Market Meter: A Study in Rapid Iteration and Lean Development

The Market Meter mobile app was a financial markets and news application developed by the Inductive Labs team in response to a “Street Apps Challenge” contest hosted by Thomson Reuters (now Refinitiv) that leveraged their rich data APIs and feeds.

The app sought to target active investment professionals and aimed to deliver user-centric functionality and utility in a “context-sensible” way. We also put a high premium on user control, screen utilization, multi-tasking and configurability.New York City Times Square Thomson Reuters

Joining the Challenge & Building the Team

At the time that we joined the competition there was just over 6 weeks left to deliver the final submission, and we had never built a mobile app before. While we both are technically literate, neither of us are coders either.

Fortunately, we had two developers in our network that had worked on a previous project. Neither of them had built a mobile app either, but there was an existing relationship and confidence in their ability to learn. If one has to choose between possible technical expertise or definite initiative and dependability, always go with the latter.

Solve User Problems and Set Big Goals

The core focus of Market Meter was to maximize data delivery and the user experience by pushing the limits of available app frameworks of the day. A secondary goal was to provide functional innovations on the mobile device that allowed for future integration of additional data sets and sources.

…some of the things we did seriously challenged mobile app UI standards of the day.

The final product packed a lot of punch. It was not pretty to look at and ( I must say) hasn’t gotten any better with age. But some of the things we did seriously challenged mobile app UI standards of the day. Even today, things like an adjustable split screen interface or drag-and-drop on a mobile app would be considered blasphemous by some.

Data types and features incorporated into the app :

  • Macro- and Micro-Economic Release Calendar Integration
  • User-Defined Price Alerting
  • Price & Volume ‘Heat’ Indicators
  • RSS Feed Integration
  • Background Caching & Off-line Data Availability
  • Split-Screen Navigation
  • Drag-and-Drop Data Interaction
  • Gallery Browsing & Content Representation
  • ‘Context-Sensible’ Navigation
  • Maximized Screen Utilization

Using the following TRKD APIs:

  • Market Data from global major exchanges and indices
  • Company Fundamentals Data
  • Wall Street Events (StreetEvents)
  • Reuters Online Reports for Financial News & Pictures
  • Consensus Broker Estimates
Market Meter Financial App Split Screen Market Meter Financial App User Alerts

Thinking Outside the Box (for Users)

Market Meter version 1.0 was a first cut at what could be. We sought to incorporate as many of the available APIs as made sense, because we love data (and we thought it might give us a competitive edge). But being unsatisfied news app users ourselves, we also incorporated some (apparently unorthodox) ideas that just made sense.

One was to propose a platform-neutral mobile news application for these financial investment and trading power-users. The simple idea was to allow users to add RSS feeds into the app, even if the news source was a competitor.

This was a bold idea in 2010 and was ultimately ignored by the firm behind the competition, Thomson Reuters. Frankly, most large media platforms even today would resist such a move. Alas, their lack of imagination is our opportunity. There are still many fresh, under-explored ideas and industries waiting to be upended.

And the Winner Is…

There were close to 25 finalists competing to win either a first, second or third prize award from the panel of judges, and the ‘Popular Choice’ entry that would be chosen by public voting.

In the end, Market Meter won both the popular choice and was awarded first prize by a panel of judges made up by professionals from the finance, technology and venture capital industries.

Part of our success stemmed simply from the limited amount of time we had remaining when we started working on the app. Need and urgency helped focus our effort and attention on fast iteration and delivering a product (at all cost). A secondary result of having to starve the project for time was that the final deliverable packed a lot of functional value, but probably scored very low for design points.

Function Over Form

We started from the standpoint of fulfilling the requirements of the challenge and sought to over-deliver in terms of which APIs and data types we used. But the governing use case for which we created these features was that of a typical professional finance industry user. We aimed to solve actual problems that we (who worked in the banking industry) had on a daily basis.

As a result, we ended up creating an app that offered more distinct tools and leveraged more of the available data sets than the other submissions. Most other submissions offered a single or two functions, and were far prettier than our app. But Market Meter did far more, and even challenged some expectations of what similar mobile apps did in 2010 and even today. So, pushing ourselves and the limits of what users (and the judges) expected ultimately won the day.