An in-depth retrospective

Pelican Trading

Product Design, 2017 - 2018

Senior Product Design, user experience and interaction, and product management for the fin-tech start-up Pelican, the only regulated trading app in the world where you can chat and trade on the same platform.

Creative Direction
Mike Read, Peter Read & Jon Parkinson
Jon Parkinson
Mike Noble & the in-house dev team

Trading has an ugly past. Stereotypes like those in The Wolf of Wall Street dominate people's perception of the industry. While many cases are well deserved, there are some exceptions, one of the latest and most innovative, is the app from Pelican Trading.

Pelican holds a unique regulatory license which allows them to provide trade execution and peer-to-peer messaging on the same platform. For the first time making trading accessible, educational and transparent to everyone. Users are able to join or set up groups, post their trade ideas and discuss risks VS reward, or anything in between. Anyone’s free to copy trades or challenge them. Whether someone's serious about making big money or just wants to see what the fuss is about, Pelican helps you find the very best traders to follow, groups to join and keep track of your trading journey. All in an open and transparent format. No other trading app does all this.

I worked with a small team of developers, stakeholders, investors and founders to make improvements to the app. It’s been 18 months, here’s what I learned.


Main pages of Pelican, beginning of 2017

Inheriting legacy

18 months ago the app was three years old and struggling to retain users and nurture growth. Features were in abundance, but there was no thought to functionality or accessibility. It also became increasingly unclear who the product was for and crucially, what they wanted. The app had been built mirroring existing desktop solutions with little to no thought to the mobile experience. It was time to ask serious questions and use three years of untapped data to optimise and move forward.

A trader at any level, is still a trader

One of our biggest challenges was catering to the needs of both the beginner and expert trader in a single app. Seasoned traders (the experts) were reluctant to escape the comfort of their desktop application, powered with seemingly infinite statistics and just as many screens to match. They wanted as much information as they could get, no matter the cost of legibility. Whereas our beginner users wanted a more educational approach, eager for answers to questions like...

“Who’s the best trader?”
“How do I know if they’re any good?”
“How do I copy them?”

Pelican had the answers and all the statistics, we just needed to develop a language to make them accessible.

Identifying the experiences

For every page, feature, detail, we asked ourselves...

“What is it supposed to do?”
“Does it really need to be there?”
“Could it do it better?”

When looking at some of the main experiences we saw that…

First impressions count

Users arriving on the app for the first time were bombarded with too much technical jargon to know how to continue. Data showed vast numbers of users going down the wrong path, dropping off and not returning.

Users were asked to set up either a live or demo account. Live accounts enabled you to trade with real money and required a lengthy KYC check as a prerequisite. Essential to trade with real money, but not to use the app and explore the same features with demo money. Of the users who choose to set up a live account, only 12% successfully finished. Live accounts are an important revenue stream for Pelican, but were massively ineffective when presented at the start of the journey. We were losing users before we even got them.

For the new users that made it past our sign-up process, the first screen they saw was a static list of text. Simply a list of markets you could trade. While trading is the core of the app, a list of text isn't going to get users coming back for more.

Too much of a good thing can be bad

The Activity Feed, shows trade signals from users you follow. The My Messages area allowed you to access the groups you joined and the Discover page is where you find the best traders and groups to copy. All these were crammed into one place on the bottom navigation bar.

The feed required a fair amount of engagement and understanding. Without initially being populated with followers, it required users to not only understand the concept of having to follow other users to see updates, but it also required them to understand each stage of the trade as it appeared. With multiple trade updates from multiple users all going on the Feed, it soon became overly complex and cluttered.

Messages were not too different, lots of content without structure. Arguably the biggest USP of the app was Discover. It populated every page and was the only source of new and exciting groups and traders. Data showed that despite the Discover section placement at the top level of the navigation structure, a minimal percentage of users even viewed this page and even less were interacting with the content. The Discover page was a static list determined by the business, only editable by a developer and rarely updated. Profiles and groups also lacked calls to action, a user had no way of knowing how good that trader was or what they traded. There was no reason to follow anyone.

Never assume

At the heart of everything was Pelican’s trade experience. Data showed that after several attempts users understood the basic steps to open a trade, but constantly got caught out making mistakes due to clunky interactions. Reliability for more experienced traders was an issue, and basic education for beginner traders was missing.

How it works is just as important as how it looks

Anyone investing in anything needs to know exactly what’s happening with their money, at all times. Data revealed sporadic drops in our market price stream on the Positions page. This adversely affected the time it took users to see their live balance and take action on trades while the market was at a certain price. This continued to be one of the biggest sources of irritation for our users. Perhaps the most basic page, simply a snapshot of all your trades, but one our users spent to the most time on and in need of enhancing.

Empowering users is key

As we previously saw on the Discover section, Profiles and groups were under-used and ineffective. The information we had available on users and groups provided no hint for further interactions. Pelican’s whole unique selling point was the ability to find the best traders to follow and groups to join. With no performance figures or transparency, this was impossible.

Taking our understanding of the existing product, we decided to strip it down to its very core, orienting the entire product around some of its most used features…

Get our users into Pelican, help them find what they're looking for and interacting with content as quick as possible.

Move the activity feed to the home page so our users can stay up-to-date with their friends and followers while providing clear information they can understand at a glance and at their leisure.

Lean-back and discover new content daily. Find someone smashing it right now or who's the best this year and see exactly why a group is worth joining. All automatically surfaced and constantly updating.

Clear and precise actions to help our users, open, edit, and close trades with perfect execution.

Allow users to stay on top of their trades with market prices that never miss a movement.

Groups and accounts
Clear and concise information that help our users quickly tell why they should follow someone or join a group while keeping track of their own performance.

These experiences formed our base for rebuilding the information architecture and making sure the most important features were always obvious and emphasised.

Get in touch

Currently looking for full-time opportunities. If you’re interested in discussing a project, get in touch. — London UK

 I am kind. I collabrate. I do great work. I trust my colleagues. I strive for better. I foster independent teams. I am a leader.