Medium Writers

Helping writers understand their success on Medium in a new earnings model.

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Background

The Medium Partner Program allows writers to earn money for the content they publish on Medium based on engagement from Medium members. This year, Medium planned to roll out a new model to calculate earnings for the Partner Program writers. Read the press release here

At the same time, the Partner Program had seen little improvement since 2017. User unhappiness had accumulated:

  • Writers had no clarity on what drove their earnings;

  • Writers no longer trusted that Medium correctly paid out their earnings.

The challenge

In order to improve trust and clarity with writers in the context of the new earnings calculation model, this project revisited two key touch-points in a writer’s journey of publishing:

  1. a post-level stats page that tracks post performance;

  2. an earnings dashboard that shows past payout transactions.

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The old post stats page and earnings dashboard since 2017.

My role

I redesigned the post stats page and earnings dashboard, together with all other supporting surfaces, from July to November 2019. I worked alongside a product manager, a copywriter, and a team of five engineers. In addition, I collaborated with one other designer on user research.

 

The new design launched on October 28, 2019.

DIVE DEEPER INTO THE PROBLEM

Improve trust and clarity for writers while fulfilling Medium’s product goals

In the exploration phase, I collaborated with Product to break down the problem into more actionable tactics to understand how we want to tell the story of the new calculation model in product:

User stories

  • I want to see my earnings relate closely with metrics on reading time so that I can understand why my posts get paid.

  • I want insights on my readers’ behavior (eg. where they are coming from; how much they are engaging) so that I know how to make my posts successful.

Medium's product goals

  • Encourage writers to allow their posts to be distributed by Medium

  • Encourage writers to share their work outside of Medium

  • Buffer the launch of the new calculation model with sufficient in-product support

 
REDESIGNING THE EXPERIENCE

Introducing the new stats page and earnings dashboard

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Providing ample guidance with tooltips and easy access to help center.

Elevating reading time as a key metric to measure performance.

Unifying graphs under the same timeline to reinforce the connection between earnings and success metrics.

Surfacing detailed stats on reader engagement to arm writers with the right insights on how to boost their readership.

 
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A refreshed earnings dashboard that improves clarity around when and how much writers get paid.

HOW WE GOT THERE - 00

Create a meaningful narrative for writers with stats

What’s the right information hierarchy: what stats to show, on which page, how to group them, and what’s the priority? We approached the problem by using stats to create a narrative that leads writers through their questions while surfacing Medium’s message.

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Early explorations on what stats to show and where to show them.

 
HOW WE GOT THERE - 01

Give writers intuitive clues on how and why they earn

We wanted to show three graphs that track a post’s daily performance: 1) a views graph; 2) an earnings graph; 3) a member reading time graph.

 

What’s the best way to do that with the following goals?

  • How might we make it clear that earnings are driven by reading time, instead of views?

  • How might we show that Medium’s distribution helps writers reach more audiences and earn more?

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Visual experiments on using colors to establish connection:

The final version:

  • Uses color to direct writer’s attention to the interrelated metrics 

  • Connects the three graphs under the same time frame to highlight how distribution milestones drive all three metrics.

Exploration of different types of graphs and how to arrange them

HOW WE GOT THERE - 02

Integrate new insights

With the new reading time metric, we show writers how deeply their readers engage with the posts. At the same time, how might we surface more reading time insights to convey that Medium’s distribution helps writers reach the most engaged readers?

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Iterations on information hierarchy and visual cues

A final version that tells a clearer story and is more objective.

HOW WE GOT THERE - 03

A clean mobile experience without missing the critical narrative

30% of the traffic to the stats page comes from mobile devices. What are the most critical pieces of information on the stats page? How might we present them in a mobile-friendly way?

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THE IMPACT

Measuring success

Before rolling out the two new pages, I collaborated with another designer to run usability tests with a select group of writers. The overall result was positive and matched our expectations.

On October 28, 2019, the new design launched to all writers. We keep measuring the success of the design by working closely with the User Happiness team on monitoring complaints and inquiries around earnings and Medium distribution. In addition, we embedded a number of trackers on the pages to measure the usability of detailed features.

 

Since launch, we've also seen many writers expressed having improved clarity about the Partner Program.

And I’m particularly happy because for once I know why I’m doing well on Medium.

- Shaunta Grimes

A high-earning writer on Medium. Read her original post here.