Launched in 2004, Basecamp is a veritable institution in Internet years. Basecamp was born to help its parent company 37signals – a web design firm in 2003 – combat the workflow chaos that comes with working on too many projects that are too large. Tired of relying on email for project organization, 37signals designed Basecamp and started using it with some of their clients. Presto! Projects were easier to manage, and within a year Basecamp was producing more income than 37signals’ web design business. Time to pivot.
Fast forward a decade and Basecamp has been reportedly been used by over 15,000,000 people working on 8,000,000 projects. Pretty impressive. In a way, Basecamp was the application that made project management software mainstream. Its interface made the program accessible to all types of users, which let Basecamp gain recognition across different markets.
However, technology marches on. Basecamp’s competitors began to catch up, and Basecamp eventually launched a product redesign in 2012. The redesign was greeted with positive reviews, and some not so positive reviews.
Major complaints include loss of specific functionality that service-oriented businesses rely on when managing projects with clients. Specifically, the loss of private items, which help shield clients from the more technical aspects of projects, and time-tracking are two common complaints about the new platform. To be fair, time-tracking functionality has been re-introduced, albeit in a simple data-entry style rather than real-time.
Additionally, 37signals ditched the freemium account that allowed users a free version of Basecamp and replaced it with a 45 day free trial.
So 10 years on from its introduction to the market, it begs the question: is Basecamp still the go to platform for project management?
First, we examine BaseCamp Mobile.
Launched in tandem with the original Basecamp platform in 2004, Basecamp mobile allows users to access a version of the PM platform on Android and iOS devices. The mobile system offers a dashboard that highlights a 10,000 foot view of everything that’s happened in the project, as well as a productivity snapshot that highlights the specific contributions of each employee. Basecamp mobile is pretty flexible, and allows users to create to-do lists with sub tasks and due dates. Users can even upload files and create word documents directly inside the app.
Basecamp mobile does have some limitations. You can’t create new projects, and the app as a whole doesn’t have a great deal of specialized features. However, like it’s web platform, Basecamp Mobile focuses on simplicity, which most project managers will appreciate.
Now let’s look at the more robust web version.
In 2012, Basecamp took a long look at their interface and eventually decided to totally replace it. The updated version still retained much of what made the original project management system so great: ease of use and a simple learning curve. This version of Basecamp includes all of the functionality of the mobile application, but also includes a dashboard for each project, and a “Catch Up” feature that summarizes the most recent changes and completed tasks.
New functionality added in 2012 includes a document autosave feature, which prevents information loss, a drag and drop functionality for moving documents, and a history view that includes a complete audit log. Basecamp’s value proposition remains mostly unchanged since its launch in 2004: this software allows organizations to manage projects without having to dive too deeply into learning new technical skills to manage the system. The interface is designed for ease of use, not for a specific vertical, so users looking for a best of breed solution should look elsewhere. Dropping the free edition also sets the entry level price at $20 per month, so lean startups and other organization constrained by resources may need to consider a free or open-source alternative.
So is Basecamp still the project management behemoth that it once was? The maturity of the market may have eroded its share somewhat, but it’s still a power yet simple platform that will help you better manage your projects.
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