Margin and Options

A Tricky Design Problem

I began working on the Margin and Options page for Fidelity in fall 2015. It has provided me the opportunity to spend focused time prototyping, testing, and redesigning a single product until we got it right.

The page to apply for or revoke margin is tricky because of several if/then conditions:

  • A person may only have margin on one account per ownership type at a time
    • This means if a person has two individual brokerages, two joint brokerages with Tina, and two joint brokerages with Ryan, they may have margin on one individual brokerage, one with Tina, and one with Ryan

The challenges included:

  • A multi-day delay between applying for margin and the backend system reporting that data back to the user interface
  • People are used to seeing their accounts in a certain way, and that way does not include grouping by ownership type
  • People don't want to read the rules about applying, they just want to enable margin

I created several different ways of grouping accounts and forcing users to apply for margin on only one account per group. I tested my designs in the Fidelity cafeteria by asking for volunteers to complete three tasks:

  • Identify if any accounts have margin turned on or off
  • Apply for margin on account within a group where all accounts were eligible
  • Apply for margin on an account that was currently ineligible because another account in the same group already had margin enabled, which forced them to revoke margin on the existing account and then apply for margin for the desired account

After five rounds of user testing, we found a design that was so easy to use, people wondered why we were asking them to do these tasks... it just seemed obvious. We made sure to take a mobile-first design approach so we didn't have to design the page twice.

Bonus Fun

The product owner, visual designer, front-end developer, and I are in Boston, but out database development team is in India. I got the opportunity to travel to India and meet them in December, 2015. They are great people and I'm happy to work with them... even if I do have to wake up early on some days for standup.