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Basecamp Preview: Milestones

08 Jan 2004 by Ryan Singer

Basecamp, our new web-based project management tool, will be launching this month. We can’t spill all the beans just yet but here’s a sneak peek at one of Basecamp’s many nifty features: Milestones.

Basecamp lets you track important project milestones and note who is responsible for each one. Basecamp automatically categorizes your milestones into either upcoming (shown in red) or completed (shown in green). Checkboxes let you move items from “Upcoming” to “Completed” with one click. Also, relevant posts (we’ll talk about “Posts” in a future preview) can be attached to any milestone. This way you can keep track of conversations related to a specific miletone.

Screenshot of the Milestones list

Screenshot of the Milestones calendar

Further, Basecamp plots and color-codes milestones on a calendar for easy scanning. Yellow is today, red is upcoming, and green is completed.

In this example, today is January 8th, the last completed milestone was on December 30, and the next milestone is due on January 12.

Editing is easy too (see below). You can edit a milestone in place and shift subsequent dates proportionally - even limit them to business days.

Screenshot of editing a milestone

Stay tuned for more Basecamp sneak peeks in the days ahead, and be sure to sign up for our mailing list to be notified when we launch.

57 comments so far (Post a Comment)

08 Jan 2004 | One of several Steves said...

One small, but potentiall significant thing: Why red for stuff that's upcoming? Red is pretty universally (well, among North American and European cultures) regarded as a warning/caution/failure color. Is see milestones in red, I automatically think that these are milestones that have been *missed*, not ones that are on track and upcoming. Yellow seems to be a better color, especially as you're getting close to a deadline. Maybe blue for ones that are a ways out and upcoming. (And I realize that without seeing the rest of the app, throwing out random colors is easy for me to do since I have no idea if it would screw up other parts of the interface).

The calendar tracking is handy, and a big improvement over what I use for project management all the time, MS Project. But, again the use of red strikes me as problematic.

08 Jan 2004 | Mike said...

I'll tell ya one thing...

Pushing each milestone coming up the appropriate number of days was probably a tricky coding task. I've implemented a rudimentary milestone tracking system in my project (JF knows what I'm talking about), but its definitely not that advanced.

Great feature, extremely useful, nice implementation!

Too bad you couldn't use Interstate for normal HTML text eh? I think 37signals would be the first ones in line :)

08 Jan 2004 | brian said...

On the calendar view, if a milestone is missed and therefore in the past and not completed, is it red or green?

08 Jan 2004 | JF said...

The only milestones that are green are ones you've checked off as completed. If a milestones comes and goes, and you don't check it off as completed, it's not marked green.

Re: Red for upcoming... We're considering a third color state. One for completed (green), one for upcoming (color TBD), and one for late (red).

08 Jan 2004 | Darrel said...

Looks great, guys.

I do agree with steve regarding the red. I suppose it *is* a warning...'hey...this thing is coming up!' but it may be a bit extreme.

What if the upcoming even was simply highlighted (black?) and past events greyed out (grey?)

I like the idea of reserving red for 'late'

Anyways, any tool that makes project management more collaborative, easier to use, and a further step away from MS-Project is a good thing.

08 Jan 2004 | Derek K. Miller said...

How about pink=upcoming, red=late?

09 Jan 2004 | J. Buchanan said...

Are you doing any sort of time management associated with this? I'm not talking about a full-blown MS project thing, but a way to track time (hours) against a job? Or multiple jobs?

I've got to agree with the post above--if you pulled off the "automatically recalculate all future milestones" thing, you're already off to a great start. That's a tough nut to crack.

09 Jan 2004 | Jin Kim said...

How about...

Green: Completed (Something good happened)
Black: Today (You are here)
Yellow: Upcoming (Pay attention - something's about to happen)
Red: Late (Warning - something bad happened)

I can also see Blue being used for Today instead of Black...

Anyhow, I've been waiting for someone to do a good online project tracking application. This looks promissing.

09 Jan 2004 | Jin Kim said...

Additional thought. Black may be too harsh of color.

Perhaps Grey.

09 Jan 2004 | lt said...

i like the idea of grey for completed items - faded out like darrell said. personally, when i'm done with a task on my list, i usually draw a line through it. these tasks are no longer needing my attention and therefore shouldn't get in the way of other deadlines/events i should be focusing on instead.

and i like red for upcoming events - good attention grabbing for those procrastinators in all of us!

how about blinking (that you can turn off) for super high urgency past due?

09 Jan 2004 | JP said...

Or...let users themselves decide how they want completed/upcoming/missed deadlines displayed! A simple stylesheet switch, no?

09 Jan 2004 | jonah said...

I had the exact same reaction to the red-yellow-green scheme, I've always seen tasks color coded in these schemes relative to their risk factor. Red usually means that something is a stopper and has to be fixed before you can proceed.

09 Jan 2004 | David S said...

I can see how lumping Upcoming & Incomplete together could present some problems.

I'd be very interested to see what sort of statistics this application will calculate, if any.

09 Jan 2004 | Ping said...

Wow, this looks cool. Show us more! When is the official release date? How much will it be? Fill us in!

09 Jan 2004 | Geoffrey Smith said...

Is this product stand alone? Or is it hosted by a third party? Looks cool!

09 Jan 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

When is the official release date?

Take a look at the milestones in the screen shots and you'll find it, assuming those milestones are real.

I'm excited about this. Of course there are other online project management/collaboration tools on the market, but there's room for one that's better designed and easier to use. I've tried managing a few projects with Lotus QuickPlace, but everyone eventually went back to using their own Outlook calendars and communicating by group e-mail. If the interface were more attractive , simple, and easy to use, people would be more comfortable relying on it.

09 Jan 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

Whoops, I hit "post" before I was done...

The thing I learned with QuickPlace is that all it takes is one team member who's unable or unwilling to use the system to make it all break down. In my case, one of my team members felt like she didn't want "another place" to have to go to everyday to keep on top of her work. Her e-mail was one place, her physical in-box (postal mail, faxes, etc.) was another, and her voicemail was effectively a third. It was enough for her to manage those three places, and she insisted that we not add a fourth place. But I think that if QuickPlace had been easier and more intuitive for her to use, she might have been able to overcome that barrier. The advantage of an online, dedicated project management area is that it puts everything to do with that project in one box, so you don't have to go searching through your e-mails or browsing back through your crowded calendar to find stuff. So I'm a fan of the concept; I just think that what's needed is a tool that does the job intuitively and attractively so that you WANT to go to that place everyday. I'm hoping Basecamp will be it, and these first screen shots look very promising.

09 Jan 2004 | Stefan Seiz said...

Couldn't it be that there are scenarios where you don't want to shift subsequent milestones the same number of days but - maybe - some days less, to keep your deadline (in the end)?

I think an additional "Shift subsequent milestones NN Days" could come in handy sometimes.

Additionally a "Shift THIS Milestone NN Days" thingy looks promising to me, as i wouldn't need to look at the calendar if the SHIFT would cross a month for example. Most of the time i know exactly how much MORE DAYS i need for a task, but i don't know out of my head at what DATE i would finish it (without looking up a calendar)...

09 Jan 2004 | Ed said...

It will be interesting to see how this all turns out. I think we have been given a small look at the big picture so it's hard to say just yet. As a web-based applicationd eveloper myself I'm always interested in the guts behind the design. Is it PHP? .Net? The milestone date shifting is probably a datediff from the one stored in the database. Therefore, one could easily change the subsequent milestones the same number of days.
What I'm interested in is seeing how the accountability and Project Manager tasks were taken into account. Are emails sent when milestones are missed? When tasks change? When tasks are reassigned? Or do I have to log into the app 12 times a day? So many questions! I'm excited to see what you have in store for all of us. Great job so far.

09 Jan 2004 | dmr said...

I created a similar job tracking web app that was mainly a calendar (with sortable tabular alternative views). I had a few options (cookies) that would allow old notes and jobs to be hidden as to not clutter the calendar with old tasks and messages—strictly a personal thing.

I can also see how grouping upcoming and incomplete presents problems; while they are both things that need to be done incompleted items should really have emphasis over upcoming, maybe the grouping is fine, but it needs to be organized differently.

If there are no incomplete items, perhaps that should just be stated and de-emphasized.

Color is always tricky and personal. Yellow for current day is too emphatic, light grey would do just fine wouldn't it?

Options to move items to business days and date shifting are fantastic!

The subtle shading and save changes button in the edit box are perfect—a great mark of thoughtful design and a halmark of a 37 product. Great job guys.

09 Jan 2004 | JF said...

Wait till you guys see the "yellow fade" technique.

09 Jan 2004 | JF said...

Is this product stand alone? Or is it hosted by a third party? Looks cool!

Basecamp will be a hosted service like Typepad. We may offer custom installs as well, but not at the start (although if you start on hosted, and then you want to go with a custom install, we'll move your data over for you). Custom installs will be considerably more expensive than the very reasonable and affordable hosted prices.

09 Jan 2004 | hp said...

Without knowing more than what is revealed here, I would like to know if Basecamp will provide support, if not initially then down the road, for custom modules/extentions that may be targeted at specific industries or needs and developed by third parties.

09 Jan 2004 | Justin said...

Since the colour scheme is such a popular topic, I can't help but want to add my CAD$0.02. Instead of shading the current date, why not give it a border (and maybe bold too). That would satisfy those times when 'today' has a milestone attached, and would thus be still be shaded. Since a border is different it stands out well without confusion, and is already a recognized convention with many calendar apps.

One post talked about variations of colours for various things as a way of visually classifying groups of tasks. Most of the time I like simple colour scheme best though, as it's easy to follow and - as another post mentioned: it can be hard enough to get people to follow a system. Outlook allows colours for types of events, but to make use of it, you have to memorize what each colour represents. That is perfectly fine (and ideal) for some, but should never be a requirement.

Can't wait to see it in action! =)

09 Jan 2004 | JF said...

Instead of shading the current date, why not give it a border (and maybe bold too). That would satisfy those times when 'today' has a milestone attached, and would thus be still be shaded.

We've looked at a variety of options for this and we feel that a bold color (yellow, at this time) is the best way to quickly identify today. But, of course, we're always open to new ideas and will continue to adjust based on feedback.

We've also worked out the contingencies when milestones fall on "today." When an upcoming milestones falls on today, the block turns red and the date text inside the red box is bold yellow. When a completed milestones falls on today, the block turns green and the date text inside the green box is bold yellow. And, when both an upcoming and completed milestone falls on today, the block turns half red and half green and the date text inside the red/green box is bold yellow.

09 Jan 2004 | Paperhead said...

oh ffs . . .

Have you given any consideration at all to the fact that basing a differentiation between two states on the colours Red/Green pretty much automatically renders the differentiation scheme unusable to around 6–8% of the male population. Red/Green colour blindness is the most common one you know.

Repeat after me:

"Don't rely on colour alone to convey information."

Sorry if I'm terse . . . I quit smoking 9 days ago.

09 Jan 2004 | Don Schenck said...

Paperhead -- Congratulations! I'll have a cigar tonight to celebrate your achievement.

09 Jan 2004 | Paperhead said...

Have a couple of draws on that thing for me Don :)

I was spending over $5000 a year on cigarettes.

That's just wrong.

09 Jan 2004 | Wilson said...

Oh, excellent.

I'm submitting a recommendation Monday that our company implement a web-based PM system. I set the deadline for 2 weeks. I'll be there.

10 Jan 2004 | Mark Fusco said...

Don't rely on colour alone to convey information

How about instead of coloring the entire block, what about keeping the block a neutral color and placing the colors in a row or column within the block similiar to a traffic signal - or the interface on Apple based software?

10 Jan 2004 | Josh W said...

Without reading through each and every last comment post made, my first though (after "how cool") was that I didn't care for the red either as that would communicate to me Late.

So, I like orange. How about orange?

Seriously though, I might re-examine the red, but I don't want to say too much withought seeing the entire piece in action. All that said, it looks killer. Can't wait to see the entire package.

10 Jan 2004 | Josh W said...

However, after going back and looking at the screenshots, I do realize that the red and green very quickly deliniate what has been completed and what has not. And this is very good.

Hmm...

10 Jan 2004 | JF said...

A few comments from a few people who have seen Basecamp:

"It's already the best project management UI i've ever seen, not so egregiously overbuilt as other apps" - Anil Dash

"I finally had a chance to play around with the service at length today and I am mightily impressed...The fading out yellow highlight is some of the greatest modeless feedback EVER! Sweet sweet sweet." -Todd Levy

"Just from my first 10 minutes of playing with Basecamp, this is quite cool.. I have played with tons of PM Apps for what we do, including being on the beta (as well as early product development calls) for Macromedia's doomed Sitespring, and havent found something that was easy and well organized... I think you guys have a winner...." -Bill Bullman

"I've had a chance to play around with Basecamp a few times over the past few days. From my little use of it, I think that it's a great idea that's well implemented... Again, great work!" -Joshua Kaufman

10 Jan 2004 | Paperhead said...

I'm sure it's a lovely product Jason, that doesn't remove the issues concerning colour blindness though ;)

10 Jan 2004 | dayvin said...

Show us the yellow fade!

10 Jan 2004 | Joe Clark said...

Well, Basecamp had better be (X)HTML- and WCAG-AA-compliant, and I can certain advise against using confusable colours like red, yellow, and green as sole indicators of project status.

10 Jan 2004 | Joe Clark said...

And actually, now that I think of it, since Basecamp is essentially a Web application, ATAG compliance will also be necessary.

Start working on this now. You can't release an inaccessible product in 2004, and you can't release such a product and pledge to fix it later, since nobody ever gets around to doing that and it's always too expensive that way. Plus, if you want anyone in the U.S. federal government to use it, you're going to have to be 508-compliant.

10 Jan 2004 | Karl Katzke said...

Joe, are you sure that ATAG will apply? Bascamp isn't a tool to generate markup, it's a database tool that happens to be accessible via the web. ATAG seems to be more for authoring tools like Dreamweaver rather than web applications. Guidelines 1, most of 2, 3, and 4 don't even apply.
WCAG is much more applicable in this situation; it'd be foolhardy and would confuse novice users to implement items like ATAG Guideline 2.3, "If markup produced by the tool does not conform to W3C specifications, inform the author."

I do agree that WCAG Guideline 2 ("Don't rely on color alone.") should be followed.

I have once concern about basecamp -- From the screenshots here, it looks like a lot of scrolling is required. Users. Hate. Scrolling. In every web app I've ever developed (and that's a lot of them, kids), if there was a lot of scrolling involved, people refused to use the application or spent time finding ways to work around the scrolling. It's not that hard to implement pagination or to justify form boxes rather than turning them into a long list.

10 Jan 2004 | dayvin said...

Karl, if users really hated scrolling, nobody would be reading your post. Or this one. Scrolling aversion is one of the biggest myths in Web design.

10 Jan 2004 | Wilson said...

I love scrolling. What I hate is jumping between pages when there's not enough relevant information on a single page because somebody was trying to avoid "too much" scrolling.

11 Jan 2004 | Joe Clark said...

Yes, it does appear that Basecamp will be similar to Acrobat in that it can be used to view or create "content." Hence ATAG or the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines may be applicable. It's possible that ATAG guidelines should apply when creating content (your project is your content, by the way) and UAAG when you're manipulating it.

This is not a straightforward difference. But it can be worked out before launch. After launch it will quite possibly be too hard to fix.

11 Jan 2004 | Karl Katzke said...

Dayvin - Not speaking web design, I'm speaking web application design. When you're filling out forms, and you need to constantly refer back to information (as you do in project management apps -- I know, I've written three). I suppose that I wasn't addressing scrolling as much as I was addressing information density (Thanks, Wilson) ... the information in Basecamp (at least in these screenies) doesn't seem to be very dense, and that hurts web applications.

Joe - Where have you seen information about Basecamp generating content like Acrobat does? (Which isn't necessarily a good example in this case...) AFAIK, Basecamp is just like any other template-driven web content, with no user-formatting of text. Therefore, ATAG wouldn't apply because a user that is not keying in markup *should not* be given warnings if the markup of the template of the site that they're simply using does not comply with w3c guildelines. And that's what ATAG is all about ... when it isn't repeating guidelines from UAAG or WCAG.

11 Jan 2004 | Karl Katzke said...

Excuse me, that last sentance wasn't very clear. I'm severely lacking caffeine at the moment.

What I meant to say was -- ATAG is about guidelines for writing tools that users apply to generate markup. WCAG (and UAAG, although I hadn't seen that one before) is about guidelines for writing tools that users access and read.

ATAG is to Dreamweaver as WCAG is to MoveableType.

Basecamp is more like MoveableType than it is like Dreamweaver.

And by the way, isn't it a little high and mighty of you to say that it "had better be ... compliant"?

11 Jan 2004 | Joe Clark said...

I do "high and mighty" in my sleep!

11 Jan 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

Well, Basecamp had better be available in all the official UN languages, or at least Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Korean, Mandarin, and Swahili.

Start working on this now. You can't release an English-only product in 2004. It'll only take a few years and a few hundred grand.

Sorry for the parody, but Bascamp is a commercial product. If it's not accessible to someone, they won't buy it. Yes, it's Web-based and so therefore it would be nice if it complied with Web standards and was accessible, but I'm sure there are many competing priorities in this project, including time, resources, and budget.

Accessibility is important, don't get me wrong. All my clients are in federal agencies, so 508 compliance is something I think about a lot. But saying that every product must be accessible is a bit like saying that every piece of software developed in the world today must be available for every operating system, or that every car produced must be able to be driven by both a 3'4" midget and a 7'9" giant. It ain't gonna happen.

I have big feet, and most shoe stores don't carry my size. I can live with that; I just don't shop at those stores. If I can't use Basecamp because I'm color-blind, hey, I won't buy it. It's not the end of the world. You're excluding a lot more people by making it available only in English than you are by not making it accessible. But so what? I don't think it's possible to create a product that doesn't leave someone out in the cold.

11 Jan 2004 | Carl said...

When are we going to see more of Basecamp? I love how the features seem simple. Nothing complex about the Milestones. Just simple scheduling which is what 95% of us need.

11 Jan 2004 | Mike said...

When you guys first announced the official name of the app, Basecamp, I immediately went to to see what was there.

What the hell kind of page is that?

I really hope they sold the domain name to you, because man, what a waste of a good URL.

11 Jan 2004 | JF said...

Nope, we don't have basecamp.com, and the word/name "Basecamp" will not be visible to your clients anywhere. They won't know what the name of the product is -- it's completely transparent to them. You'll know, but your clients will just assume it's your own proprietary project management system (with a custom URL with your company name in it).

12 Jan 2004 | Luis said...

Steve, you are right! =)

12 Jan 2004 | Van Rue said...

I would be very interested in this service. A couple features that I would like (I searched the posts, but no one mentioned these) is the ability to sort "Groups" within an organization. I am also interested in the ability to use the tool with a client preview device. The ability to track hours would also be a Godsend (that was mentioned above). A message board would also be a plus, its eaier to see a bunch of messages at once. I don't know if you have it planned, but like Dreamweaver, a check-in/out feature would be sweet, but that would require FTP capabilities.

I look forward to seeing the feature list.

13 Jan 2004 | JF said...

FYI, we just posted another preview. This time it covers To-Do Lists.

15 Jan 2004 | Joe Clark said...

Yeah, but, Brad, we're talking about technical implementation of Web and application standards, not language. They're independent questions. Basecamp could come out in French first and still meet WCAG and ATAG and/or UAAG. Strange, huh?

19 Jan 2004 | scott said...

Any chance Basecamp will be integrated with iCal? We've just spent a year getting used to putting all our meetings and so on into iCal and would love to be able to "publish" iCal calendars into Basecamp...

19 Jan 2004 | scott said...

Any chance Basecamp will be integrated with iCal? We've just spent a year getting used to putting all our meetings and so on into iCal and would love to be able to "publish" iCal calendars into Basecamp and vice versa...

21 Jan 2004 | Jeroen Visser said...

Good job, looks very promising as a design agency project management tool. Have you already considered other design fields (product design, fashion, architecture) as a target audience?

As for the color scheme: blue for today strikes me as the most consistent with the Aqua use of blue in the rest of the interface for current status. Today is the utmost in current we could get, right? ;-) So: Aqua style blue for today, yellow for upcoming (todo), green for anything okay (future and past) and red for a missed milestone/todo item.

Maybe you should also check out Apple's UI guidelines, if you haven't already. The guys and gals at Apple have thoroughly sorted out these issues for their interface which is among the best (of not the best).

03 Feb 2004 | Chaos Pilot said...

Red Yellow Green combo I thinks it is

OVERCOMMUNICATION !!!!! YIAHHAAA IT REALLY IS!!

Traffic light metaphor isnīt helping basecamp IMO, I want Flow, like, I want Rotaryīs . . .

What I yam going to do, it is not to stop, not to wait, it is to go go go.

"Danger" metaphor. If all my base belongs to lateness, I donīt need a "danger" sign on this to understand that my life could get even worse, Iīll figure it even if they are brown...

Itīs like, "If you proceed down The Information highway this direction, be aware there might be construction work ahead". Well, I didnīt need that animated gif to understand the nature of the content is not an marble information sculpture.

If something is late, I donīt want it to look "extremely late", I want it to look like something that needs small adjustments.

The fact that users are stupid doesnīt mean the best way to communicate them is the same of a 3 year old.

Counting five times making the same point, it is very difficult to hide the real issue here, I yam piss scared every time the Homeland THREAT monitor changes. Because I understands so well that they want me NOT to RELAX.

Shades of green would be nice. If something is late, I would have to "Go" harder.

I obviuosly canīt wait much longer to get my hands on basecamp, hope I can change the colors when it lands :]

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