You’re reading Signal v. Noise, a publication about the web by Basecamp since 1999. Happy .

Mig Reyes

About Mig Reyes

I'm a designer splitting my time between making and marketing Basecamp. In a past life, I crafted the web at Threadless and interviewed people far smarter than me.

Marketing around situations

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 6 comments

Before he made The Simpsons, Matt Groening’s famous comics and illustrations graced the covers of Apple brochures. The writing inside—from 1989, mind you—still does a great job selling the Mac.


Instead of blanket marketing a one-size-fits-all message, Apple took the time to speak to every situation a person is in. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the Mac is there to put order back in your life. If you’re unemployed, the Mac is there to help you chase a career. If you’re a habitual procrastinator, the Mac is there for your spark of productivity.
They’re listening to us, and our problems. Talk about empathy.
Plenty of marketing today, especially in software, is a package of feature sets, bells, whistles, and some boasting about how they’re better than the next guy. Perhaps there’s mention of “benefits,” sure, but we’re always left figuring out how a product is supposed to fit in our own lives.
Chances are, your product isn’t for everybody. It doesn’t have to be, either. Really listen to your audience—you’re lucky to have them. Instead of assuming what they need, ask where they’re coming from. How did they get to the point of finally asking your product for help? If you can figure that out, all of a sudden your marketing changes from “making sales” to “being there for friend.” That feels good.

Lessons from Frank & Oak’s Support

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 19 comments

Doing business with a company means you’re not just buying their products, but the experience of having their people, opinions and expertise, too.

Some companies really understand great customer support and service, others fall hard. The latter is the case with my recent (now only) experience with Canadian online menswear retailer, Frank & Oak.
My story is common: I ordered a couple of items, but one got lost in transit. I had full faith that customer service at Frank & Oak could help me track it.
I got a week of radio silence through their online form, and email. Resorting to Twitter, I finally got a reply a couple days later: “we’ll email you.”
Fast forward three weeks from their first reply and we’ve got two valuable lessons from their final correspondence:

I usually answer my email within 3-4 days, but since you sent 3 emails, the number of days showing since our last communication stayed the same. Please wait for a response next time, so that I don’t loose track of our communication.

1. Blame the customer: 3 emails in a 3 week span, of course it’s my fault.
2. Passive-aggresively tell the customer they’re annoying: In 2013, most email clients order messages by time of receipt. My fault, I didn’t know that yours doesn’t.
Every bit of this Frank & Oak email makes it my fault. So much for making customers feel like a bad ass.
For examples on how to avoid bad customer service like this, you can read how Ryan switched to T-Mobile and had a great experience, or you can read how we turned our own disasters into gold. And whether you work on a support team or not, everyone should give Carnegie a read. You’ll make more friends, and probably more customers.
In the mean time, I’m going to find a place to buy a nice shirt.

Try, try again

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 5 comments

I wonder how many people stop themselves short of making something new in fear of it failing.

Failure, sigh. It’s (still) overrated, and it’s given everyone the wrong lens to look at their craft. Why dissect post-mortem when we can imagine possibility? Why review mistakes when we can consider play?

The makers of our world would be better off mimicking scientists with their work. Harp on deliberate practice. Reinvent their processes daily. Share every discovery. And most importantly, try new things often.
All of a sudden punting on ideas—no matter how silly—seem like the real mistake. They’re lessons you didn’t learn, skills you didn’t exercise.
When everything’s an experiment, you shed the fear that comes with trying new things. And that sounds like a better way to grow and learn. Plus, no one has to even mention the f-word.

Why did you switch to Basecamp?

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 5 comments

Truth be told, we haven’t placed heavy efforts on marketing Basecamp. Customers sign up, pay, and are on their way. For nearly a decade, Basecamp has sold itself.

The problem for us is, with so many industries using Basecamp in different ways, we’re having a tough time figuring out how to talk about the product to new customers. We have an idea of how our customers use Basecamp, but we don’t know for sure.

Harder, still, is that we don’t even know why our customers switch from one product or system to using Basecamp. Hidden within their stories of over-loaded inbox frustrations and bloated corporate software are key insights about what makes Basecamp great for our customers.

We’re after those insights, and we want to share your stories.

Tell us your “Why we switched to Basecamp” story and you may be featured on an upcoming redesign of the basecamp.com landing page.

Share your story at basecamp.com/switch.

When culture turns into policy

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 19 comments

A fine line exists between spelling out company culture and inadvertently engraving it as policy.

Culture offers your staff the company blog’s “publish” button 24/7 so that they can write when their own iron is hot. Policy forces topics and a posting schedule to chip away at the company marketing quota.
Culture inspires your programmers to discover typographic rhythm and scale in their free time. Policy puts a “lunch and learn with designers” meeting on your calendar at 12:00 PM.
Culture nurtures pet projects so that they grow into everyday company tools. Policy steals 20% of your staff’s work hours to gamble on forced research and development.
Culture does. Policy says.
Culture encourages. Policy requires.
Culture empowers. Policy mandates.
Culture simply happens—it isn’t created.

Teaching the Support team how to fish

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 25 comments

Since its launch, the all new Basecamp hadn’t had a dedicated Help site that was actually, well… helpful. Last month, the Support team and I changed all of that.

The previous, crusty excuse of a Help page we had for Basecamp was:

  • A list of answers to questions no one was asking
  • A dead end that didn’t encourage discovery
  • A mystery to our Support team because they couldn’t update it
Previous version that didn’t answer real questions

It needed an upgrade. It needed a rewrite and redesign. It needed to put power back in the Support team’s hands.

Continued…

Reminder: Design is still about words

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 31 comments

Click away from the pen tool…

Put down your Pantone book…

Stop rearranging your layers…

Close your stock texture folder…

Log out of your Dribbble…

And god dammit, hug your copywriter…

Designing for the web is still about words.

A case for clarity in feedback

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 10 comments

As an ad-agency refugee, I’ve struggled with my fair share of design debates with copywriters, project managers, clients, and everyone in between.

Maybe you’ve been there, too. The copywriter you’re paired with doesn’t think the marketing page you’re working on “feels right yet.” (As it turns out, the tone of voice is just off.)
In dramatic fashion, your client thinks the design you just presented is “way off base.” (You just happened to use a color they absolutely detest.)
It’s been five years since I’ve had a client meeting, yet the road blocks of vague feedback still come back to haunt me within the programmer to designer relationship.
The other day, Nick and I were debating the look and feel of shared code snippets. Or, so I thought…

Continued…

Visual Exploration behind Signal vs. Noise

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 34 comments

Last month we launched the redesign of our blog. During the process, we wanted to make it feel distinctly ours with a visual nod to its very name—signals and noise.

I wanted our blog to feel special, aesthetically unique, but not gaudy. I took a quick survey of our blog structure and found a great area for opportunity to explore style: our post categories. From design, programming, business, support, writing, to sysadmin, anyone from our team can categorize a post they write.

To give each post an identity, I riffed on these category themes. From there, the obvious presented itself: try illustrating waveforms to harken back to “signals and noise.” Although I had a focus on illustrating, I still started with words, and more specifically, questions to myself.

What does “writing” look like?

So, with Illustrator fired up, I started generating waveforms that would wear the identity of “design,” “programming” and so on. It quickly became an exercise in shape, color, and line densities. The process was fun, and the results were full of surprises.

Design: balance, rhythm
Programming: elegance, as described by Jeff
Business: an exchange
Writing: clarity
Sysadmin: structure and ease
Support: understanding, as described by Michael
Continued…

A New Class at The Starter League

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 16 comments

Since the day The Starter League opened their doors, people from all over the world have traveled to Chicago to learn how to program web apps.



It didn’t take long before design-focused classes made their way into the curriculum. In Carolyn’s class, people learn how to research and shape great user experiences. Shay’s class takes those experiences and turns them into something tangible for the web. Now we’re thinking there’s room for even more. Today, we’re excited to announce the next addition to the growing list of design offerings at The Starter League.

Continued…