All trees, no forest

Small businesses use Buffer to plan and schedule their social media content, but the legacy calendar (built many years prior and hardly touched since) wasn't making it easy — it didn't meet user or market expectations for what a calendar should do. It had become a clear disappointment for customers and a big source of tech debt.
Multiple calendars opened in multiple tabs
Buffer's legacy calendar. Each social channel had to be viewed in a separate browser tab.
We heard from customers in interviews, NPS scores, feature requests, and support tickets that the existing calendar was a huge pain point. Customers were using Buffer but needing to find supplemental planning tools to meet their needs. Shared spreadsheets, project management tools, and often direct competitor's tools were needed to get the job done.
Notes from a design brief on goals for customers and Buffer with designing a new calendar
A Buffer customer's content planning spreadsheet, put together because the legacy calendar wasn't meeting her needs.
Additionally, we were seeing a slow but steady decline in posts created in Buffer, and it felt imperative to turn that number around. Posts Created was a key metric for Monthly Active Users, a number we monitored closely to determine business health.

Design sprint, but make it async

I kicked off this project with a series of customer interviews, a survey, and a design sprint. Buffer's calendar has been a known problem for quite some time, but it was important to look at the pain points with fresh eyes. I was focused on the web experience and partnered with a more junior designer who was focused on mobile — our goal was to create a seamless cross-platform experience for customers. There were many potential pain points to address beyond some of the obvious opportunities (like not opening the calendar in a new tab), so a design sprint was an efficient way to get the creative juices flowing and to figure out where to focus our design efforts. What were the most critical pain points to address?
I live in California, and our mobile designer was in Taiwan, a 15 hour time difference. How might we turn this traditionally super-synchronous activity into an effective asynchronous one? Structure and setting clear expectations felt key, so I outlined our daily activities, goals, and check-in points. I put together a Figma file for us to operate in, and recorded a quick Loom video to walk through it all.
My outline for  our design sprint, explaining what a sprint is and how we'd complete it
Explaining what a design sprint is (and what it isn't), as well as how we'd complete the sprint.
We ran through user interviews, the How Might We exercise, lots of sketching, prototyping, and testing with customers.
How Might We exercise from the design sprint
The How Might We exercise helps us practice active listening and identify opportunities.
Early sketches from the design sprint
Early sketches from the sprint, going broad before diving into any one concept.
After lots of sketching and reviewing, we developed prototypes and tested them with real customers to gauge how well we had addressed their top pain points and whether the experience felt intuitive. Customers who loved Buffer often cited simplicity as a reason, so maintaining that feeling of focus and ease was key.

Ruthlessly prioritizing

Coming out of the design sprint, we identified our must-haves for this project as:
Three focus areas for the new calendar
There were dozens of other opportunities we would've loved to tackle, but we decided to keep scope tight. We were going to be overhauling key functionality in the product and wading through a lot of legacy code, so things could've snowballed quickly. We needed to nail the basics from a code quality and user experience perspective so that we could iterate and experiment more in the future.
Over the next few weeks we ironed out all of the design details, solving for complex permission states, interactions and gestures, and nearly empty and jam packed calendar views.
The week view of the calendarThe month view of the calendar
Week and Month views of the new calendar.
Scheduled  post actions
Scheduled post actions on hover, click, and drag.
Examples of different post previews
Scheduled post actions on hover, click, and drag.

Over 32% increase in posts created

We launched the new calendar experience to all Buffer customers in September 2021. The key metric we had hoped to influence was Posts Created, a key component of Monthly Active Users, and could clearly see a 32% increase of posts created in adopters.
Data visualization of channel connection percentage
Mixpanel data showing new calendar adopters creating more posts, the key metric we were hoping to impact.
Things were trending in the right direction, and we were excited to build on that. We intentionally said “no” to many interesting feature ideas for v1 so that we could ship ASAP, so along with monitoring overall engagement with the feature, we put mechanisms in place to identify behaviors and suss out the most impactful improvements we could make next:
Sharing insights from Fullstory in SlackSharing insights from Pendo with the team in Slack
Sharing positive, neutral, and negative feedback from Pendo with the team.
Seeing quantitative data is always a good thing, but hearing directly from customers hits different. Lots of folks were thrilled to see the update, and felt compared to share.
Positive customer feedback