Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who likes to build websites, and make video games. He buys way too much Lego.
I’ve tweeted my thoughts on Medium before: I’m not a fan! I work with WordPress but I like competition, and try to be objective, but Medium is not a good solution.
Not a day goes by without someone tweeting a screenshot of the Medium website on a phone, showing that you can’t see the article; just a huge amount of banners and things to dismiss.
That alone is frustrating, but as a content creator, I just don’t understand why anyone would intentionally put their content somewhere that is restricting people from viewing the site. You have to pay to read more than 5 articles a month.
Owning, or controlling, your content is so important. Medium clearly don’t have a sustainable business model, which is why they keep changing it. And it could change again at any time!
One obvious solution would be to use WordPress. But hosted WordPress isn’t that straightforward to use. Sure, there’s web hosts that install it for you; but you will have to pay for that, and select a domain, then wait for everything to start working (DNS ftw!). But you have to pay for the domain, and find a design you like (I’d recommend looking at one of my themes). And there’s still a lot of stuff to learn besides. It’s a lot to take on. Definitely not as easy as Medium.
You could move to WordPress.com, which is free and much more immediate. But to use it properly still costs money, and the interface is complex. They have their standard interface that everyone uses by default (and which isn’t the standard wp-admin), but they also have the wp-admin since not everything from the original Admin is copied over to the new interface. Plus users need to learn the difference between posts and pages, and manage the site structure, and chose a theme. The cognitive load is huge.
It’s a lot of things to take in; and if all you want to do is write then there isn’t a good alternative. At least none I am aware of – let me know in the comments if you know otherwise.
Whilst I don’t like the way Medium is setup, I do think they do a lot right: the writing interface is very clean and simple, the design choices are minimal, and settings are too. There’s built in promotion through cross promotion and aggregation. The ability to easily highlight and share content is great. The gamification, stats, hand claps; there’s a lot of small touches that make it a compelling experience.
I’d quite like to design a Medium competitor: one that has a business model baked in, and makes the experience great for everyone. I’m sure it must be possible. But I wouldn’t know how to begin building it. It would be a fun challenge though!
This story first appeared in MasterWP, a weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals.