Medium’s editor keeps the area where the user writes sacred—every effort is made to prevent unexpected changes to what the user has composed in the editor vs. what they will see when they publish. It needs to feel organic and seamless. One of the challenges that has emerged as Medium’s complexity has increased is that this sanctity of the “meat” of the story has resulted in a “hamburger” effect with respect to the chrome of Medium—we had to stack all the context, navigation and controls for the story above and below the portion that was owned by the editor. For example, when Medium first added the concept of “metered” stories and the paywall, it had to add that context at the top of the story, and vertical real-estate was lost.
We wanted to start making steps to make some of the contextual elements of Medium’s chrome, like the author lockup, behave contextually depending on how the writer chooses to craft their story’s elements. Depending on the appearance or order of elements in a story (whether or not the image comes before the title, if the story has a subtitle, etc) the author lockup now adapts and appears inline, along with the star denoting its meter status.
This accomplishes a few things: It prevents the author from getting skipped over and forgotten, tying their presence more closely to the story itself, it saves vertical space and brings the reader into the story faster, and finally it brings Medium a little bit closer to that goal of a smart writing surface that flexes to what you wish to do with it as an author.
Designer Sarah Klearman made an exhaustive list of all possible top-of-story configurations to make sure we maintained consistent behavior and covered the dozens of edge cases that could crop up in the editor.