Medium Still Confuses Me In These 4 Ways
Medium’s simple, elegant design is wonderful. I’ve just missed the memo on these features.
There are plenty of things I absolutely love about Medium. Enough to fill an article someday of its own. (There’s an idea!) But there are a few features where I’m either still wondering about their usefulness, not seeing the advantages of a specific approach compared to other platforms, or just not experienced enough yet to know what to do with them in general.
Following / Recommended For You On The Homepage
I’m starting with this, because it is the most picky on my part, and is the least significant of my points of confusion. It’s not even that important in fact, because Medium does such an excellent job of maintaining a simple-to-use and clean interface. But I am still confused about the layout, and specifically, why “Following” and “Recommended For You” are separate tabs for articles/stories.
The way I see it, I’d naturally want to see the stories from people I am following. But for me at least, Medium’s home page opens by default to “Recommended For You” tab, and that’s fine. It’s just, not all the stories from my “Following” tab show up in “Recommended For You” as far as I can tell. So unless I remember to go to the “Following” tab, it’s possible I miss some stuff I would want to read just scrolling through the feed on the homepage.
I feel like the two could be combined into a single feed or list, that way you could see all the stories you knew for sure you wanted, and also ones recommended based on your reading habits, without needing the split? Maybe that’s not a popular opinion though, for all I know. And maybe I’m wrong, and all the stories from “Following” do show up in “Recommended For You” and they just get mixed on the priority list in favor of recommendations from folks I’m not yet following.
I also feel like the bars at the top of the page that show the icons letting you click on the users/publications you are following, and even the “Your Topics” bar, could either get their own tab like “Following” and “Recommended For You,” opening up a little more real-estate on the Medium page, or else they could arguably live at the top of the “Following” tab as well, since you are following those accounts and those topics, rather than needing to be always visible at the top.
Again this is not even really important stuff, because believe it or not, despite these last few paragraphs, I don’t actually have any criticism for the current layout Medium uses. It’s great and easy to use actually, and I really appreciate that. This is mostly just me being very picky with my thoughts and wondering how it might look arranged in different ways. Call it one person’s idle curiosity if you wish. But let’s set all that aside, and get to the other things I’m actually more confused about.
Clapping: Do I Like It, Or Do I REALLY Like It? How Much? And Does It Matter?
To be honest, I didn’t even realize you can click that little clapping hands icon more than once until I saw someone else do it. Now that I know each person can clap up to 50 times for each article they read, I’m constantly questioning: “What feels like the appropriate amount of claps to give this article/response?” to everything. Whenever I read something on Medium that I enjoy, I want to show some kind of meaningful appreciation for it, and help other people find it too.
The clapping system currently makes that kind of confusing. I’m also not clear on how Medium decides what articles to show, if it’s based on popularity from reads, if number of fans or claps comes into play at all, or what. Is there a difference between 1 clap and 10? What about 50? Is there any advantage to clapping 36 times rather than 50 for everything? Why isn’t 1 clap sufficient to show you liked the article?
Clicking any icon up to 50 times is very unintuitive. If I didn’t see someone else do it for one of my articles, I probably never would have realized you could do it more than once. Usually for this kind of feature, “liking” something twice means you decide to un-like it. So not only is it not very obvious, it’s potentially counter-intuitive to tap it more than once. And even when you know to do it, unless you just decide to clap 50 times for everything, it becomes very complicated deciding how many claps to give an article to rate it “accurately” according to how much you liked it.
There are plenty of other, more meaningful ways that this could be implemented. Simply using it like almost every other site out there uses their “like” feature equivalent, toggling it on with one click and off with a second, would probably be a good start. Some other sites also use a 2 button approach that seems to work well.
Japanese digital art site Pixiv.net comes immediately to mind for me as an example. On that site, you can click “Like” and that shows the creator you appreciated their work. If you click the heart icon to presumably “Love” the work, not only does the creator get to see that as a separate metric too, but it also adds the work to a bookmarks feature of your account, where you can easily access it again in the future should you wish, and other users can browse your list of bookmarks. There’s a recognizable and useful distinction between the two, without the ambiguity and lack of intuitiveness to the current Medium clapping approach.
Medium’s new lists feature is even more robust than a simple bookmarks feature, though it can be used in that way too. I’d love to see a more intuitive approach to “clapping” for articles (even if that means just limiting it to an on/off toggle) and clarity on exactly how it helps people find articles, or whether it’s simply a vanity feature with no impact on discoverability.
The “Speech Bubble” Icon As I Call It, Is A Good Choice In Icon, But It’s Really Easy To Miss
I have a preference for icons with text, or even fully text based menus, rather than an all-icon interface. For the past decade or two, possibly due to the rise of mobile devices or other reasons unknown to me, it seems to be the norm to have all user interface related components represented by a simple icon or image. So why do I prefer text over icons? No matter how good your icon looks, and how clearly you think it conveys its purpose, users rarely get enough information about what a feature is actually for just by looking at a little picture.
Now to be fair, I think a speech bubble icon like you might see in a comic book or similar is a smart choice of icon for a comments/responses feature that Medium decided to use. But it faces the same shortcomings. I didn’t even know there was a comments/responses feature to articles on Medium when I started out. Even when I realized what that little speech bubble was for, it still doesn’t stand out very well compared to other elements on the page.
Even a simple text addition that says “Click Here To View Comments” or “Add A Response” or something next to it to show users that the feature exists and to help catch peoples’ attention would be beneficial in increasing engagement and conversation on the Medium platform. I even tried to do that manually to point it out to new readers in the outro to the article in the above screenshot. The speech bubble is a small icon at the bottom of the article that is really easy to dismiss and overlook, especially when there aren’t any comments yet and it doesn’t have a number next to it.
For a feature like comments, it seems to me like it should get a little more prominence so that people know it exists, for one, but also so they can easily see other comments folks have posted about the article and more easily participate in discussion.
Articles Chosen For Further Distribution By Medium Staff vs. Submitting To Publications
I’ve noticed with some of my articles that the Medium staff decides to distribute them further on their platform. It’s always an exciting moment to find that has happened, but I’ve also noticed that it seems to show the same thing whenever I have manually submitted something to a publication and it gets accepted. I guess I’m confused as to whether or not these are separate things? I might submit it to a publication that has only a dozen followers because I think it’s a fitting topic for the publication. Does that exclude my article from being “Chosen For Further Distribution” by the Medium team?
I’m pretty sure from the exposure point of view at least, leaving it alone in the hope that Medium decides to distribute it further would potentially equal more views than submitting to the small publication, but I don’t feel like writers or readers should be “punished” that way (for lack of a better term) and lose their chances at further distribution just because they also wanted to submit it to a smaller publication.
Also it begs the question: how does it work for articles that you submit to a publication later on? Is the best approach to let articles sit around and wait in the hope that they can get distributed by Medium staff members first, and then submit them to publications after that has happened for even further distribution? Do Medium staff members actually still choose to distribute articles that have been added to publications, regardless of the size of said publication? Am I just misunderstanding, and the two metrics are unrelated?
Thanks for reading! Do you have the answers to some of these questions? Feel free to click the little speech bubble icon down below, and let me know what I’m missing!