Robinhood debuted as a sleek and intuitive mobile trading app without any commission fees and introduced trading habits to millennials in 2014. The company is now valued at about $5.6 billion in a new funding round. In 3 years, Robinhood has executed $75 billion in transactions and amassed more than 2 million users. The app now provides a ‘Gold’ subscription service to let users trade on margin and access after-hour trading, as well as crypto trading in certain states, option trades, and a web app version. I am also a user and wanted to understand how the app successfully translated complex stock trading to entry level users.

Image Source: Robinhood Blog

Onboarding Users to Sign Up and Link Their Bank

The app requires signup and a deposit from a user’s bank to initiate. Although users who end up downloading the app must have a strong reason to download, it is critical to keep them and get them onboarded. Out of 4 onboarding slides in the app, the first welcome slide is almost empty and does not even have the app’s value proposition copy; It simply says welcome and the other focuses are on “Swipe left to learn more”, “Sign Up”, and “Log In”. Knowing the user journey before downloading the app where users probably have seen a lot of messaging in the app store, ads, or published articles, Robinhood is able to make the initial page extremely simple just to highlight the call to action.

When you swipe, the second slide promotes the app’s fundamental incentives- to trade without fees, with a stylized animated graphic. The graphic animation is so abstract that, rather than it being communicative, it gains users attention to pause their swipe actions. The next slide explains how the service is secured, and the last slide promotes its ease of personalization and its customizable notifications. The cohesive style and layout for all slides promises a branded experience for the rest of the app.

At the same time, some slides could use more direct visuals to better explain function. For example, in the last slide, I suggest an app screen where users can customize notifications. This may make the user benefits clearer. The notification system in Robinhood is extremely strong and successful to keep users come back, so they should not miss opportunities for users to opt in for notifications.

After the intro slides, the signup process is also clean and mobile UX focused. It follows the trend to keep one inquiry per page. Various UX researchers suggest less input per page performs better to keep customers intact (reference). Linking bank information is treated in the same manner. Connecting bank information can be a greater friction than name input, but the Robinhood experience is smooth. For example, the page with simple large buttons with banks’ names and their branded colors give an impression that the rest of the steps will continue to be super easy.

Large buttons branded with colors of each bank reduces the friction (Image Source: How to add a bank account or credit union account in your Robinhood app)

Effective Use of Colors

Throughout the onboarding process, you may realize how the app has a clear and rigid color scheme. Once users land on the home with graphs and stock lists, the color scheme appears functional. Reds and greens are extremely utilitarian colors in markets. The main green color of the app is also used to indicate price increase in each index. On the other hand if your position is losing money, red dominates the page. The bold use of red and green in each page is instantaneous and almost immersive to quickly understand the performance of a users’ portfolio. The colors are softer and more modern compared to the traditional colors used in markets. Eric Yi pointed out how orange is added to the red, comparing to the pure red or reds used in other market visualizations, which avoids giving overly warning impressions. UX Teardown #3: Robinhood

The other smart use of the color is how the background becomes black when the market closes. Similar to how green and red were intuitive, it’s intuitive to. The logic of a black background as night also leads to the branding used for the crypto trading, where the exchange is 24 hours.

Micro Interactions

While the app is minimal and information in the viewport is limited, there are various micro interactions to help expose detailed information of the index. For example, the chart is interactive. Price related to a specific time period can be viewed by dragging over the chart. As a user moves their finger across, its x position corresponds to the time of the chart. The scheme is conventional but it is elegantly implemented. The graph is large and it does not even have grids, since it is more about communicating behaviours over time. As a user drags over, a gray vertical line appears and move along their finger to indicate precise position in the graph. To indicate the price of the time, the latest price gets replaced with the price of the interacted time and the updates are animated in the style of flip clocks.

Users can also easily switch between the latest price, a percentage change, or more by tapping the latest price. In the current app, it opens a drawer to select but users were able to toggle values by simply tapping the price without drawers in the past edition.

Users can switch between display figures by tapping the price and select from the option

When users visit an individual stock detail page, the “Trade” or “Buy” CTA, depending on whether the stock is already bought or not, sticks to the bottom of the screen giving quick access to initiate a transaction. Once a user selects to buy, the transaction interface appears from the bottom, which is also organized with large and bold numbers and guidance. Once the number of stock to buy is selected and the user is ready, the page flawlessly changes to the review page as a user taps “Review” button. In order to complete the transaction, the user has to swipe up to complete the transaction. The introduction of a different gesture pauses the flow giving a sense of security to users. Once the transaction completes, a ticker tape animation shows for the first transaction which adds playfulness.

“Trade” CTA sticks to the bottom of the screen with Today’s volume and is easily accessible. Slight design variants between iOS (top) and Android (bottom).
Swipe up to submit is guided seamlessly. The change of gesture gives a sense of security by breaking the pattern of repetitive actions.

Personalization and Return Rates

What makes Robinhood a truly mobile experience is its push notifications. Their notifications are so effective that active users open the app 10 times per day. The notification content varies but they are highly personalized based on companies users are holding or have added to their watchlist. The content could be the companies’ earning calls, price movements that are more than 5 or 10% thresholds, or dividends. Alert content, methods (either only push notifications or in email), or thresholds are highly customizable in the settings page.

Notifications and email alerts are highly customizable.

The watchlist, which powers the push notifications to the next level, is also easy to manage. Searching a new company is simple and easy to access, and added companies get listed under the companies that users have purchased. Although the simple layout is what makes Robinhood an extremely mobile-friendly experience, there is a limitation to display dozens of indexes within a single page. The push notifications help bring to attention certain items in the watchlist, but it only is effective for volatile stocks- the rest of the stocks may be easily overlooked. I believe there should be an option to group the watchlist by industry or categories, so users can organize hundreds of companies while maintaining the simple layout.

If the watchlist becomes more compact through better organization, then I would love to see a simple week-view calendar that displays major events for the week. The events could be general news such as G7 summits to more specific events such as earning calls and effective dates for major company events. Unlike push notifications which need to be highly specific and timely, the calendar view will help users to visualize the plan of the week.

In a similar manner, news articles related to all companies that users have listed should be on the top page. Existing news in each stock detail page is one of my favorite functions but it is hard to follow news for all companies. If the significant news about some of the companies in your watchlist is exposed on the homescreen, it helps users to revisit companies that they were not paying attention to for a while. On top of that, movements of major markets such as DJIA, S&P, and NASDAQ should also be handy and can be educational to understand the context of price movements.


Image Source: TechCrunch

As mentioned above, although the app is extremely friendly and intuitive for entry level traders, the layout does not seem to work for more seasoned traders. In addition deep detailed information seems to be limited for making insightful trading decisions. To accommodate the limitation, Robinhood launched a more comprehensive web app version in 2017.

The web app improved stock discoverability tremendously. For example, “For You” and “Top Movers” at the top page and “People Also Bought” in individual stock page helps users to discover new companies. In addition, individual stocks are tagged with their industries, keywords, and taglines such as “100 Most Popular”; It is easier to find similar stocks through these tags. In this way the web experience mimics those in ecommerce. Co-founder Baiju Bhatt mentioned “when young people are investing in the stock market, their behaviors are much closer to how people navigate products like Spotify or Amazon, rather than traditional investing products”.

The individual stock page is more detailed as well to compliment the mobile app. For instance, the history of earnings covers a more extended period compared to that of the mobile. The mobile version only covers 1 year so the impact from seasons is hard to uncover. There are also visual indicators showing stock’s popularity in the platform and analyst ratings that help users to get educated and make decisions.

Similar to how the Robinhood app feels mobile native targeted to younger audiences, the web app is not an enhanced or user-friendlier version of traditional trading app either. It seems to be a median point between the intuitive Robinhood mobile app and an extensive ecommerce experience.

Robinhood is a sleek experience that has successfully shed many of the unnecessary trappings of online trading experiences. It’s great for less experienced traders, but I feel as they become advanced, they may hit a wall of what is available to them with this app. I look forward to what the team at Robinhood comes up with next to address their maturing loyal users.

Get FREE Stocks by Signing Up

Robinhood also provides a link to get free stocks. Join Robinhood and we’ll both get a stock like Apple, Ford, or Sprint for free by using the following link.

Follow on medium:


How Brokerage App Robinhood Got Millennials To Love The Market | Fast Company

An app millennials are using to trade stocks and cryptocurrencies without any fees is now worth $5.6 billion: Here’s how to use it | Business Insider

Valuation for Robinhood, Maker of App That Offers Free Stock Trades, Tops $5 Billion | The Wall Street Journal

Let Your Fingers do the Investing with Robinhood and Betterment | TechCrunch

Robinhood stock trading comes to web with finance news for its 3M users | TechCrunch

My First Two Months Trading Stocks with Robinhood | KEEPING STOCK

Robinhood Review 2018 | nerdwallet

Robinhood: Investing in Material | Google Design

UX Teardown #3: Robinhood | Eric Yi

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