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Why Basecamp?

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 9 comments

I’m working on some copy for the new Basecamp 3 marketing site, and I figured I’d share some work in progress here. This needs editing, and it should probably be half as long, but I wanted to share it in its current state. I’ve always enjoyed seeing work in progress, so here’s some of mine:

Why Basecamp? That’s a fantastic question! In fact, it’s the question, in’t it? We’ve got some great answers for you.

1. Basecamp understands what you’re up against

You’re in charge. You’re running something. It’s on you to get it done. You have to pull people together to make it happen. That’s a huge responsibility, and you can use a hand making it all happen. You need to communicate, you need to stay organized, you need to make sense of feedback, you need to share work, you need to set deadlines, and you need everyone to deliver.

And on top of all that, you have to manage people and personalities and different work styles and preferences. People are often the hardest part! Talk about pressure! We get you, and we’ve got your back.

The reason we built Basecamp was because we had the exact same requirements you do. We worked for clients (and bosses and stakeholders and organizations…). They demanded the best from us, and we were paid to deliver for them. Before Basecamp we dropped balls, stuff slipped through the cracks, deadlines were missed, and communication was scattered in too many places. This is why we built Basecamp – we had to calm the chaos. We had to get organized. We had to stay on top of things. We had to reduce the anxiety. We had to get our shit together.

So we made the tool we always wanted. We’ve honed it and – with the help of hundreds of thousands of bits of feedback from customers along the way – shaped it and perfected it over a decade. Today’s version of Basecamp is the best we’ve ever made. If you’re nodding your head at anything written above, then we think you’ll absolutely love Basecamp.

2. Basecamp bundles everything you need together in one place

Any work you’re doing with any group of people requires a few things… You need a place to outline and divvy up the work that needs to be done. You need a place to discuss the work – sometimes quickly (chat), sometimes more carefully (topic-based, organized message threads). You need a place to keep decisions and feedback on the record so it’s official and visible to everyone you’re working with. You need a place to lay out key dates and deadlines. And you need a place to organize key assets, files, and documents so everyone knows where everything is and nothing gets lost.

Basecamp is not one of those things, it’s all of those things presented in the most straightforward way you’ve ever seen. When you use Basecamp you don’t have to use a handful of separate tools, all offered by different companies at different prices with different interfaces and apps and all that complexity. Basecamp is a one-stop-shop. Stop juggling tools and switching back and forth – start using Basecamp instead. We promise you won’t look back.

3. Basecamp gets used because it’s straightforward

Maybe you’ve tried a similar product before. Maybe you’ve tried a dozen. You’re probably here because those other ones weren’t working and you’re still struggling. That usually means that you had a hard time getting other people on board to use the tool you chose. Too complicated, too difficult, too fancy, too much or not enough.

It doesn’t matter what a product says it does – if no one uses it then it doesn’t do anything. Basecamp gets used. Over and over. By hundreds of thousands of teams across the world. And if you ask our customers – any one of them – you’ll likely hear the same thing: “Basecamp is easy! It just works!” And at the end of the day, that’s what wins. And that’s why we’re here, celebrating our 17th year in business in 2016.

4. Basecamp works with people’s patterns, not against them.

We’re thrilled that Basecamp has been adopted in all sorts of places that software is usually rejected. A key reason: Basecamp doesn’t demand adoption from anyone. It doesn’t require people to change their patterns or methods. You can go all-in with Basecamp – logging in, using the mobile apps, etc – while other people you’re working with can just reply to emails that Basecamp sends out. Anyone, no matter where they land on the spectrum of “I love using new tools” or “I don’t want to be bothered by something new” can get a ton of value out of Basecamp.

And what’s great is that you, the person who’s deciding to check out Basecamp, can introduce a product that works with people, not against people. After trying to implement other things that didn’t work, you’ll finally be the hero when people learn they don’t have to “adopt more software” – they can just respond to anything you send them via email and Basecamp will take care of the rest.

5. Basecamp leads to organization which leads to progress

You can make a mess when you work alone because you know your own messes. But the moment you pull multiple people together to work on something, you need to get organized. Shared spaces and common places require extra attention to organizational detail. When we all have different ways of working, knowing where everything is, who’s responsible for what, and when things are due is essential. It’s got to be organized and it’s got to be clear to everyone. Luckily there’s Basecamp.

Basecamp is organized by default. You can’t make a mess. Everything is tidy from the start, and stays tidy as you go. Discussions are organized into topic-based threads so you can always find them later. To-dos and tasks are neatly organized in lists that make sense. Docs and files live in folders that make sense to you. Everything that’s dated – no matter what it is – flows into the Schedule. When you use Basecamp everyone knows what they need to know, everyone knows where everything is, and nothing slips through the cracks.

6. Basecamp is flexible because every person and every project is different

People and projects move at different speeds. Sometimes quick back-and-forth informal chats are perfect. Other times you want to slow down, dig in, make a case, and present yourself more formally. Some people prefer email-style communication, others prefer more texting-style communication. Trying to force everyone to communicate the same way is like trying to fit everyone into the same size shoe. It’s not a good fit.

From group chat to instant messaging to traditional discussion threads, Basecamp lets everyone involved communicate any way they’d like.

7. Basecamp makes the past, present, and future of your work clear

Any chunk of work – a long project, a quick riff, a team huddling up about some ideas – has a past, present, and future. Basecamp lays these out clear for you to see. Knowing where you’ve been, knowing why you’re headed in a given direction, and seeing clearly what’s ahead is such an important part of delivering something great.

The past… With Basecamp you can keep chats, discussions, feedback, and decisions on the record. Basecamp automatically documents the who the who, the why, and the what around anything that’s discussed. This way you can always go back in time, revisit a decision, point it out to everyone who’s curious about how it was made, and remember the details you need to move forward.

The present… With Basecamp you can discuss things quickly, assign work instantly, set or adjust deadlines, keep things rolling, pass documents and files back and forth, track progress, and stay organized as you go. The present – the work that’s happening every day – is automatically documented, organized, and tidied up so you don’t leave a mess behind you as you move forward.

The future… Basecamp helps you lay out the future, know what’s left to do, see what remains, and plot the course to get it all done on time. If something’s falling behind, there’s a report for that. If you need to see what’s on someone’s plate, there’s a report for that. If you want to know if you’re adding more work than you’re completing, there’s a report for that. Getting from now to done is clearer when you use Basecamp.

How’s it read so far?

Don’t base your business on a paid app

David wrote this on 10 comments

The App and Play stores have turned out to be exceptionally poor places to run a software product business for most developers. They’re great distribution channels for service makers, like Facebook or Lyft or Basecamp, but they’re terrible places to try to make a living (or better) selling software products.

At a buck or few per app, how could it be otherwise? That type of pricing will work for Angry Birds and a handful of other games, but very poorly for most other types of software products. The scale you need, the sustained influx of new customers, well, it’s a place for mega stars, and people who think they can beat the odds at becoming just that.

That’s why I’ve been discouraging people from chasing dreams of a successful, sustainable software product business by pursuing paid apps. Far better be your odds at succeeding with a service where the app is simply a gateway, not the destination.

Watching users of Tweetbot heckle the team for daring to charge $5 for a 8-month upgrade only reaffirms that belief. It’s a sad sight of entitlement, but at this point also entirely predictable.

Apple and Google both benefit from having apps be as cheap as possible. For Apple, that means people will buy an iPhone more readily when the cost to fill it with software is near nil. For Google, it means app makers have to shove ads into products to make them pay. Win-win-lose.

What’s good for platform makers is often not good for those who build upon it. That’s where the whole picking up pennies in front of a steamroller comes from. Yes, a few may be quick enough to pickup enough pennies to fill a jar, but for most, it’s not a wise trade of risk vs reward.

Forget the paid app.

“Sometimes you just have to see it”

Conor Muirhead
Conor Muirhead wrote this on 2 comments

“Sometimes you just have to see it to get a feel for it”

^ That’s what Jason said to me yesterday right after he pushed some tweaks to a design we’ve been ping ponging on this week.

When I read that I found myself nodding my head and thinking, “ain’t that the truth”. Now, if only I’d learned that lesson a few years ago.

You see, not long ago I used to spend a lot of time and energy pushing back on ideas. I think I must have seen myself as some sort of Design Guardian or something. I know, stupid, right? In that (ridiculous) role I seemed to think it was my job to protect the product from “bad” ideas. Only problem is, how did I know if an idea was “bad” or not?

One of my teammates would usually suggest an idea, I’d imagine it in my mind, and then (unfortunately all too often) I’d explain why it would never work. I bet I missed out on a lot of great ideas doing that, probably some good friendships too :(.

It gets worse though. When shutting down an idea without giving it a chance to be seen, I miss out in at least three ways:

  1. The idea could be fantastic once I saw it, used it and felt it.
  2. While trying it out, I may stumble into another, even better idea.
  3. I’m stifling my teammates, and discouraging them from jumping in and helping.

All three of those kinda suck.

Nobody Wants a Design Guardian.

I’ve learned that I’m not a guardian, and that I never should have tried to be one. The team didn’t hire me because they thought I’d be a great guard. No, they hired me to try things, to experiment, to build stuff, and to find out what worked.

The Good News

Here’s the good news though: it’s usually easy to try out an idea enough to actually see it, use it, and feel it. In fact, I think in the past I’ve wasted more time bickering than I ever spent just finding out!

So, the next time an idea comes your way, give it a chance. Try building or prototyping it, seeing how it actually feels. You’ll be done faster than you could even argue about it!

Ancient history, modern family

Wailin Wong
Wailin Wong wrote this on Discuss

We have a new episode of The Distance about a family of numismatists and antiquities dealers (listen to the episode to find out what a numismatist does!). As students of history, Harlan Berk and his three children know that circumstances around them can change rapidly. They’ve learned to adapt the family business through 51 years of buying and selling ancient coins, as well as antiquities and maps. From rare artifacts to a mystery involving long-lost valuables and the FBI, there’s no telling what might turn up next at Harlan J. Berk Limited.

What’s more important: An extra gig of RAM or 3D Touch?

David wrote this on 3 comments

The hardware engineering and software coordination behind 3D Touch in the iPhone 6S is impressive. It’s such an Apple feature. Executed with exquisite diligence because they control the whole stack. Marvelous.

But you know what, it’s not my favorite feature of the 6S. That honor belongs to the low-tech, behind-the-curve addition of an extra gigabyte of RAM. Something that probably cost Apple just a few extra dollars per phone and almost no engineering prowess. (Compare that to the probably hundreds of millions in revised tooling, advanced development, and more needed for 3D Touch.)

Doubling the RAM means apps aren’t constantly being swapped in and out. Which means switching between them is super fast more of the time. Which in turn makes the whole phone feel much better over the course of a day.

It’s been repeated ad nauseam, but it’s still so hard to internalize for most product people: Speed is a feature.

Usually, it’s one of the most important features. Yet it’s also one of the hardest to get right. Chiefly because every other feature is generally at war with speed. Any excess CPU cycles are quickly captured by new, advanced, and ultimately slowing features. Extra cycles are like a surplus government budget: The constituency is going to have a thousand ideas for how to spend it.

It’s not easy to get this balance just so. You have to be fast at what people want and expect. Being the fastest phone running iOS5 or Window OS isn’t going to get you any business.

Comparing this RAM apple and that 3D Touch orange, though, is also a worthwhile reminder that good product design doesn’t deal in distinct categories. It’s all a fruit salad! Customers just want it to be delicious and nutritious.

Service sunsets aren’t the least bit pretty

David wrote this on 4 comments

Software makers are obsessed with new. And of course we are, that’s our job: making more, newer, better! But as a lot, we’d be well-served to remember this affliction is generally not shared by our users and customers.

Sure, some people love upgrading to the latest version the minute it lands. It’s also a lot easier when it’s a personal device, like an iPhone, where the focus isn’t purely productivity.

But remember all those companies holding on to IE6 for their dear life? That’s the other side of ‘upgrading fun’. Disrupting workflow, processes, and institutional knowledge because the damn fax machine won’t send the important contract until the firmware is upgraded. What possible utility could a firmware upgrade to the fax machine provide that’s worth keeping a document from sending?


Back to Basecamp

Nick wrote this on 7 comments

There’s an entire slew of new features available in iOS9 — but there’s one that you’ll be using every single day. It’s called Go Back to App and it’s all over the place. If you open an app from another app, instead of doing a full “flip” like you tapped the home button, iOS slides the app in and you get right to work. It happens so smoothly that it’s hard to even see happen:

This is going to change how iOS apps are made. Combined with Universal Links for opening up http:// and https:// links from Safari (or anywhere) inside your app, the reality for how apps are opened and work together has forever been altered. I know Apple loves calling features amazing — but this time they’re right.


A rallying cry for the Weird Wild Web

Jonas Downey
Jonas Downey wrote this on 2 comments

This year, 2015, marked the 20th anniversary of the first time I stuck some HTML on a server and put it out for the world to see. (Sorry about that one, world.)

Twenty years! Twenty years is a long time to do anything, especially in tech. Given how fast things churn, it’s rather unbelievable that I’m still gainfully employed to write HTML for anything at all in 2015.

I’ve been reflecting on this recently, as the web’s future keeps sounding rather bleak. It seems that nary a week passes without someone predicting the end of the open web as we know it. Perhaps understandably so — at a glance, the web appears to be suffering a death by a thousand cuts.

Let’s recap a few of the most common arguments for why the web is totally screwed.