How To Make A Compact Story Index For Your Profile Page

All images Mark Starlin

Because Medium uses a single-column feed to show stories, it doesn’t take long before our stories disappear down the feed. If you only write about current events, this may be no big deal. Few people want to read old news or opinions. But if you write stories with lasting appeal, like fiction, or poetry, or other creative writing, then a single-column feed is not desirable.

You could create a personal publication to organize your writing (I did), but all of Medium’s in-house publications have already gone to the “frictionless reading” single-column blog layout. Can it be long before other publications follow suit?

I started making an index for all of my stories back in August of 2018. I featured it at the top of my Profile page. This is how to do it, step-by-step.

Plan First!

I planned to organize my stories into several categories: Fiction, Humor, Poetry, About Writing, About Medium, and Other Stories. You can organize your stories any way you like.

If you plan to use a compact grid of index images and have several categories, you will want to make your number of categories multiples of three: 3, 6, 9, 12. As Medium’s Grid function likes to organize images into rows of three. If you are alright with using Medium box links in a vertical column, don’t worry about the number of categories.

Once you have decided what categories or topic you will be using, you need to create a new Medium story for each one. These stories will act as your Category Index pages.

My Fiction index page.

After I created a new Medium story for each category, I began adding links to all of my stories in that category. This is the tedious part. The more stories you have, the longer the job will take. The easiest way to accomplish this is to scroll down your feed, adding each story to the proper Category Index until you reach the bottom of your feed.

To add a story to a Category Index page, open the story, copy its URL from the browser and paste it onto the proper Category Index page story. Then immediately hit the Return or Enter key to turn it into a Medium box link.

Once you are done adding stories to your Category Index pages, you need to publish them.

Then you need to create a Master Index story.

My Master Index page.

Create a new story and add links to your Category Index pages. You can use standard Medium box links to create your Master Index just like you did for your Category Indexes. This how I did mine initially. It is easy and works, but it is not very compact.

The Compact Images Index

Recently, I visited J.A. Taylor’s profile page and noticed that he used images to create an index of his stories. It was more compact than using Medium box links. I thought it was a great idea, so I borrowed/stole the idea from him. Thanks, Jim!

Here is a link to Jim’s profile page to see his colorful index:

Using images to create a compact index is more work and requires graphic software to create the images, but it is more compact. It also allows you to choose the design of the index images. I decided to match the index images to my Profile page header color. And I used the same font for my Name on the header and the category names on the index images. I also added an image of a library, but it is not necessary to have an image.

The Rule Of Three

To create a compact image index, you will need to use Grids. When you drag and drop (or select) multiple images into a Medium story, Medium creates a “Grid” of thumbnail images that can be selected individually to see at full size.

One thing I discovered while making my index images is the Grid likes to organize your images into groups of three. Hopefully, you did this during the planning stage, as I suggested. If you have a number that is not a multiple of three, you will have various sized index images. It is not wrong, just something my organizing geek designer mind doesn’t like.

I used Affinity Photo (I highly recommend it as a Photoshop alternative) to create my Category images. I made each image 600 X 150 pixels in size. This size seemed to work out best for me. When the Master Index is shown on your Profile page, the image grid will shrink to fit the single column width, making it quite compact.

My Master index pinned to my Profile page.

I placed all the index images into a folder on my computer to make them easy to select. If you want them to appear in a specific order, you will need to name them alphabetically. I used lowercase letters to accomplish this: aWit, bFiction, cHumor, etc.

On your Master Index page, click the + menu on the story body and select the Add Image option. Then navigate to your folder of index images and select them all. Alternatively, you can select them all and drag and drop them into the Medium story. Both methods will create a grid of index images.

Now you need to add links to the Category Index pages. Open one of the Category Index pages and select its URL. Then open the Master Index page and select the corresponding index image. It should have a green border when selected. Then select Cmd + K (Mac)/Ctrl + K (PC) and paste the URL in the popup URL box.

Do that for each index image.

Then publish your Master Index page.

Now, you will want to pin the Master Index to the top of your Profile page. To do this, select the “” three-dot menu and select Pin Story.

The Category Index pages will eventually disappear down your feed. Which is good. You don’t really want them clogging up your feed. But don’t worry, they are always accessible from the pinned Master Index Page. If you would rather not have them visible in your feed, you can make them Unlisted via the “” menu. Then they won’t appear in your feed and can only be accessed via their links on the Master Index.

The Drawbacks

The big drawback to this type of index is, it must be updated manually. When you publish a new story, you have to add it to the appropriate index page manually. If you are disciplined, you could do it as soon as you publish the story. I schedule most of my stories to publish before I wake up, and I am not that disciplined, so I update my indexes about once a week. It’s not fun. But it’s necessary if you want your index to show the latest stories.

And Grids don’t work the same in the mobile apps. On my iPhone my Master index is vertical stack of nine index images.

That’s it.

If you have any questions, ask in the Responses. I will do my best to answer them if I can.

Thanks to Mary Keating for suggesting I create this tutorial.

Old bones. Young heart. Focusing on a wide variety of creativity. @markstarlin

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