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Basecamp Review 2019

April 25, 2019

12:43 pm

Basecamp Logo
  • Established: 1999
  • HQ: Chicago, IL, USA
  • Flat fee instead of per-seat pricing
  • Limited third-party integrations
  • Good for mid-sized teams

A simple to use project management app that tries to be an all-in-one solution, offering integrated chat, file storage, and project management tools.

Basecamp is an unusual project management service. It opts for a flat fee instead of a per user scheme with multiple tiers. Its primary interface on PC uses a tiled approach, instead of the usual top-down menus with lists or spreadsheet-like views. It even offers some developer tools for companies that can take advantage of them.

Despite being a little unusual, Basecamp is very easy to use, and offers some interesting features you won't find in other tools. One such example is Automated Check-ins, which allows team members to answer specific questions at regular intervals to update the rest of the team on the progress of their work.

Basecamp may not be for everyone, however. Enterprises may not find the special features they need, or the higher level support contracts that other services provide. It also relies on integrations for standard features that other competitors support, such as Gantt charts and time tracking.

  • Simple tile-based interface
  • Built-in chat
  • Automated questionnaires for team member updates

What is Basecamp?

Basecamp sees itself as the all-in-one project management solution, removing the need to use separate tools such as Slack, Google Drive, and your current project management solution. The product first debuted in 2004 as a product of 37signals, before the company changed its name to Basecamp.

Basecamp has a different interface compared to other project management software solutions. Instead of using some form of a tabbed or top menu interface, Basecamp opted for tiles as the primary point of interaction. There are tiles for individual teams, such as management and marketing, as well as tiles for specific projects. Within those tiles are all the various features Basecamp offers. There's also a helpful built-in assistant (think Clippy but useful) to get a project started, or to organize a team.

The company says it also focuses on communication and transparency to help teams understand what they need to be doing on a given day. Basecamp's solution to this problem is largely to post information and files that are publicly accessible within Basecamp's organizational hierarchy, which includes company, teams, and projects.

Basecamp Features

Basecamp has a number of interesting features, but it might be better to mention what it doesn't have. For starters, it doesn't have a native time tracking feature, relying on third parties like many other project management solutions. It also lacks a Gantt chart view, but it does have a third-party add-on (Ganntify) for that; however, Ganttify is not free, meaning you're adding cost for something you get for free elsewhere.

Basecamp does have many of the essentials you need, such as built-in chat, message boards for team communication, to-do lists and assignees, calendar view, files, and email forwarding to add specific emails to a project. It also has a number of original features you won't typically find in other project management software solutions, as we mentioned earlier. It's also developer friendly, offering features such as webhooks and configurable chatbots that require some coding knowledge.

Hill Charts

Basecamp Hill ChartThe Hill Chart is Basecamp's approach to giving teams an at-a-glance overview of progress by tracking to-do lists in a project. The chart shows a line drawing of a hill, representing two phases. The uphill phase is called “Figuring Things Out” – this is the planning and early work phase, where teams come up with an approach to completing the project. The downhill phase is called “Making It Happen” – the execution of the agreed strategy. Hill Charts are adjusted and controlled by team members, since it's difficult for a computer to interpret progress in such vague terms. Nevertheless, for humans, it's an easy way to understand – at least in general terms – the status of each task list, and whether the project is in trouble or not. It does require some correct judgement to get an accurate picture of progress, but with a little practice, it seems like it would be helpful.

Automatic Check-ins

Of all the features available in Basecamp, this one is the most intriguing, as it seems like a feature that is both helpful and potentially terrifying to individual team members. Automatic Check-in lets you distribute a questionnaire to team members at regular intervals to share public updates on their progress. Other team members can comment on these updates, allowing for focused discussion. On the one hand, this means fewer meetings where people go around updating each other on their work – on the other, it may put too much pressure on team members and their current performance. As long as you work with a professional team, it sounds great – but in the wrong managerial hands, this feature could be a nightmare.

Public Links

Many projects require teams to share their work with outsiders, be they clients, freelancers, or consultants. To make it easier to share things with outsiders, Basecamp allows teams to share information using public links. You click on the menu option for to-do lists, calendars, and specific documents, and select the public link option. This link is then shareable with anyone outside the team, no login required. The downside to this approach is that if the link were shared with the wrong person, then someone who shouldn't have it could gain access. If that does happen, Basecamp allows you to disable any public links that have leaked.

Basecamp Video Overview: Project Management in Action

This video from Basecamp provides an overview of the software including its basic components and features. Check it out to fully understand what you're signing up for with this project management software.

Basecamp Pricing

Basecamp is very unusual in its pricing scheme compared to other services like Asana. The company charges a flat $99 monthly fee for unlimited users, unlimited projects, 500GB of file storage, and all available features. Every organization pays that same fee for the same access. There's no per-seat pricing, and there are no feature restrictions hidden behind different pricing tiers.

The company says it decided on a flat fee because it didn't want to be beholden to large enterprises paying the lion's share of company revenue. The downside, however, is that enterprises probably won't find the special attention and customization they need, and smaller businesses won't find lower prices for five to ten seats. You can also end up paying extra fees for third-party integrations, such as time tracking or Gantt charts.

Basecamp Review Verdict

Basecamp is a good tool. The pricing is good for mid-sized teams, though if you need a lot of integrations, your costs may increase. The interface is simple enough so that users new to project management can get up and running quickly.

It's probably not the best choice for enterprises looking for customizations and dedicated support, but for many companies, Basecamp is worth a look.

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Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has worked as a technology industry reporter and critic for more than ten years. He’s written for PCWorld, Macworld, TechHive, Yahoo, Lifewire, and The Huffington Post. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, security software, and browsers.