5 ways Robinhood’s rushed UX changes exacerbated the GameStop crisis – TechCrunch

GameStop debacle has been hailed by many as its first form of digital activism, with ‘crowds’ coming together to stick to Wall Street, and especially hedge funds that are in the business of short selling.

However, what if you are caught in the middle of an unprecedented and thought-provoking set of startups or scale-up events that require you to make rapid business and product decisions. Especially when things do not go according to plan, there can be significant reputational losses at stake.

The exact same situation was found by trading platform Robinhood in the past week. Despite promising to make finance accessible to all, the company temporarily limited trading on GameStop, AMC, and other memorabilia, leaving users upset that Fintech Darling was not living up to its name. Specific reasons may be Short term and technical, But the election was viewed with skepticism by most users of Robinhood, not least because Robinhood has a large hedge fund as a customer. This helped the Robinhood app get hundreds of thousands of 1-star ratings on the app stores, which Apple and Google helped remove.

But what was the role of UX in all this and how did better UX options reduce Robinhood backlash? We asked the same question together Made for mars Founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, who oversaw Robinhood’s product changes during the Gamestop crisis.


If you want more UX content, Peter and Steve write a regular UX column on Extra Crunch, so check out other recent UX tearups as well:


In particular, we highlight 5 UX and suggest ways to fix them. As you will see, fast moving events meant that this was a consistently dynamic goal and very challenging for any product team. With that said, there are many learnings that can be applied to other existing digital products or that you are currently building, whether or not you are affected by the next Gametop-style crisis.

Remove GameStop from search results

Robinhood wanted to stop people buying GME shares, so they removed GameStop from search results.

Image Credit: Made for mars

Unsuccessful: Robinhood did not want people to search the page to buy GameStop’s shares, so they just removed GameStop from the search results.

Fixed: Robinhood should have left GameStop absolutely in the search results. By removing it altogether, the company did three things: created ambiguity, offered no explanation, and looked suspicious.

Rule: Great UX is about being certain and clear, and the lack of information is the opposite.

Stopping people from buying GameStop shares

People can still visit the GME stock page, so Robinhood simply disabled the buy button and showed this general message:

Image Credit: Made for mars

Failure: Robinhood stopped people buying shares – essentially shutting down the free market and disabling the buy button with a generic message.

Fixed: This is an unprecedented move from a brokerage, and most Robinhood users would never have considered it a possibility. They should have included a link to more information about why they had to make this decision. In this example, with insufficient information, users took to Twitter but no explanation was found on the Robinhood Twitter account.

Rule: When giving bad news that will directly affect customers, you need to spend time explaining why it has happened, how it affects them and what happens next.

Partial shares unavailable

Robinhood is known for partial shares, but it has temporarily blocked people who buy partial shares of GameStop. This was after Robinhood again allowed people to buy shares, but with limits:

No fractional shares
Limited number of shares

Image Credit: Made for mars

Unsuccessful: When people tried to buy fractional shares, they would put in their order, and see this error message. It states what you cannot do, but provides no context as to why.

Fix: Simple: Add references explaining why they had to make this decision. The company eliminated one of Robinhood’s flagship USPs, and did not even mention if it was temporary.

Rule: You should not add clarification to only one place and expect all your users to see it. You should keep a link to your detailed response regarding all the places and facilities affected by your restrictions.

Create sales order on your behalf

People were claiming on Twitter that Robinhood was automatically creating orders to sell, and not allowing people to cancel them. (As it turns out, T&CS states that Robinhood has the legal right to do so.)

Image Credit: Made for mars

Failing: If this is true, it means that Robinhood was taking drastic action to reduce its liquidity issues. This action directly affects the finances of their users, and yet, there is no explanation as to why.

OK: Unless good UX can fix this, a decent explanation as to why they are doing this at least provides a good argument. Also, this is not an ‘error’, so labeling it is an error.

Rule: It is one thing to stop your user from taking action, but to take control and do something that may be against their will is another. This should only be done with sufficient context, explanation and sympathy.

Failed to take statement

People wanted to leave Robinhood, claiming that other brokerages needed a ‘statement of portfolio’ to initiate the switch.

Twitter broke the ‘download statement’ function for people throughout the weekend. We never saw Robinhood’s address, and naturally people believed it was a dirty strategy to avoid leaving customers.

Failed: Users see this error message when trying to download a statement. This did not happen just once, but users were claiming that it was broken and they were unable to download their statements.

Image Credit: Made for mars

Fix: Unlike other examples, this does not require much context, but requires an alternative method to reach the same result. Some features are important and necessary, some are not.

Rule: Some actions are quite important, which are not enough to just fail. In these examples, you need to provide an alternative path to reach the same goal.