Building Freetrade

Designing Freetrade for Android

Freetrade Team

March 29, 2019

Freetrade Team

Freetrade Android is coming to our first early testers today, and to everyone by mid-April. 💥

Freetrade Android is coming to our first early testers today, and to everyone by mid-April. 💥

So we wanted to give some insight into how we designed the app for our (joint) favourite mobile OS.

We are living in a material world and I am a material girl 💁‍♀️

I’ve been designing for Android since v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). That was pre-material design* and before Google “made hardware”. Over this time I’ve seen their design system and visual language mature and arguably exceed that of its competitors.

There are a lot of avid Android users on the Freetrade team, especially design. So, as you can imagine, we’ve been pretty excited about working on the Freetrade Android app.

We’ve always believed in and advocated for strong native design, so you can expect a very native experience from our Android app.

*FYI for any non-designers/design geeks, material design is Google’s own design system & visual language.

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Freetrade’s Slack war, 🍎or 🤖?

Things have really been heating up in the office too, with a clear Android contingent cropping up to help us test the app and declaring their allegiance on Slack.

This sparked something of a status war. So far it’s looking pretty even.

Funnily enough, that reflects the most recent figures for market share in the UK, which was 50/50 in September 2018*. Now early figures from this year are tipping in Google’s favour for the first time.

So what have we been working on?

With such a well-populated platform we have been asked a lot why there’s been a gap between launching on iOS and Android.

There are a few reasons, the main one being that we wanted to create an experience as high quality as our iOS MVP. This takes time to design and build, all while scaling the design and engineering teams too!

Another strong reason for us to prioritise iOS was that we simply had a bigger list of people waiting on iOS. Even though in the UK the mobile device market split is closer than ever, the data from our waitlist sign-ups were not as close. We had a much stronger skew towards iOS so we ultimately chose to deliver it first.

For some comparison, at Deliveroo there was a 9 months gap between the iOS and Android apps (with a pretty big feature gap). Monzo, depending on how you cut their alpha and beta phases, had either 11 or 7 months (again with a feature gap).

We never want anyone to wait at all, but we’re proud that we’ve managed to ship within 6 months, with a smaller team, a limited feature gap and parity targeted for the end of the next quarter.

The whole team has worked tirelessly to bring this out as soon as possible. A feat that only a few months ago seemed like it was going to take even longer.

However, by bolstering our Android team and doubling down on Google’s own OKRs framework, we were able to make it a key deliverable for the first quarter.

These are the droids you’re looking for

We first explored the vision for our Android app last year. However, by the time we started working on the project properly, we felt a clear shift in the Google design ecosystem.

With updates to the Material Design guidelines announced nearly 12 months previously, we started to see changes to Google’s own apps.

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The first exploration of our Android design

You could now start to clearly differentiate between what was “old” and what is “new”, which is why the system is now widely referred to as Material 2 (if not by Google themselves).

One of the most obvious changes with the new Material Design is the abundance of white space, the inclusion of Google’s Product Sans font (the first change of OS font since 2011) which has a much more modern, geometric aesthetic.

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The so-called Material 2. Google’s Home, News, Tasks, Fit & Pay apps

When we started working on the Android project we set about re-visiting this early exploration to update our own experience and interface. Our biggest concern was that we’d launch something that immediately felt outdated and would take us a lot of time and effort to update.

At Freetrade, our ambition was to create an iOS app that felt so native it could have been designed by Apple.

So moving on to Android we wanted to have that same feeling; that the Freetrade app could be a Google app.

This is a fine balance. We still want to have brand recognition through our design, so we approach this in a way where other elements of our brand shine through, like the use of colour, illustration, and tone of voice.

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The new design of the Android app

One of the most noticeable changes is the lack of a coloured toolbar; historically apps would use their core “app colour” for that.

However, we decided that removing the colour adds much more whitespace for a less cluttered aesthetic. A big alignment change is the use of centred titles. This has been a very apparent (if not consistent) change that Google has made, so we decided to marry the old and the new here and have the titles collapse into the toolbar on the tab and stock details views.

We also decided to use our own brand font — Modern Era — as Google’s Product Sans isn’t commercially available and Roboto feels outdated now. Modern Era works very well as it’s actually not too dissimilar to Product Sans, being very light and geometric.

Subtle differences, same great Freetrade taste

While there are subtle visual differences, the essential Freetrade experience remains. You’ll be able to buy and sell stocks and ETFs for free from our entire stock universe on day 1. If you have opened an ISA on iOS then you’ll be able to access this. The functionality to open a new ISA on Android will be coming in May.

We are aiming to have feature parity by the end of the quarter (June) so all the amazing features that we’ll be bringing to you over the next few months will be available to everyone. As well as continued free ISAs until at least July!

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If you want to see what’s up next, check out our open product roadmap.

And follow the rollout discussion in the community forum — they’re nice people!

Finally, a massive thank you to the whole team who helped to get this project live, and especially to Greg, Zulfi, Adam, Sharon & Jani.

Important Information

This should not be read as personal investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions or seek independent advice.

When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Freetrade is a trading name of Freetrade Limited, which is a member firm of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales (no. 09797821).

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