Learning from Medium's success

November 04, 2016

Medium’s platform was created by some of the most talented designers on Earth. They’ve done a wonderful job creating their experience: the typography is exquisite, the spacing is perfect, and the features are solid.

I believe that its popularity points to a design trend that will grow in the coming years: any site seeking to provide information will need to adopt better design practices, especially in terms of user experience.

A large part of Medium’s growth comes from its undivided attention to two things: the experience of reading and the experience of writing. While these seem obvious, they are most sites’ weaknesses.

A large portion of the Internet is still a relic of the early 2000’s: tag cloud sidebars, advertisements, popups, and 13 pixel Arial font on the left side of the screen. Writing is done in archaic looking text editors that take up a tenth of the available screen space. Features, like bold and italics, are concealed in 25 x 25 bordered buttons. The spacing isn’t even, and the editing font doesn’t match the published product.

On the reader’s side, these three simple guidelines could dramatically improve sites:

  1. The use of great typography. Fonts should be readable and convey the appropriate tone to fit peoples’ writing.
  2. Content should be prioritized. The main content should be the most prominent aspect of a page.
  3. Readers should never be annoyed. Sidebars, advertisements, and popups should be minimized or removed.

If more designers followed these guidelines, I believe we’d actually see less content on places like Medium and Twitter – where information is easy to access – because everything would become easier to access. The consolidation of information would level out.

And from the writer’s perspective, the content creation interface should receive just as much attention as everything else. Writing and the published content should be connected as closely as possible – the same fonts, sizing, and spacing should be used. The features should be carefully selected and styled to be intuitive and distractionless.

Medium handles all of this beautifully. But there’s nothing stopping anyone else from adopting these same practices. You want more traffic? Better business results? Make it easy for people to navigate and use what you’re offering.