As the online trading environment can be volatile to say the least, it’s imperative to do some in-depth research, commit time and effort to trading and try out the tools available to you to before plunging in with full commitment. With this in mind, trading platforms can be especially helpful. But with so many out there (and not all of them reputable), it can be difficult to know which one to select.
The global online trading platform market is expected to grow to $13.13 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 6.5%. Naturally, more and more people will be wanting a piece of the pie. If you’re looking to sign up to a platform, here are the key features to consider.
What can a trading platform do for you?
Firstly, it’s important to understand what a trading platform is and how it can be of use to you when trading. On the most basic level, it is a website comprised of tailored software that allows traders to interact with brokerages and perform the typical trading functions of placing, managing and executing trades.
While every platform has this functionality at its core, there is often so much more that traders want from their chosen platform to ensure the profitability of their endeavors. When you have access to a host of trading insights, learning tools, the ability to connect with your peers and even a solid customer support network in case you run into any issues, you’re more likely to have a more positive (and potentially profitable) overall experience.
As the trading environment can be volatile, it’s essential to carry out research into the industry you’re looking to trade in. Furthermore, make use of a demo account and stop losses to protect yourself from large losses.
Not all trading platforms are created equally and some will have more features than others. When choosing the right one, it can be important to first consider factors like your trading style, budget, skills and overall goals when trading. When you determine your individual needs, you will be better equipped to determine what features will work best for you. Here are the key features that you may want to consider before signing up to any given platform.
1. User-friendly design
Whether you are new to trading or consider yourself a pro, the more user-friendly a platform is, the more straightforward your experience is likely to be. The website you choose should be simple to navigate, allow you to open and close trades with little fuss, manage stop-loss orders and even deposit and withdraw funds without jumping through hoops. The clearer additional features like charts are also displayed and can also be worth considering, especially if you plan to use a specific strategy or want to keep on top of a host of tools and insights as you trade.
Going hand in hand with UI, it can be a worthwhile idea to gain an understanding of how reliable a platform is. Trading can be fast-paced and you may find that you will often rely on functionality to make the trades you want, when you want. If there is evidence to suggest that the site you like has network issues, freezes, or crashes often it may be time to look elsewhere.
There are many platforms out there that are less than desirable than others when it comes to contacting support too (for example, many with zero-commissions only have e-mail-based options). The easier it is to reach out when you need help and gain quick, worthwhile responses, the sooner you will be able to continue with your endeavors.
3. Automated trading
Not every trader will want to make use of automated trading, but for some, the inability to set algorithms can be a deal-breaker. As this isn’t a feature that is considered imperative, many platforms won’t offer it as standard.
A good platform is often one that is flexible and has features and functions that can be tailored to meet your unique needs and enhance your overall experience. If you can adjust a host of settings, such as configure layouts, program hotkeys, link windows and more, you’ll be better equipped to trade how you want with little interference.
Finding the most secure leveraged trading platform is one of the top considerations when trading online. If the one you select doesn’t offer encryption or have licensing and authorization from a financial authority, this can be a red flag. In the UK, backing from the Financial Conduct Authority (or FCA) is a plus.
6. Leverage and margin
When your chosen trading method focuses on forex, indices, stocks, commodities, or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you are likely to make use of leveraging to get the most out of your efforts. This means that you will want to choose a platform that has worthwhile leveraging and margin options from reputable brokers. There are pitfalls to using the support of a lender’s cash when taking up positions, such as the fact that losses are calculated across the entire spread, so having access to these can be important.
What to do next
Once you have defined your needs and done some research, it will be time to sign up to your chosen platform and get trading.
Disclaimer: Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. The vast majority of retail client accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Marketing for CFDs and spread betting is not intended for US citizens as it is prohibited under US regulation. Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances. Tax law can change or may differ in a jurisdiction other than the UK.