This year — really great, we grew a lot, shipped a bunch of stuff, sent many emails, had little downtime.
Next year — localization, better API/programmatic access, prettier archives/subscription pages, better writing/sending experience, better in-app experience.
It's been a while since I've shared a "peek-behind-the-curtain" style of essay — the last one was technically Q1 Planning, published in the first week of January. It was meant to be a year-in-review blog post, and of course it ended up being published a little too late for that.
Indeed, the last true year in review essay I wrote was three years ago. It is cute to re-read this: I was very confident that internationalization was going to ship (it still has not shipped), and I was already fed up with Heroku, which Buttondown uses for infrastructure (I would say my likelihood of churning off of Heroku in the next twelve months has decreased, not increased.)
Here's, in no apparent order, a bunch of stuff that happened in 2023:
- It was the first year of my full undivided attention.
- Not just that, it grew from being "just me" to an incredible team of gifted writers, engineers, designers, and support specialists. (If you emailed in to support or read something on the documentation site, chances are that was the incredible work of someone other than me.)
- Entire swaths of functionality and surface area were added to the product:
- We're sending more emails to more people than ever before. (As you might guess, given that this is an email platform, our highest-volume day was Cyber Monday, our first day ever of sending more than ten million emails.)
- Buttondown's core business is healthier than ever — more people are using Buttondown, they're spending more money (on average), they're churning at a lower rate (on average).
- And, to state the obvious, Buttondown remains profitable. We charge users in exchange for services; we make more money than we spend.
- A 99.51% CSAT rating, per our internal help desk tool.
One of the hardest things about running a business is managing your emotions: the thing that made this challenge much easier is hearing from so many of y'all that Buttondown has made your life — in some small, marginal way — better, or easier, or less frustrating. I can easily and confidently say that 2023 has been the most fulfilling work of my career.
Okay! Enough with the navelgazing! What's coming down the pike?
I've spent the past month chatting with users, sifting through the backlog, and thinking hard about how best to spend the next year. Here's what I've got:
- A prettier, more modern archive theme. Tens of millions of page views are served through Buttondown every month, and — let's be honest, folks — the archives for your terrific words could look better out of the box.
- Buttondown's powerful REST API is serving more traffic than ever before (yay!) But it's still kind of painful to get used to — we'll be shipping OAuth support and native API bindings for Ruby, Python, and TypeScript to make it easier to send your first API request.
- Just like I did three years ago (whoops), I am committing to localization support, so the entire end-to-end newsletter experience for your subscribers can be in whatever language fits best.
Beyond that, very little new stuff is going to be added. Instead, we're doubling down on the parts of the authorial experience that can be improved:
- rebuilding the docs from the ground-up to be faster, more useful, and better organized
- reshaping the writing and sending experience to be less, uh, labrynthine and more ergonomic for folks who prefer the WYSIWYG mode
- reorganizing the settings page to make it easier to discover new functionality and onboard without being overwhelmed by a sea of toggles and dropdown menus
- rethinking analytics (again) to, frankly, add more stuff and make it easier for you to understand how and why your newsletter is perfoming
That's a lot of "re"'s, I know. It's intentional! Buttondown has expanded a lot in the past twelve months, but I'm very mindful that the majority of you trust Buttondown not because of the knobs and whistles but because it does the core work very well. I think we can do that core work even better, and that's where time and energy will be spent next year.