I have certainly traded on a variety of trading platforms throughout the course of my career. Some platforms have been a joy and a sheer pleasure on which to work, and other platforms made me want to set my hair on fire. The variety and quality of trading platforms available to traders varies from awful platforms to excellent platforms.
Word out to meet, I would simply list the platforms that are of high quality and list the platforms that were awful. Unfortunately, if I took that approach the pile of lawsuits and cease and desist would have my mailbox overflowing. So I have chosen some characteristics of great platforms and enumerate why I think they are particularly effective.
Of course, the effectiveness of any platform is directly related to the quality of the data feed. For the purposes of this article, we will assume all platforms have an adequate data feed and simply eliminate that variable from the discussion.
1. A good platform has a quality set of charting tools at your disposal.
When trading and active chart it is essential to be able to draw in trend lines, Fibonacci retracements, pivot points, and a host of other tools that traders other than myself may deem necessary. You should not have to have a degree in physics in order to facilitate the drawing of these symbols. The procedure for entering trend lines and other symbols should be effortless and accomplished without excessive thought. After all, your primary focus in trading is the price action on the chart not figuring out how to draw up lines on your chart.
2. A good platform should be easy to read and interpret.
A good platform should be easy to read and set up. You should not have to read a 200 page manual in order to operate the software. The chart should be clear and easy to understand and the index readings should be legible and prominent. Platforms that are difficult to set up, or require daily maintenance to set up waste valuable trading time and ultimately cost the trader money. A quality program will also save your settings from the previous day and when you start the program the following day the exact settings should appear, you should not need to add your oscillators and indicators on a daily basis.
3. A good platform has a complete set of oscillators and indicators.
There is nothing more annoying than using a platform that does not have a complete set of indicators or a method to add those indicators to the chart. Many lower end platforms feature five or six basic indicators and that is the extent of their functionality. Further, a good platform should allow you to adjust time periods and other variables in the indicators to your personal preference. Once again, it should not take an excessive amount of time to perform these functions. They should be self-explanatory and not require paging through the dreaded 200 page manual to ascertain how to set a 14 period setting on a commodity channel index.
4. A good platform allows for a number entry and exit options.
A good trading platform allows you to quickly set the number of contracts you intended trade while also providing you the means to set your profit target and stop loss limit. This should be a seamless activity and not require an excessive amount of time. Most good trading platforms also have a provision that allows you to scale out of trade at certain profit points. Further, a good platform will have an easily understood trailing stop feature that is simple to set up. You should also be able to set up a simple bracket trade with a minimal amount of effort.
5. A good platform never fails or crashes
There is no worse feeling in trading than being in an active trade and the platforms software fails. There is no excuse for software incompatibilities with operating systems. The platform is the essence of your profession and should perform as such. This particular requirement is one of my pet peeves, as I traded ones on a platform that was very unstable and made for a long and frustrating day. I have never used that platform again, and never will. Software designers are well aware of the design flaws inherent in trading platforms and there is absolutely no reason that these flaws should not be addressed in a manner which insurers the trader of a crash free trading experience. There is nothing worse than buggy software.
There are many other inherent flaws in trading platforms software, but these five stand out as deal killers in my book. I will not tolerate any of these flaws and will quickly change platforms if I encounter these problems with any frequency. Of course, a one-time glitch can be expected. But a consistent and reoccurring glitch in trading platforms software is inexcusable.