By Mike Ormond, Microsoft Technical Evangelist

It’s been a long time since I dabbled in the stock market. Recently though, given the limited returns available from my bank, or Premium Bonds or pretty much anywhere else (why didn’t I buy gold a couple of years ago?) I decided to take the plunge again and buy a few shares.

I now feel I ought to do one of those “disclosure” statements: “The author holds shares in MSFT (but not enough to make any substantive difference to his lifestyle)”.

Interestingly, the first thing I did – the very first thing – was to search the Marketplace for a Windows Phone app that would help me monitor prices.

The first app I settled on was “MyStocks Portfolio” and it’s a cracker. You can monitor specific stock prices, create holdings to see at a glance whether you’re in black or red and group those in portfolios as an aggregation mechanism. But by far and away its best feature is its use of live tiles which directly connect me to the information I want right on my homescreen. I can see a miniature summary of my quotes and portfolio performance. At a glance I know whether things are good, bad or in free-fall. It’s relevant, it’s connected and it’s personal.

 

But my search didn’t stop there. I'd also been hunting around for a good website for portfolio monitoring (having given up fighting the idiosyncrasies and bugs on the Yahoo Finance site). I ended up at http://www.shareprice.co.uk/ which does an excellent job.

This is a very rich app – drill down into a specific stock and you can see recent trades, detailed charts, news and even discussions. But by far and away the best feature is the connection to my website portfolio – using the cloud to create a seamless experience across many devices. I love it. There’s no live tile capability but new features such as integrated trading are planned for the future.

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What makes both these apps stand out is their use of the cloud to create connections for the user. In one case a “local” connection through the live tiles on my homescreen, in the other a “roaming” connection that means I can monitor and manage my data irrespective of where I am or what device I’m using. That makes a huge difference to me – it creates an engaging experience and will (hopefully) ensure I’m better informed about my investments and more likely to generate a decent return.

If you’re building consumer applications, make sure you prioritise user experience – allow me to personalise, make it relevant and keep me connected. That way I’ll keep coming back.