Questioning the way we display content

how do we enable depth, context and relationships?

Winnie Lim
The experimental years


Most content is typically displayed in these formats:

…and they are typically sorted:

  • chronologically: newest items are displayed first
  • through data: most popular, trending, votes
  • algorithmically: the system determines what you see through your consumption patterns and what it wants you to see
  • by curation: humans determine what you see
  • by taxonomy: content is displayed within buckets of categories, like Wikipedia

Most media entities employ a combination of the above.

So what are the issues?

Too much information

We have to endlessly scroll and parse a ton of images and headlines before we can find something interesting to read.

It is always about the new

The frontpage of any content-driven media is often geared towards the latest happenings. But what if there are old gems hidden beyond? A new user wouldn’t be able to discover them. Take this post on Medium:

This was a really popular post in 2013, the authors even got a book deal out of it. I remember it fondly as one of my favourite posts on Medium, ever. But new readers may never know it exists.

Deep diving is almost impossible

Whether we search, or click on a category/tag, we get another endless list of headlines to parse.

It is difficult to see interdependencies

This is especially true in the context of learning something complex, say economics. We can’t read about economics in a silo without understanding psychology, sociology and politics, at the very least. But we treat each subject as though they are independent of each other.

There is no control

Since most of our feeds rely on either machine algorithms or human curation, there is very little control over what we actually want to see.

Should we care?

Perhaps for most revenue-driven media owners this is understandable, since most of their revenue relies on getting clicks and that means weighting the trendy heavier. Why should they care about enabling deep-diving?

But what if some of us truly wish for our audience to be able to access our content in-depth? How can we organize and display our content better? How can we better communicate complex topics?

I think it is a waste to have a ton of intellectual or creative output in modern times, and yet we cannot figure out how to expose them in a prolonged manner.

Where are the answers?

I intend to write a series of posts exploring possibilities. Maybe we can explore them together. We may not find the answers, but we can perhaps get closer.