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Random thoughts having spent a day with 37signals's new Basecamp Next

Random thoughts having spent a day with 37signals’s new Basecamp Next — not so much about the product itself, but rather the context around the product.

  • It’s an achievement. I know from experience how hard it is to ship something new. At Makalu we’re working on two new products which, compared to the new Basecamp, are dead simple — yet they’re taking far longer to ship than I would have imagined. What 37signals have achieved in 10 months — not only the product itself, but also all the prep work for migration, the marketing materials, etc. — represents an impressive accomplishment. I imagine there must have been some laser-like focus, on a small handful of guiding principles or ideas.

  • It’s a little rough around some edges. Using the product, I’ve hit some bugs (or at least what looks like bugs), and seen UI imperfections (inconsistent margins, etc.). You get the feeling 37signals shares the Facebook philosophy, “Done is better than perfect.” (And I can agree with that!)

  • Features or reasons? Rather than a features list, the marketing site provides a list of “great reasons” to use Basecamp, each linking to a focus page about that feature (or “reason”). It’s an interesting idea, but my first impression is that the list is too much of a cognitive load. I feel overwhelmed looking at those 20-something reasons. I didn’t read any, and the whole list just seems to blur together.

  • It was a big risk. It was a risk on many levels, but an interesting one that occurs to me is the following: The cost of migrating to a new system probably kept a lot of existing Basecamp customers from even considering alternatives. So choosing to develop a completely new product, rather than improving on the existing one, would seem to creates an opportunity for any customer feeling lock-in to reconsider their options (since either way, they are going to face some migration costs.)

  • It came at the right time. In Makalu, we’d recently been reflecting that although we’ve been with Basecamp for over six years, we actually don’t use it anymore. We make heavy use of Campfire, but had gotten to the point that we were only using Basecamp for time tracking. That, I believe, is because we realized it’s simply not time efficient to work heavily with Classic. It seems 37signals may have felt that way too, as the focus of Basecamp Next was speed and efficiency. Having used Next for a day, I’m optimistic that I will end up really using the product, and for that reason, it really seems to have come along at the right time.

  • It represents a missed opportunity for a lot of competitors. We’ve had several contacts from start-ups of competing products (asking us to try their product). Most have taken the approach of trying to incrementally improve on the basic model implemented in Basecamp Classic. Basecamp Next represents a complete rethink of web-based project management. It’s interesting to think that any of those start-ups could have also recognized that perhaps now is the moment to rethink the whole model. But most didn’t. Most just followed, and tried to copy who they perceived to be the leader. An important lesson to be learned there!

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  1. Jason Fried Jason Fried

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Matt.

    We agree with some of the shortcomings. We’ll be improving the new Basecamp every day. We have a lot of great stuff in mind for the future of the new Basecamp, but you have to launch some time! Even the iPhone launched without copy and paste 😉 They took their time and got it right. That’s our approach here too.

    Stay tuned and thanks for being a customer.

  2. Matt Henderson Matt Henderson

    Jason, to me Basecamp Next feels like just the right state for a 1.0, so I’m not feeling critical at all about any of the shortcomings. We’ve been with you guys for something like six years, and following your blog longer than that, so we know what to expect in the future. 🙂

  3. Paul Paul

    I’m brand new to Basecamp so I’m on Next. Using it on a desktop is pretty snappy, though I really dislike that you can’t sort or reorder items…or I haven’t figured out how to do it without deleting/recreating.

    My real problem is that iPhone/iPad usage is totalky useless! I don’t want to list the issues, too long.

    Can I revert back to Classic??? How? Otherwise I’ll have to cancel and find another solution.

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