We caught up with product designers Brad Artziniega and Benjamin Hersh, who gave us an exclusive insight into the UX of Medium, how the team designs the voice of the platform, and what lessons they have learned.
What was Medium’s user experience like at the very beginning?
Brad: Since the beginning of Medium in 2012, we’ve always believed our job is to help writers tell their stories and connect them with readers to share their ideas. From this we design user experiences, always making them in service of the stories being told.
Our care for storytelling defined the original user experience. We wanted to help writers tell their stories in a simple, expressive, and thoughtful creation environment. And we wanted to help readers be able to immerse themselves in these stories, free from distraction to focus on the writers’ ideas.
In 2012, our design was intentionally hard to notice. Our user experience was defined as much by the content and stories that were on the platform as it was by our typography and interaction paradigms. Our design served to elevate reading and writing, only making itself visible separate from the stories when needed.
The editor was designed to have writers directly interact with their text as opposed to having edit ribbons at the top of the page so as not to break the flow of writing. You could drop images whenever and wherever, and it would default to an aesthetically thoughtful image treatment, already proportioned and aligned for you, so you could keep creating. The story pages had chrome that disappeared once you started reading, allowing readers to give their full attention to the story. We enabled full viewport imagery to create moments of pause and immersion.
We spent time on details like these to create a user experience defined by smart, considerate, and focused interactions that helped writers tell their stories and readers connect with them.
How has the UX changed over the years?
Brad: Over the years, our design and experience has evolved around how our readers and writers use our platform. The core tenets and philosophy of our design are still the same. However, with growing functionality come growing constraints, so we’ve adapted the expression of these tenets to the increasing needs of our readers and writers. In some ways, our UX has changed over the years in that it has had to become more resilient.
We have more types of stories, more surfaces in which readers find these stories, more platforms on which readers read these stories, and so on. As such, we’ve had to simplify and strengthen our UX so that it can bend but not break as we evolve the product, experiment with new features, and reach more users with more needs.