Now that I’ve written almost 100 posts on Substack, I’m pretty much an expert on writing on this platform. While it’s generally been a good experience, I have a few UX complaints after countless hours spent typing away on this interface.
(If you wanna skip to the end, I also have some brief thoughts on why none of these complaints really matter)
You can’t set a default for who to publish too. I have to click the “Everyone” radio button every time.
I can’t cut-and-paste footnotes. They just disappear. Instead, I have to manually drag them up and down the page like a caveman.
Captions also disappear if I cut-and-paste an image to move it around.
If I move an image manually, that also deletes its caption.
To make matters worse, I thought copy-and-pasting captions would be a workaround for the previous points. But copying an image caption doesn’t do anything at all! Why??
Doing “select all” (e.g.
A) within an image caption selects the text for the entire page instead of just the caption. Why??
If I have image caption text highlighted, pasting a URL will automatically turn the highlighted text into a hyperlink. But this doesn’t work for text outside of a picture caption. Why??
Substack will warn me if my post is too long for email, which is nice. Usually, the problem is that my images are too large, so I have to convert/compress them. However, there is no “replace image” feature, so I have to go through all the caption pain points above.
To go even further, Substack is already doing image conversion because when I right-click a posted image to save it, I see that it’s in .webp format. If that’s the case, then Substack can just compress my image for me! Why make me go through the hassle?
The editor automatically converts straight quotes ("") into smart quotes (“”) within the post itself. However, it won’t convert quotes within the title of the post. Why??
Copy-and-pasting a Substack mention breaks up the sentence into three lines.
Dragging media embed blocks to the top or bottom of the window does not automatically scroll the page, so I have to do a manual hopscotch approach of picking up, putting down, and scrolling to move blocks around a long post.
Block quotes have an annoying habit of absorbing neighboring blocks when deleting lines.
Within the editor, you cannot click on the hyperlink to a Substack post if you do the special Substack block embed they keep pushing you to use.
It seems like the main benefit of using the Substack block embed instead of a hyperlink is that you get a one-time notification that someone linked your post. But I’d love a permanent analytics view to see all the backlinks to my posts within the Substack ecosystem, regardless of whether it’s an embed or a hyperlink.
Pasting an image from the clipboard often pastes the image twice while also stealing the last character of the previous sentence.
Substack will remind me to place “subscribe” buttons on my post, but I don’t like where it auto-places them. Substack should allow custom templates with the subscribe buttons already in my desired locations.
Alternatively, Substack has the data on where subscribe buttons drive the most conversions. They should make this data obvious and actionable in the UI. I have no idea if that annoying popup actually works or if it actually drives away readers.
Okay, maybe they fixed this one because I couldn’t find a recent example, but there will be times when I check my like count on a post, and it says something like “X and 2 other people liked this”. It’s not like they’re anonymous likers because I get the email notifications with their username. So why can’t I see the full list of people on the post itself??
There’s no built-in feedback mechanism for drafts
The reply interface is terrible! If you click on a notification on a comment, it takes two clicks and multiple, slow page reloads to get back to the post itself to read.
I’ve been waiting for post 99 to do a meta-post like this! Perhaps my fellow 100-day Creator Challenge Substack writers can relate to some of these pain points.
Regardless, I don’t want to discourage people from using Substack as a platform! When I was starting this challenge, I was overthinking whether to use Substack vs my old personal site vs Beehiiv vs Revue (RIP). It can feel productive to nitpick the feature differences and “optimize” for the best tool, but ultimately, the most important thing was that I started writing somewhere. And here I am 99 posts later!
As someone who worked at an early-stage startup, I know why these bugs/features aren’t top priority, but it’s still fun to vent! But if you’re listening,, please take note!
k.zine is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
We're listening, Kevin! Thank you so much for compiling and sharing this feedback, it's super helpful. And thank you also for your understanding - there are always 100x more things to get done than we have time for, but we're doing our best to prioritize and build the things that we think will benefit writers the most.
We're currently working on a new, collaborative editor that I hope will also address many of the problems you've highlighted.
Thanks again, and congratulations on getting to post 99!
Woohoo! At 99!