customers

How Nick Disabato Uses Buttondown

Nick Disabato uses Buttondown to grow his design firm and consulting practice

Customer
Nick Disabato
Nick Disabato

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m Nick Disabato, and I run Draft, a small interaction design consultancy. We publish books, research customer behavior, and hopefully make the numbers go up in a way that is not gross.

I asked for a press photo and this is what I got.
I asked for a press photo and this is what I got.

Tell me a little bit about your newsletter! What do you write about?

I run two:

  • Draft’s Letters, mostly professional stuff about value-based design, 10 years and running.
  • text, more personal/free-form/unhinged.

You say "more personal/free-form/unhinged” and as a ~lifetime subscriber of text I can attest to the kaleidoscopic nature of your subject matter on it. How do you decide what you want to write about on a given week?

I keep a todo list with a bunch of subject headings on key topics, but sometimes I write to what’s happening in my life. For example, I went on a major vacation last month, and it changed me in many ways, so I’ve spent most of the past few weeks writing about it.

Also, if my readers reply in support of something, then I write more text about it. I never know what is going to land for my audience because I’m into so much stuff and can go deep on a lot, so I turn to others for guidance & surrender. Otherwise I’m just going to write about 18th-century Dutch typography & plants all the time, and I don’t think many people want that. (I’m pretty sure Justin is responsible for 80% of my writing about cocktails, haha.)

Three of Draft's books on design and interaction.
Three of Draft's books on design and interaction.

What inspired you to get started?

A handful of other bootstrappers told me I should start a mailing list over a decade ago. I watched a few people run theirs for a while and tried my hand at it. People seem to like ‘em!

People are starved for quality writing. In many ways, the current landscape feels like a return to the golden days of blogging – just more private and intimate.

The [gestures broadly] world of emails have changed a lot in the past decade in terms of sophistication and audience. Has your approach to Draft Letters changed at all? Are there things you’re doing now that you weren’t, say, 5 years ago, or vice-versa?

Oh gosh, yes. Draft’s Letters used to be a lot like text, actually – lots of personal ramblings in-between the work stuff. Splitting the two lists into work & personal has been great for us, because some people just want us to stick to design stuff. I’m also writing with a clearer voice, and a better sense of what outcomes my audience wants to create.

Overall I’ve just gotten older and more experienced, and I don’t write if I don’t think it will hit for my audience. That happens regardless of outlet. I don’t think about my other competitors, and I don’t view them as competitors. People are starved for quality writing. In many ways, the current landscape feels like a return to the golden days of blogging – just more private and intimate.

Where did you first learn of Buttondown, and what made you decide to give it a try?

I must admit I don’t remember the first time I ever heard of Buttondown, but I kept it in a note of other email provider alternatives, and when MailChimp got acquired by Intuit I decided to make the switch to something simpler & more in line with my personal values.

What do you mean by 'personal values'?

At the very least, Buttondown’s business looks a lot like ours: solo founder, attentive to individual needs. More importantly, though, the email landscape writ large is pretty rotten. Giant corporations owning everything, bloatware, busted products, horrible deliverability. I’ve been burned by platforms that claim to have my own interests in mind, and then actively hurt the growth of the list by shunting us to low-quality servers while hiking their fees.

Buttondown doesn’t feel like that kind of company. I’m happy to invest in my presence there in the long term.

What matters, really, is knowing that you have a voice.

What are some ways Buttondown has helped you run your publication?

It’s been massively simpler and easier running things with Buttondown. Stuff gets queued easier, deliverability is higher, bugs are fewer. Justin is receptive to feedback and just a wonderful human in general. And on top of all of that, somehow I’m paying less than for one of the big horrible platforms.

What are some things you’d be excited to see Buttondown build in the next few months?

I literally sat in front of Justin and picked the product apart for an hour a few weeks ago, and he seemed to take most of the feedback to heart, which is astonishing and wonderful. As a next step, I’d love more custom-tailored calls to action to sign up for the paid side of text.

What advice would you give to someone starting their own email list?

What matters, really, is knowing that you have a voice. It might take a little work to cultivate, but you have a voice. It is yours alone. What you have to say matters. and nobody can take it from you.

Get more insights. Grow your newsletter.
Join 36,000 writers, creators, and entrepreneurs learning how to grow their audience and spend more time doing what they love.

What customers say about Buttondown

I made the transition from MailerLite and I have no regrets. I also like that Buttondown focuses on the essentials by design and keeps me grounded and centered on what really matters.
Arthur Cendrier
Author, Thoughtful Inquiry
Overall, Buttondown has been terrific to work with and I recommend them for anybody who's thinking of starting a newsletter or moving over like I did.
Andy Magnusson
Customer Engineering Leader
Wanna know how good Buttondown as a product experience is? I upgraded to Basic before sending the first email, and then upgraded again two days later.
Zak El Fassi
Founder, Zaigood Labs
Mailchimp lost me due to their inferior product and the nightmarish merry-go-around experience with their overseas support team. Buttondown won me over with their superior product and second to none customer service.
Sav Tripodi
CEO, Sanico Software
Your support is amazing and I deeply appreciate how available and helpful you are. I LOVE being able to turn tracking pixels off. I didn't even realize this was an option when I signed up and am SO HAPPY to not track people.
Andrea Mignolo
Method & Matter
I'm also impressed with how responsive you are, and how you directly answer customers. Makes it really clear that signing up for your service was a good decision.
Nicole Tietz-Sokolskaya
Software engineer and writer
Very happy with Buttondown, works smoothly, it's very configurable and I love the minimalist design of the UI. It makes me focus on my writing. Plus, I'm super happy to support independent software and I should mention - the support I receive whenever I have a question is warm and quick :)
Martina Pugliese
Data scientist and storyteller
I just tested the RSS to Email feature for one of my blogs and it was incredibly easy to set up. It took me about 30 mins to figure out the same feature in Mailchimp.
Nicolas Bernadowitsch
Blogger
This long weekend I fulfilled a long-standing promise to myself to switch my RSS-to-email provider from Mailchimp to Buttondown, and it’s been such a great experience. It’s cheaper, more flexible, less cluttered, and it’s run by Justin Duke who is just delightful and answered a bunch of my questions over the weekend (even though I asked him to please not!).
Rian van der Merwe
Director of Product at PagerDuty
I've been wrangling half a dozen tools to get my stuff up and running recently, almost all of which had some hiccup. Buttondown had zero. It did everything I expected and needed the first time.
Catherine Cusick
Self-Employed FAQ
I, like almost everyone else I've seen talk about Buttondown, am IMMENSELY happy and impressed with your customer service. It turns out we can have nice things, which is really refreshing.
Ed Yong
Staff writer, The Atlantic
Email makes the world go ‘round, and Buttondown is how I manage it all for my keyboard projects.
Tim van Damme
Founder, MVKB
It's a truth, that should be more universally acknowledged, that Buttondown is the best newsletter software. Simple, does exactly what it sets out to do, and reasonably priced.
Noel Welsh
Founder, Inner Product
Buttondown is the perfect fit for my headless newsletter use case. And I contacted support with some specific requests and Justin responded within 30 minutes with great answers and a nice pinch of charm.
Sam Roberts
Software engineer, Tamr
Hands down the easiest way to run a newsletter - and the free version is generous!
Javeed Khatree
SEO expert
With API and Markdown support, you can build workflows that make it so easy to write.
Westley Winks
Peace Corps
I’ve never enjoyed writing newsletters as much as I do with Buttondown.
Kevin Lewis
You Got This!
Buttondown remains the easiest thing I use regularly, and I am grateful for that.
Casey
Journalist
It's a humble app doing a common job but with end users in mind.
Si Jobling
Engineering Manager
Buttondown has been an amazing experience for me. The service is constantly being improved and customer service is the best. My newsletter with Buttondown has grown from a fairly small list to over 15,000 subscribers, and it hasn't broken a sweat yet.
Cassidy Williams
CTO, Contenda
I switched over to Buttondown from Mailchimp because of the difficulty I had with Mailchimp's campaigns, so Buttondown's easy and user-friendly system has been a genuine breath of fresh air.
Jessi Eoin
Illustrator + Comic Artist
You’ve truly built a great product that I feel good about using (vs a monopoly from our tech overlords).
Rachel
2030 Camp
I love how personal Buttondown feels, especially compared to Mailchimp, Convertkit, and services like that.
Simen Strøm Braaten
Designer
This product has been exactly what I’ve needed!
Nathan Bird
Podcast host, Chattanooga Civics
It's already so refreshing compared to the mega companies.
Casey Watts
Author, Debugging Your Brain
Definitely will be using for the foreseeable future. It’s a great service and I feel well cared for. Thank you!
Phoebe Sinclair
Author
I’m a sucker for elegant UI and I really love your site, but above that I think your product has so much value for so many different people. I’m not a coder, I’m only familiar with the bare basics, but I was able to figure out and utilise Buttondown quickly.
Claudia Nathan
Founder, The Repository
The killer feature for me: Buttondown will take an RSS feed then automatically slurp up the content (in their words) and then send it to our subscribers. Job done. They seem like a good company too, so I’d say this is a winner.
Andy Bell
Founder, Set Studio
As a recent user of Buttondown, they are super on the ball. A week ago I discovered a security vulnerability and reported it on Friday afternoon. They acknowledged and fixed it in under two hours. On a Friday night! Talk about going above and beyond for your users!
Predrag Gruevski
Principal Engineer, Kensho
Well may I just say your support experience is already approximately 1 billion times better than ConvertKit. Excited to be switching!
Michael J. Metts
Author, Writing is Designing
Privacy focused sending and sign up form; lets me focus on writing - editor is "just" markdown; simple, elegant design template looks like a blog post; the founder is amazing - he's helped with every question I've had, even outside of Buttondown.
Joe Masilotti
Founder, RailsDevs
We need more nice and professional services like yours on the web.
Tobias Horvath
Designer and developer
No one is paying me to say this, but I love @buttondown so far for my lil newsletter. It’s so smart, simple, and attractive (and to my knowledge, not actively anti-trans!). Customer service is also legitimately excellent.
Julie Kliegman
Copy chief, Sports Illustrated
I love it! It lets me breathe, not compete as I write with other writers.
Devin Kate Pope
Writer and editor
It’s a pleasure working with you. Thank you! (And what a contrast with Mailchimp, where I spent two weeks and a dozen of emails trying find out why our form goes down sometimes (only sometimes), and never really got a real answer.)
Anton Sotkov
Software Engineer, IA
Buttondown exemplifies how I wish most software worked, and I hope to achieve a similar thing with the software I develop in the future.
Matt Favero
Software engineer
It feels incomparably good to be able to email just like a guy named Justin when you have a @buttondown question 15 minutes before you’re about to blast a Geistlist email. (Not a guarantee but wow this guy is human-level good.)
Jacob Ford
Designer About Town
Enter Buttondown, Justin Duke’s lovely little newsletter tool. It’s small, elegant, and integrates well. And it is also eminently affordable.
Will Buckingham
Author
Your settings page is a joy to use and everything about Buttondown makes me happy.
Gareth Jelley
Magazine editor
have been on Buttondown for ~18 months and I can't recommend it enough.
Elizabeth Minkel
Podcast host
You really do make ALL other customer service look terrible by comparison.
Chris Mead
Improv teacher
There is a caring person on the other side of this software, which is one of the things I like the most about Buttondown.
Keith Calder
Film & TV Producer
I’d also like to add that @buttondown is an absolute joy to use. Hats off, Justin!
Elliot Jay Stocks
Creative Director, Google Fonts
Shoutout to @buttondown and @jmduke for building an amazing bootstrapped product for newsletters, all while being very open to feedback and connecting directly with customers 🙏 Easily one of the most enjoyable product experiences I've had.
Den Delimarsky
Head of Ecosystem, Netlify
if you are looking for "newsletter tool for hackers" i tentatively believe the answer is @buttondown full api, compose in markdown, good docs for setting up domain auth, simple subscribe form HTML that you style yourself (or not)
Brian David Hall
Author, Your Website Sucks
I really like @buttondown as a blogging platform, it has the simplicity of Substack but the corporate culture is less toxic.
Chad Loder
Extremism researcher
I worked with @buttondown and asked for some new payment support beyond the supporter single tier / pay-what-you-want options. Justin was great and built it in just a couple days.
Dan Hon
Author & consultant
I write nonfiction and I use @buttondown buttondown.email/Changeset - indie, GREAT personal customer support, very nice default styling, all the options I want including ones to protect my readers' privacy
Sumana Harihareswara
Open source maintainer
I use @buttondown because it does exactly what I need (manage subscribers and send markdown emails), not more and not less 👍 As a bonus it's made by an indie dev which I love!
Max Stober
Founder, GraphCDN
If you’re considering running an email newsletter, or if you already run one and are considering a change of provider, I highly recommend @buttondownemail. Super-easy app, very fair pricing with a generous free tier, and exemplary support. 💯
Peter Gasston
Technologist and speaker
imo @buttondown is easily one of the best-designed services i’ve used in recent years, if you have a substack you should really consider switching!
Kabir Goel
Engineer, Cal
Thanks for getting me excited about email newsletters again.
Garrick van Buren
I'm very thrilled that I can just write in Markdown without having to deal with email builders and all that crap.
Parham Doustdar
Thanks again for all the help! You’ve really turned something super complex into something super easy – sending new issues is as simple as firing off a text message.
Kartik Chaturvedi
Thanks for creating a simple way for people who want to, like, put words in a hole and have it sent to people... I am just thankful that something just nice and human exists on the internet.
Emmanuel Quartey
I tried 3 other newsletter services today and I felt like wanting to rip my hair out. They were all painfully slow. I'm so glad I found Buttondown.
Mohamed Elbadwihi
I’ve found Buttondown to be a great fit for my workflow and have been delighted by all of Justin’s thoughtful features and improvements to the product.
Michael Lee
Like seriously, so many lovely little easter eggs in one could-be-boring service.
Alexandra Muck
I just switched over from Tinyletter and I'm really excited to have found a place to host my tiny newsletter that doesn't seem like it's assuming everyone sending newsletters is an email marketer / growth hacker.
Tessa Alexanian
I'm in love with the simplicity of Buttondown.
Ekfan
I’ve used similar tools in the past and Buttondown is by far the simplest to use and most promising.
Fabrizio Rinaldi
Thank you for creating such a simple and brilliant tool. I’ve just signed up and the experience has been smooth and painless (the docs are great too!)
Oliver Holms
As a developer who has hated every email system I've ever used this is so nice.
Drew Hornbein
I wish I still wrote a newsletter just so I could use buttondown again. It’s like that.
Steven Kornweiss
No credit card required. Only pay for what you use. Cancel anytime.