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 that leveraged their rich data APIs and feeds.

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

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 submissions. We had never built a mobile app before and, while we both are technically literate, neither of us are coders.

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 challenging mobile app UI standard practices, and 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.

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. A bold idea that was also floated to the firm behind the competition, Thomson Reuters, was to be a platform-neutral mobile application for financial investment and trading power-users. This would allow users to add RSS feeds into the app, even if the news source is a competitor.

This was a bold idea (and ultimately unwelcome) in 2010. Frankly, most large media platforms even today would resist such an idea. So, there are still many fresh, under-explored ideas, and industries — old and new — waiting to be innovated.

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 the 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 benefit of having (involuntarily) starved 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. So pushing ourselves and the limits of what users (and judges) expected ultimately won the day.