How Medium is Improving its Writer and Reader Experience

We’ve cleaned up our in-product messaging prompts.

Michael Sippey
The Medium Blog


If you’ve been a long-time Medium user, you may have noticed some changes we’ve made in the past several months. Or better yet, you may have not noticed some things that may have previously distracted you (or your readers) from enjoying what’s most important on Medium: the stories themselves, the ideas that matter. Earlier this year, we dramatically reduced the frequency and prominence of our in-product messaging prompts (sign up, open in app, etc) resulting in a far cleaner, more enjoyable reading experience.

What prompted this change? In the latter half of 2019, we took a hard look at the increasing number of pop-ups and prompts on our service. Although the numbers were telling us these were effective, the experience we were building felt wrong. Our prompts felt too intrusive, either because they needed to be dismissed to continue reading, or because they were simply taking up too much space on screen. We’d optimized into what drove the most clicks (easy to measure), at the expense of the reader experience (harder to measure, but incredibly important). So in early 2020, we did a complete overhaul of our in-product messaging, resulting in a cleaner, more enjoyable, ad-free experience.

What changed? Below are the most visible changes. It’s quite possible you haven’t noticed, because it’s what you don’t see, or what you see far less of, that changed.

1. Removed full-screen pop-ups (aside from our paywall).

The first step of our tidying up project was to remove full-screen prompts on free stories, full stop. These were our most intrusive units, because they looked/felt like ads, and unnecessarily interrupted the reading experience on stories that could otherwise be read for free.

We’ve removed these full-screen pop-ups.

Going forward, the only time we’ll interrupt a story with a full-screen pop-up is when it’s truly necessary: either when you’re trying to take an action that requires login (e.g. highlight), or when you’ve read your limit of member-only content, and have hit the paywall.

2. Redesigned our “meter” (our member-only content messaging) to take up much less space.

On Medium, some of our content is “member-only,” meaning unlimited access to these stories requires a paid subscription. You can enjoy a limited number of member-only stories for free each month, before encountering a paywall where we prompt you to subscribe to continue reading. To let you know you’re reading member-only content, and to let you know how many stories you have left, we include messaging in-product (often known as “the meter”). Although this messaging is important, the way we were serving this messaging was not optimal. Our meter notification was quite large, often taking the form of partial or full-screen prompts that needed to be dismissed to continue reading. Recently, we redesigned our meter to be far more minimal (see below), and provides a point of education, versus interruption, in the reader experience.

Our “meter” is now streamlined.

3. Redesigned our “open in app” prompts to be less intrusive, more user-friendly.

The Medium app (on iOS and Android) is the best way to read Medium on a mobile device, so making it easy for readers to download our app, or open a story in the app, is hugely important. However, if someone chooses not to download the app, or doesn’t want to read in-app, we completely respect that decision. Previously, we had a persistent “open in-app” pop-up prompt at the top of every story, that even after being dismissed would often (and annoyingly) appear again. We’ve since replaced this pop-up with native messaging in our top navigation bar (see bottom right), and are continuing to optimize our “open in app” prompts to serve them to the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

What happened as a result of these changes? To our writers and readers, seemingly nothing — they’re enjoying a better Medium experience, which is exactly what we were after.

What comes next? This tidying up is only the beginning. We’re building an even better writer and reader experience on Medium in 2020, and this initiative has helped us build a stronger foundation for what’s to come. We can’t wait to show you more.