Trade Stocks & Crypto on Anchor USD

I want to love Anchor, but they need a Usability Heuristics overhaul first.

I am fascinated with a decentralized currency. I haven’t been in a bank in years and I plan on continuing to pull further away from institutional finance by embracing our future in digital currencies. Though living in New York doesn’t make it easy. It has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to cryptocurrency markets operating in the state. (see BitLicense.)

Thanks to crypto advocates like the Winklevoss twins, NYSDFS began to see value in the innovation of the fintech space and as of today, we have about 20 BitLicenses or Virtual Currency Licenses in the state of New York. We now have a handful of currencies approved for sale and trade on cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase and Gemini, and trade on a brokerage like Robinhood, but what about grabbing altcoins like Cardano, Unicorn, or Polkadot? After 11 months of COVID-19 and no end in sight, New York needs to wake up to virtual currencies and our future in the DeFi space.

I really like Cardano Technology, and wanted to invest in their coin, but Kracken, Voyager, Binance, and any other major exchanges are banned for the foreseeable future. (See Farewell, New York). I emailed every exchange on Coingecko, to no avail, and short of using a VPN to get around the restrictions, I couldn’t find a way to acquire these tokens.

I eventually landed on an app called, AnchorUSD which has access to numerous coins and offers an 8% APY on USD deposits.

AnchorUSD is an attractive option for US investors because the accounts are insured up to $250,000, which is a very uncommon feature when it comes to these high yield interest cryptocurrency savings accounts.

ios App AnchorUSD landing page on website
Screenshot from AnchorUSD’s website.

Since the launch of its app in 2020, AnchorUSD has given a simple way to trade, buy, sell and earn on Stocks, and Digital Currencies 24/7.

I’ve been using it for about two weeks now, and I have a love/hate relationship with the app. Sure I can buy crypto and stocks very easily, but there are some features that have me pulling my hair out.

The app is in dire need of an audit against Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design.

Jakob’s 10 Usability Heuristics Summary Poster (PDF)
Download a copy of the NN Group’s Poster Summary here.

To be clear, I’m not always an active investor. I do watch the markets every day, but I’m more interested in the technical analysis and data than actively trading every day on an exchange. Also, when I trade, 99% of the time I use a desktop and a laptop to monitor and execute trades with a precision that an app will always struggle to compete with. Anchor as an app is tailored to more passive investors and based on their Twitter only having 2000 followers, they are a small team working around the clock to keep up with their rising demands.

That being said, there are some serious design issues with the app that eventually will have users looking for another solution once they are looking to be more surgical with their trades.

Remove Memory Burdens

People can’t keep much information in their short-term memory. The human brain is not optimized for the abstract thinking and data memorization that websites often demand.

Screenshots of AnchorUSD’s crypto list, and the buy and sell screens.
KSM token, inactive line chart, and a ticker with a percentage % without a reference point as to a length of time until the child page is selected.

The fail: No live ticker in buy-sell windows so you never know where the apps best sell point is for a market price unless you go to the home screen, refresh by pulling down the screen, scroll around to find the crypto again, selected it, select buy or sell, open the order-type dialogue, set it, type in the values from memory and approve the order. Every time I’ve done this has resulted in a 2%-5% difference, and not once in my favor.

The fix: Give the user active visual feedback on where the market price is for accurate executions in trades. Bonus points to include visual feedback of graph data along with the active ticker like Robinhood.

Robinhood App Litecoin landing page and Coin purchase review screen.
Left: Litecoin’s landing page on the Robinhood app with visual feedback in the line graph and continuously flashing ticker in real-time. Right: Robinhood app’s review screen to buy a currency — the est price like and est LTC line continuously update as your making your purchase decision.

“Gut processing always precedes Head processing. … It is our initial impressions, our initial reactions to things, that shape and color the thoughts and judgments that follow.”

Success Rate: The Simplest Usability Metric

Success rates are easy to understand and represent usability’s bottom line.

When I think about how many times I’ve successfully executed a trade on AnchorUSD, it’s scary low. Less than 20% and that’s me being generous. Every trade has resulted in me being disappointed with the final price that is executed and it’s never left me in an ideal situation. I’ve lost more money on these “slips” than I’ve made overall and that has me looking for workarounds.

The fail: There are only three places after the decimal point on the ticker, making it hard to trade with precision. If you’re trying to set a limit order or a stop loss on a tight margin, no matter how precisely you type in your sell price, you have no idea if and when it will trigger. I’ve had orders slip above and below a few hundredths of a cent, resulting in me losing money. When you get an email receipt of your transaction, you’ll see a very accurate exchange rate that is different from what you’ve executed in your order.

Dogecoin landing screen on Anchor(Left) vs Dogecoin landing screen Robinhood (Right)
Dogecoin on Anchor(Left) vs Robinhood (Right) — notice the decimal place difference?
Email receipt of Cardano purchase from AnchorUSD app
My target limit buy was $0.41000'ish but it executed @ $0.440181 — that's a slip of $6.

The fix: This piggybacks on the live ticker issue that updates as you’re trying to execute the trade. Giving constant feedback to the user so there are no surprises when using the app is paramount. I’ve tried to move the decimals higher or lower thinking that the ticker isn't triggering correctly because it rounds up or down, but that didn’t work. For now, I’ll keep moving supported coins to my Gemini Active Trader or Coinbase Pro until they get this exactness in line. I keep thinking they’re doing this on purpose to skim, but there’s no evidence that they're pocketing the difference. I’ve combed through their social and it seems that a lot of users are having similar problems. I pulled this from their site to comb through:

Zero Fees $0!

No fees to deposit or withdraw USD via bank transfers
No fees to buy cryptocurrencies via bank deposit
No fees to deposit or withdraw cryptocurrencies (blockchain or gas fees may apply to cryptocurrency transactions, and be passed through)

We support seamless bank deposits up to $25000. We can also accept wire transfer deposits, for which our bank charges us a $15 fee which we will pass through.

Payments made via credit and debit card are assessed a fee by the card network processor. You can preview the exact fee within the app before making your purchase.

When you trade, we assess a margin (or “spread”) between the mid-market exchange rate, and the rate that we are able to offer to you. This spread is determined by price volatility across U.S. exchanges, and covers our execution costs to fill your order, including exchange fees, and costs dependent on liquidity depth and slippage. The exact proceeds of your purchase or sale will be previewed for you on the order screen, before you execute the transaction.

One part stood out:

When you trade, we assess a margin (or “spread”) between the mid-market exchange rate, and the rate that we are able to offer to you. This spread is determined by price volatility across U.S. exchanges, and covers our execution costs to fill your order, including exchange fees, and costs dependent on liquidity depth and slippage.

I take this verbiage “covers our execution costs to fill your order” as they use this unknown % “spread” to pay their employees, pay rent, etc.

I know they partnered with Stellar Lumens, which is an IBM project, but we’ll just have to wait and see what comes out regarding this.

Other Thoughts

Information Architecture aims at organizing content so that users would easily adjust to the functionality of the product and could find everything they need without big effort.

Not showing unrealized profit or losses.

Not showing the user what their overall profit & loss is based on the coins in their portfolio is harmful to users making more informed financing decisions.

The fail: No update on gains or losses no way to tell if you’re making or losing money. They show you’re total account balance moving when you refresh, and they show the amount each coin in your portfolio is valued at, but there needs to be more feedback and information.

The fix: Give your total position and your history with each asset including volatility and the % of the return. This is real money on the line here. If you’re going to offer the opportunity for me to move my money on your platform for passive crypto income realize there are at least 12 other top their ranking ways to do so. If Robinhood can do it, AnchorUSD can too. (Unless they do it on purpose).

Robinhood app Dogecoin history and your current position on your trade.

“If a design itself significantly impacts decision outcomes and decision outcomes directly affect an organization’s bottom line, our work as UX designers takes on a whole new dimension of business criticality.”

Not having a search function for crypto.

I don’t even know what to say about this one. If you’re not gonna give the user a way to search, at least give an option to customize lists. I have 5 coins at a given time that I don’t have a stake in but I’m looking for an entry point. I use Trading View & Binance US, to monitor and set alerts, but having to remember if the coin I’m looking for is on Anchor, Coinbase, Gemini, or wherever is just confusing.

Final Thoughts

Look, AnchorUSD is a wallet, not a broker or an exchange, so maybe that's why we’re having this conversation. But they're offering the user the ability to make time-sensitive decisions without surgical precision, and that’s not ok. The competition is going to be fierce from here on out and for any user not in New York, there are 20 better options to use other than Anchor. (Anchor, if you’re listening, I’d be happy to offer a free consultation to hear about your business and design need going forward).

With more institutional investments coming into the crypto market this year it’s only going to continue to grow market share. With major companies like PayPal investing in crypto and digital currency, and Elon Musk’s Tesla says it invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin, this might be the most exciting thing to happen since the start of the lockdown last March. At least, I’m excited for what’s to come.

UX Designer w/ a background as a photographer and digital artist. I’m a visual storyteller dedicated to solving complex problems & producing creative solutions.

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