Medium – a Setup Guide for Designers

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So, what’s Medium?

Questions that haunt every UX Beginner: How do I get noticed in the industry? How do I make myself stand in the crowd of new UX Designers?  What are the steps that I need to take to attract clients as an independent consultant or my preferred employer?  

As getting started in UX becomes more accessible, it’s also becoming more critical to differentiate yourself among the throngs of new UXers.

While you can many take many paths that can assist in gaining exposure for your personal brand, we’re going to be look at one platform in particular – Medium.  

Many high profile designers & companies publish content on Medium, from Jared Spool and Jesse James Garrett (author of The Elements of User Experience) to well-known brands like Adobe and Google’s Design.

Medium was founded by a co-founder of Twitter, Ev Williams.  In his words, here’s his description of Medium.  

“Medium is a vibrant network of thinkers who care about the world and making it better —  through their craft, their stories, and their ideas. More than a network of thinkers, though, Medium is a network of thought. Connecting people together increases their knowledge and capabilities…..  Anyone can earn influence on Medium via the value of their ideas, thoughtfulness of their responses, or quality of their rhetoric.” (https://about.medium.com/)

In this article, we’ll cover several topics on how novice designers can use Medium to build their personal brand…

  • Getting started on medium to maximize your exposure
  • How to use Medium to write and showcase your UX Case Studies for further exposure for your personal brand
  • How to both use Medium and other blogging platforms to establish yourself as a thought leader and write for the audience you want to reach
  • Pros and cons of publishing on Medium

Getting Started Using Medium

According to a CNN article, Medium had 30 million people visit its site on a monthly basis by January 2016.

Having access to such a large audience sounds great, right?  Well maybe… before deciding to jump on Medium or any platform you need to determine is this the right place for you.

Think about when starting a new UX project; you have to determine what tools/methods to deploy. What tools or techniques will bring the desired result to reach your goal?  You can apply this to deciding whether or not to use a tool when promoting yourself.

Setting Up Your Profile

Enter Bio and Upload Screenshot

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Make a good first impression!  Be sure to use an image that’s consistent with all your other professional profiles. Take time to fill out the profile section and create a compelling bio. Let’s take a look at other designers have taken advantage of the bio section.

Bio Example 1Peter Nowell

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Peter Nowell has added what he does, a product that he has created on Sketch, and links to his website.  Medium will also display links to any publications, social media profiles that you connected, the amount of followers you have and how people you are following.

Bio example 2Jared Spool

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Jared Spool has added links to his Twitter account and a short description of what he does.

Connecting with Twitter and Facebook

 

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It’s worth taking the time to connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts with Medium as you will have the added benefit of already having contacts from your social profiles. This is similar to when LinkedIn asks you if you want to add contacts when you sign up for an account.

To do this, select the publication icon at the top right navigation, then click Homepage and Settings. Scroll down and Click “Connect to Twitter.” This makes it so that followers of your Twitter account who are also on Medium will become followers of the publication.

Related Resources:

 

By the way, before we head on, a “Story” on Medium is just an article.

Publications

Publications on Medium bring individual voices together around a common theme and shared purpose. Communities and organizations (or individuals) can tell their stories from one central point of distribution, combining the diverse efforts of many unique voices for greater impact on Medium’s reader network.” (source)

Publications are a collection of articles of curated set of stories. You can include all the articles that you write in one publications. Publications show up under follow your interests . You can create a branded publication or contribute to others.  

However, your story can only be able to be included in one publication. If you publish an article under your own publication, you won’t be able to contribute the same article in another.

Consider contributing to larger publications as a way to get more exposure for your writing, especially if you’re just starting out or not the type to self promote.

If your audience has not started to follow you personally, but they do follow a publication you belong to, they’ll likely get exposed more of your Medium stories. If you have stories that are helpful for other UX Beginners, consider contributing to the Become a UX Designer publication :)

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Publications will show up as suggestions for people to follow as they go through the signup process on Medium as soon in the screenshot above. This is one reason to consider adding your stories to your own publication or contributing to another publication.

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Another powerful advantage to creating publications is that anyone who follows your publication has the option to receive email notifications for new content published. Having this option brings more potential that they will see your work.

Publication Roles

Publication Owners –  (the person who creates the publication) is the only one who can delete a publication or add editors.  You can also add writers and editors to your publications.

Editors – – write and publish their stories in the publication as well as add writer’s stories which they can edit.

Writers – submit their stories to publications which are reviewed by editors.

What’s the best choice for you – contributing to someone else’s or creating your own publication? Let’s take a look at examples of what other designers and companies are doing.

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Adobe’s publication Thinking Design curates posts from the Creative Cloud blog and includes tips for using their new product Adobe XD. This an example of how a brand is using Medium to selectively crosspost their own content.

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Design and Sketch, a publication of Sketch tutorials, is an excellent example of different writers and brands contributing to one publication.

As a UX Beginner, you could start your own publication and approach other writers to see if they would be interested in contributing to your publication.

You can also create publications on your own domain like Uxdesign.cc has.

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Uxdesign.cc is a great example of using Medium’s interface to create a beautiful visually appealing design. Using a custom domain may be a good option if you will be using Medium as your primary blogging platform.

Related resources:

Engaging with Other’s Stories

Engaging with others writers on Medium shows you’re not just there to broadcast your own work but are interested in others’ works as well. Just like Twitter or any platform, starting a real conversation can lead to new opportunities & relationships.

Recommends

There’s an option to “recommend” an article at the end of the story. After recommending a story, it will show under your recommends.

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Recommending stories on Medium is a way to show your appreciation to the author and to share that story with other people in your artwork.” (source)

Highlights

Highlights help you interact with a story. You can highlight any part of a story, which then gets collected under the highlights section of your profile.

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Your followers can see your highlights on your profile and post pages. The most highlighted parts of an article will also be displayed on the standard Medium reading experience.

Private Notes

You can also send private notes to the author of the article that you have highlighted.

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This is similar to sending a direct message on Facebook or Twitter.

Responses

You can approach responses like good ol’ commenting on a blog. But a unique feature about Medium is that you can also write an entire story as a response to an article or highlight.

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“Unlike traditional blog comments, Medium responses are treated as individual stories. That means in addition to appearing at the bottoms of the stories you respond to, the responses you write are documented on your profile page, and have the potential to take off and get highly circulated just like traditional stories.

As a newcomer to Medium, writing responses can be a great way to engage with people on the platform without having to commit to writing a full-blown story. It can also help you come up with ideas for your first story when you do decide to write it.” – Hubspot

Related Resources:

Statistics

Statistics are metrics that let you know how many people have interacted with your stories. Just like a website – you want to know how who visited, read, and engaged with your content. Knowing this helps to inform the type of content that you want to create and share.  For example, you find that piece of your content has been read and recommend 30 times while other pieces have only been viewed 10 times and not recommended this likely indicates that your readers enjoy this type of content.

Experts from Co-schedule recommend…

Out of the four stats that Medium offers, the two that stand out as something different from traditional analytics is “reads” and “read ratio.” These two stats are putting a number on something that was previously difficult to measure: is anyone reading what I’m writing?…

….Medium’s measurement of reads, combined with a comment system that happens not at the bottom but as the post is read, helps you better understand the engagement you receive and perhaps weeds out the wacky comments of someone who has not read your post at all….” (Co-schedule)

Medium statistics measure:

  • Views –  How many people saw your story
  • Reads –  How many actually read your story
  • Read ratio – How many people read your story versus read it
  • Recommends –  How many people recommended your story.
  • Referrers –   tells where did your readers came from

Related Resources:

Exploring UX Case Studies on Medium

Using Medium as to showcase your UX Studies is another way that you can leverage the exposure that you are getting for your portfolio. Use this post by UX Beginner, this guide on Medium or this article by prototypr.io to create compelling UX case studies.

Examples of UX Case Studies on Medium

Ecommerce  Landing Page:  An in-depth UX Case Study for an e-commerce landing page by the rectangles.

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The case study starts with an intro – challenge, objective, and scope of the project. The study then walks you through the how and why each part of the element for the project was created.

Digital Bank Interface:  A UX Case Study for a digital banking interface by Alex Kreger.  This case study takes a deep dive into the entire process. The writer immediately draws the reader in with an original opening.

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He continues the case study by breaking the design process, and explaining what happened at each stage. Finally, he gives an overview of the results and the major takeaways.  

Health Care App : A UX Study walking through how they created a health care app for doctors.  The case study opens letting us know why the app was created.  

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The case study divides the design process into 2 stages -UX and UI.  Using screenshots, the writer walks the reader through wireframes explaining how each screen interface solves a problem.

More Related Reading:

I recently published my own UX case study on Medium. In part 2 of our Medium guide, I’ll dive into further details on how to create your own UX case studies.

Medium vs other blogging platforms

Medium can be a place for a beginner to get started blogging right away. You don’t have to set your website and blog. Medium can be a great place to test out if blogging is something you are going to like. It has the potential to get more mileage out of your post then perhaps your website will.  

For many current and to-be bloggers, a main point of confusion is evaluating the differences between self-hosted blogging platforms (your own) and non-self-hosted blogging platforms like Medium. We’ll also discuss the pro and cons of cross promoting (repurposing your content).

Self-hosted blogs – WordPress/Squarespace

The advantage to using a self-hosted platform is you can control the ownership of your content. You can use a self-hosted platform such as WordPress or Squarespace to not only hosted your blog but create your personal/business website.

Non Self-Hosted Platforms

The big advantage to using non self hosted platforms is that you can quickly get started, connect, and engage with an existing audience. One disadvantage of using someone else’s platform is they control who gets to see your content and when.  For example, on Medium or LinkedIn- your audience may read your post, but they may not connect the content with you because they are on Medium, so they will remember the experience they had on Medium rather than you the author.

Best Practices for cross posting your content

But the choice isn’t binary – you can do both by cross posting content from your own self-hosted blog to Medium. Here’s what the SEO expert Rand Fisher from MOZ has to say about cross posting:

So my best advice here is, use platforms like these for reaching their audiences. I think it can be great to say, “Hey, 1 out of every 10 or 20 posts I want to put something up on Medium, or I want to test it on Google+, or I want to test it on LinkedIn because I think that those audiences have a lot of affinity with what I’m doing. I want to be able to reach out to them. I want to see how those perform. Maybe I want to contribute there once a month or once a quarter.” Great. Wonderful. That can be a fine way to draw distribution there….

I think guest post-style contribution, in general, is a great way to think about these networks. So you might imagine saying, “Hey, I’d love to contribute to YouMoz,” which is Moz’s own guest blogging platform. That could be wonderful, but you would never make that your home. You wouldn’t host all your content there. Likewise you might contribute to Forbes or Business Insider or to The Next Web or any of these sites. But you wouldn’t say that’s where all my content is going to be placed. It’s one chance to get in front of that audience.” – MOZ article

Using Medium’s WordPress Plugin to Cross Promote

To avoid being penalized by the search engines for duplicate content you will want to use a canonical link when reposting your content from WordPress to Medium.

A canonical link element is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the “canonical” or “preferred” version of a web page as part of search engine optimization. It is described in RFC 6596, which went live in April 2012.” (wikipedia)

The simplest way to make sure that your blog has a canonical tag that links to your website’s blog is to use Medium’s WordPress Plugin.

Step 1: Download and install Medium’s WordPress plugin

Step 2: Go to your settings on Medium.com and create an integration token

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Step 3: Copy and Paste into your token settings under your user profile in WordPress dashboard.  Finally, save your profile.

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Resources:

Pros and Cons of Using Medium To Promote Your Personal Brand

Now, that we have gone into details about what is Medium, and how to best use it.

Let’s end up with quick summary of pros & cons on using Medium as a designer…

Pros of using Medium Cons of using Medium
Potential to reach a larger audience Lack of control over your contact
User friendly and uncomplicated writing interface Unable to include an email option to your medium posts
Higher chance of your getting your content seen vs. just on your website Blogging platform could easily cease to exist causing you to lose your content
Access to people that you already connect to when connecting your twitter and facebook connects Unable to directly grow your email list as you can’t include email optin box
Many options to interact with other writers – highlighting, recommending, and responding Limited use of Google Analytics
Great in-depth stats for your stories Stories can only belong to one publication
Easily cross-post your content Medium may compete with the ranking of your personal site or domain