Case Study : Medium

A platform that readers deserves — Read, consume, engage

Shaun Wong

The Brief

Renewing Medium’s focus to encourage user growth and generate a content strategy on the website. The goal is to generate sustainable profit while staying true to the Medium’s vision.


The Challenges

So asking the billion dollar question and trying to solve in a two week sprint was definitely challenging. “How does a two-sided market website, which targets niche user groups, gain network growth to monetize?”

Furthermore, “What on earth does the reader want and how is the business going to monetize?”

The solution needs to stay true to the CEO’s Vision (Evan William’s) that was “to fix media channels so they are useful to the people, not corporations or the highest bidder”. In addition, to stay true their vision without making money off traffic advertising on Medium’s website.

so …

Once again, the constraints for this project was a two week sprint rather than having 2 months or 2 years. Cool. Challenge accepted!


Considering this is a class project filled with FOUR other UX designers I had to find away to be AGILE and delegate the roles. Assigning roles for teams to research was crucial to help draw quick insights. I took up the role as a project manager using Asana to help delegate task and keeping sure that the team was on track for completion. My responsibilities also consisted with strategic insights, ideation, screen designs and the presentation deck.

Humanized Project Process

1. Research — Contextual inquiry, Affinity mapping, Competitive analysis and User interviews

2. Problem Scope

3. Relating — Personas and Userflow

4. Information Architecture — Card sorting and sitemap

5. Sketch Prototyping — paper and interactive

6. Testing

7. Refining


First of item on the list is come up with a research plan and learn about Medium’s business. The team kicked off by understanding the brief with and find out facts about the business.

Key findings:

Medium’s Target audience:
- 18–34
- 95% of readers are college students
- 43% earn 6 figures or more

Interestingly Medium had grown from 25 million monthly visitors to 60 million in the last year which was 140%. Despite the growth, Medium had to lay employees off and shut down it’s New York and D.C. offices.

Competitor Analysis

Goal of all companies in a two-sided market is to keep the users attention. For Medium, it is time investment of their writers and their readers. The competition is so spread but the closest competition is LinkedIn. They’re also indirectly competing against blogs, social media, and news outlets websites.

Gain Some Understanding

Contextual Inquiries, stakeholder and user interviews.

So what now? We conducted a small context inquiry session figuring out the use of the homepage, where users were asked a few standard question as we’ve observed their usage. After that we did some secondary research, we formulated questions on Google forms and sent it off receiving nine responses. Simultaneously, we split the team to interview five other users in person. After the interview we transcribed all the interviews and just start affinity mapping. We used real-time boards initially but found out that we needed larger real estate to view our collective answers.


From the user research we established three types of personas that uses Medium.

“I am looking for platform that gets to people who can think outside the box”


Search Algorithm
Confusing Navigation
Membership Benefits

Just to engage in articles personalised
To learn
To be stimulated

User flows

My goal was to allow the user to navigate through Medium without a user being confused and cause less confusion. Also to create an engaging experience for a user to be interested in articles to stay on longer. The goal is to improve usability at the same time not changing the look and feel using existing elements to keep it familiar for existing users.


Open up features to members who sign up for free
Redesign the site and improve some key features
Offer exclusive content from influencers across multiple industries

Features for improvement

  1. Keeping navigation on Medium to be Global.
  2. Including strong influencers that relate to your interest to increase engagement

Paper Prototype

The next step was to sketch low fidelity prototypes.

Low Fidelity prototypes to test instead of creating Hifi working prototypes to save time and encourage the user to focus on functionality rather than looks.

MVP Hi Fi Prototype

We tested our paper prototype on users. We got positive feedback and found that that we needed to more hierarchy in the article headers. So we added way to increase the hierarchy for the article titles. We’ve also added a donation function like Patreon allow writers to get paid running medium as a business for their fans.

Tools used:

Principle for mac
Invision for collaboration

Design principles:
Similar experience, regardless of device
Easy-to-use clear navigation
Clickable elements look like one

Future Considerations

The idea:
Potentially could be new learning platform to give influencers teaching their experiences.
A new platform like ted talks for industry leaders to share their experiences and knowledge.

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