The stock market has been a part of the economy and finances of our country for decades. As times have changed, so too has the market, with different companies increasing and decreasing in worth, sometimes in the matter of seconds.

With the ever changing nature of the stock market, the way it is viewed and interacted with changes as well. The newest parts of this change are apps that make purchasing and trading stocks feel like a game. In the past, these sorts of apps have still continued to treat this as the important financial decision that it was viewed as, with information on how best to choose good stocks. However, this new series of stock apps is much more focused on the trading as opposed to long term investments. With pressure to buy and sell quickly, and color coded notifiers of whether your stocks are going up or down in worth, the focus is on turnover rather than long term growth.

A specific app that functions under this model is Robinhood. “The very first screen you see when you log in to Robinhood is a big line graph that shows how your portfolio is performing, which updates automatically every five seconds. These sorts of investment dashboards aren’t unique to Robinhood. All apps have an account overview somewhere to track your portfolio. But Robinhood makes this experience particularly urgent, every time you load the app.” This bar graph of your investments being right in your face is what makes it so easy to get caught up in the panic if it starts to get down. It is so obvious and right there to watch it change every few seconds. “If your portfolio is up, every UI element on the screen is green—even those that aren’t directly connected to stocks. If your portfolio is down, even a penny, every UI element on the screen turns red. I can tell you firsthand, this visualization matters. I invested a mere $1, and still, my heart still skips a beat every time I load it! If it’s red, I feel like I have to do something. It’s an emergency!” This is clearly intentional by the app, because it makes money for every trade it’s users complete. This way, with pressure to sell as soon as things start going up from where you originally bought, the turnover is quicker, and there are more trades overall.

This is encouraged even further because most of Robinhood’s user base is composed of inexperienced traders who are unsure what exactly they might want to invest in. The app knows this, and then caters a news page to the user and talks about how companies and stocks are doing, in order to help the user feel more informed about their choices. “This news friction in the interface probably slows less experienced traders down, too. If you logged in to buy AMC, then saw stories that it was overvalued, you might question jumping on the trend. In this sense, Robinhood could be making a design decision here to benefit users even if it’s not directly serving its business plan.”

While Robinhood is not the only app that has taken this new sort of business model when it comes to stock trading, it is a prime example of how these apps change the stock market. These sorts of apps are causing a fundamental shift in the way the stock market works, and it will be interesting to follow it as this shift continues.


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