different races of people implies anyone can do on-line investing. Size and Space for Approach and Use – The main goal of any on-line trading website is to get someone to open an account.

These links were not predominant. Site 5: https://www.schwab.com. Equitable Use – It lacks the accessibility factor of being able to roll over links and getting a pop-up that explains what the link is. This is especially necessary for people who are visually impaired and use tools to have the text read out load. Simple and Intuitive Use – It offered rollover drop down menus for filtering. Perceptible Information – It lacked visual hierarchy, so it was hard to tell what content was most important. Size and Space for Approach and Use – The display of content was not proportioned and lacked good use of white space. Learnability and Effectiveness

The on-line websites provided learnability and effectiveness. The on-line trader gets an idea of what on-line trading entails, how it is accomplished, and what are the end results. Since the page formats have a familiar look and feel, it helps the on-line trader remember where different content is located. The content is arranged so the on-line trader will not get lost in navigation and be able to retrieve help content in relevant areas. The websites did not overly complicate the content. The search and help areas are natural to use and allows on-line traders make educated decisions (Web, n.d.).

As with other areas, ShareBuilder is more basic than the others, so there is less content to review and learn. It does not have an excessive amount of terminology where you need to go somewhere else to figure out what it means. It lets you jump right in with the least effort. Its interface is easy to understand and can be used by individuals with any level of expertise. The content arrangement is easily followed. E*TRADE is the most effective website since it has a good balance of content for beginners and experts. On the main page, you can select right away where you want to go in regards to your level of comfort. There is not too much or too little information and the categories are logically placed on the individual pages. The main page contains the essential content for a starting point. Conclusion

My initial review of the on-line trading websites is they all provide very similar content, which is easy to navigate and understand. The main differences are color palette, use of menu bars, and arrangement. The content was grouped into main categories such as education, product information, retirement planning, service, tools, and pricing. While E*TRADE provided the best eye candy with a clean look, Charles Schwab presents pages that have various sizes of fonts which distracts from the more important focus of learning what the purpose is and unnecessary content not really needed to open an account or finding out more specific trading details that should be left after the account is created.

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