Since the availability of the first smartphones with large touchscreens supporting a multi-touch interface (the Apple iPhone launched in 2007, followed by the first Android phones in 2008), app design has increasingly driven a number of software innovations and design considerations on more conventional desktop and laptop computers.
Operating System Trends
The major operating system vendors, Microsoft and Apple, have both been heavily influenced by what is going in the mobile and tablet markets. Although Windows 8 and Apple Mac’s OS X have increasingly brought a more phone-like operating system to desktops and laptops, each company has centred on different design and functional aspects of the mobile user experience.
Alternatively, Microsoft has focused heavily on the way programs are organised and launched on phones, using a start screen that closely resembles a mobile user interface and is closely aligned to Windows Phone 8. Whereas Apple has migrated a number of elements to the Mac from iOS, including push notifications and greater multi-touch gesture control. Both Apple and Microsoft have identified engaging, full-screen apps as a key feature from mobile operating systems that has a place on the desktop as well. Both also have built-in app stores, an idea made popular by Apple on the phone.
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Stylistically we are also now seeing the increased adoption of design elements from mobile app interfaces being incorporated into website and web application design. Graphical influences such as a minimal flat design, the use of simplistic iconography and hidden navigation are all becoming popular amongst User Experience designers. As mobiles become the dominant global Internet platform, designers are utilising similar design techniques across all platforms in a cohesive, sophisticated, and user-friendly way. I suspect that we will continue to see the lines blurring between desktop and mobile web design.
Impact On FX Trading
So what is the impact on traditional installable applications, particularly those that provide FX trading functionality? It is clear that the use of desktops and laptops is decreasing, particularly for consumer use. Computer operating systems continue to become aligned with mobile and tablet platforms which will drive traditional applications to follow suit if they are to stay relevant and supported by future operating system versions. In addition, the sophistication and usability of mobile and tablet apps is increasing apace, rapidly closing the gap with desktop software. From a pure design perspective we are also seeing a number of graphical elements from mobiles being used on websites and in Rich Internet Applications.
My view is that the use of installable applications has already reached its peak, including in the FX trading space where the majority of software development and innovations are now delivered via mobile/tablet apps or Rich Internet Applications running over the Internet. While desktops and laptops won’t go away anytime soon, end users are becoming more accustomed to mobile user interfaces as opposed to the long-established layouts of standard computer applications. Brokers who fail to keep up with advancements in consumer technology and platform providers who fail to move with the times by creating engaging and useful user experiences that take the shift towards mobile into account are likely to struggle to grow, or even retain, market share.