A New Design Language for Metaculus

3 min readJun 9, 2021

by Gaia Dempsey, CEO, Metaculus

April was a busy month at Metaculus. We updated our tournament scoring rules, designed and launched the Forecasting Causes framework, and released two Cause-related tournaments — an Alt-Meat forecasting initiative with the Good Food Institute and the Keep Virginia Safe Tournament in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.

For much of May, we’ve been working on a major site redesign. (Yes, you read that right.) The main goals of the redesign are:

  1. Mobile-Friendliness: First, we want to make Metaculus a mobile-friendly place. As I’ve noted elsewhere, over 50% of our traffic now comes from mobile devices, so this is a high priority!
  2. Enabling New Features: Second, we need a scalable, streamlined design language that can grow with us as we add new content types and features to the site. The primary example here is a feature called Metaculus Notebooks, which will be utilized for Fortified Essays within tournaments. We hope that Notebooks and Fortified Essays will enable a direct connection between quantitative and qualitative information on the platform. Unifying these two modes will provide valuable context to forecasters, researchers, and decision-makers (we wrote more about how this will work in tournaments here).
  3. Improving Usability: Last but definitely not least, as we work more closely with partners, we aim to build tools that not only enable science — i.e., forecasting science — but that will also enable great science communication. Ideally, forecasting tools should feel easy to use and understand!

We believe it’s important to build a more tightly coupled feedback loop between research and real-world applications, so focusing on the accessibility, usability, and communication design of our forecasting tools represents a step in that direction for Metaculus. Consider an excerpt from this great Distill piece on Communicating with Interactive Articles:

As visual designers are well aware, and as journalism researchers have confirmed empirically, an audience which finds content to be aesthetically pleasing is more likely to have a positive attitude towards it. This in turn means people will spend more time engaging with content and ultimately lead to improved learning outcomes.

If the entire world already knew about the value of probabilistic forecasting, then we certainly wouldn’t care as much about effective learning outcomes, but we all know that’s not the case. Engagement and learning are crucial to getting new people and organizations to adopt forecasting as part of their decision-making process, and therefore essential to our goal of improving human decision making and coordination. Ergo, we want to make Metaculus forecasts pleasing to interact with and interpretable to the broad community of stakeholders that are part of our partner ecosystem: ambitious nonprofits, elected officials and policymakers, public health experts, effective altruists, and influential organizations.

The design language of Metaculus hasn’t changed very much since 2015, and we know that the current look and feel has a lot of fans. That’s why we’re very eager to hear feedback on this new direction while it’s still in development.

So without further ado, here is a preview of the design language being developed:

You can see more screenshots and some of the behind-the-scenes work here.

You can experience this new design at redesign.metaculus.com, where you can interact with the design live in a beta format. If you have strong feelings, or ideas you’d like to share, we would love to hear from you in this short survey. Your feedback is absolutely essential and will be read with care as we continue the design process. Thank you and as always, happy predicting!