Hey Jason! Basecamp was a leader; now it can’t keep up. What happened?
Please invest in making Basecamp the fantastic product it could be.
We were early adopters of Basecamp, way back when. But eventually, we switched away to Asana as we were attracted to it’s much more sophisticated interface. Asana’s super-refined UI — and abundant keyboard shortcuts — makes task management hyper-efficient. Currently, we’re experimenting with a trial of Monday.com
As a product manager myself, I found Shape Up to be a wonderfully insightful book, and a joy to read. Reading Shape Up inspired me to give Basecamp another try. Partly because I wanted to give back for the gift of Shape Up, and also because you promote Basecamp as the perfect tool for implementing the approaches promoted in your book.
After getting started with Basecamp again, I was quite surprised by how immature the product feels. It feels quite outdated, under-funded, and neglected compared to its peers. I quickly remembered why we abandoned Basecamp so many years earlier.
I had some trouble and confusion signing up again because my email was already associated with an old Campfire account, so I kept getting redirected to Campfire when I’d try to signup for a Basecamp account. But I can forgive that, as I know how complex it can be to migrate customers to new versions of a product.
No one wants to use Campfire
After using Slack for years, no one wants to use Campfire. We love the idea of having an instant message channel dedicated to a single project. And we love the retention. But we can’t stand the UI.
You can’t edit posts in Campfire. You can press the up arrow to edit your last post in Slack. It’s easy to do and look how easy it is to explain.
In Campfire, you’ll need to copy your previous post to your clipboard, then use your Touchpad, or mouse, to click the three-dots-menu on the first-post-you-wrote-since-the-last-person-replied (!?!).
Now you can click the red trash can icon to delete your post. Next, paste your message back, and edit it. Oh, and after you edit a post, the rules change. Now to edit it again, you don’t click the three-dots-menu on the first-post-you-wrote-since-the-last-person-replied. This new post will have its own three-dots-menu. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Is this what you’d expect from a company that calls their product “simple” all the time?
Basecamp claims millions of users. Think of the value you could create by making it easier for millions of users to edit their posts. Doesn’t your customer support team get tired of explaining how to delete a post all the time?
It’s hard to believe the same guy behind Campfire wrote this:
We’re talking about finding that sweet spot that solves most of the problem with the simplest solution. Simple for you to develop, maintain, and support, and simple for your customers to derive maximum value with minimal effort, learning, and hassle. ― Jason Fried
“Standing for something isn’t just about writing it down. It’s about believing it and living it.” ― Jason Fried, ReWork
You can’t include a quote in a Campfire post. In Slack, you can easily add quoted text by placing a “>” before it.
“We don’t just make Basecamp, we run our entire business on it too.” — Basecamp Employee Handbook
Since Basecamp runs on Basecamp, and these formatting options aren’t available to them, perhaps your product team just can’t appreciate the added speed and clarity that block quotes, code quotes, and bold text can bring to messaging.
I wrote Basecamp about keyboard support for bullets in Message Board posts. I use bullet lists often and having to reach for the trackpad all the time really slows me down. I suggested markdown support — such as “*” plus space or “-” and a space to toggle bullets.
Hi there, Max -
Thanks for reaching out, I hope you’re well and having a great day so far.
We don’t currently have any keyboard shortcuts for bullet lists, or support markdown. So sorry about that!
I’ll be sure to let our developers know it’s something you would like to see.
If I can help you with anything else, just give me a shout! :)
Basecamp Customer Support | Austin, Texas
bummer. I know Jason loves saying “no” to any and every feature request. People have been complaining about the bullet issues for years:
you already got command + b working for bold, how hard could be it to make command + u (unordered list) for bullets?
Could I help fund it? How much would you need to add those lines of code?
It shouldn’t take your developers much time at all. You can add or modify keyboard shortcuts for any of the toolbar buttons by setting their data-trix-key attribute.
It’s so very simple.
Thanks for getting back in touch, Max.
I can definitely see how it would be useful to toggle bullets without having to reach for a mouse or trackpad. I’m sorry it’s not available at the moment, but I’ll pass your thoughts along to our developers, who I hope can add this in a future update to our text editor.
Let me know if you have any other questions,
Basecamp Customer Support | Austin, Texas
I don’t keep a list of all the [customer] complaints, because that’s too time-consuming. We also get thousands of suggestions. The default answer is always no.
—Jason Fried in an Inc.com interview
When the CEO is widely quoted, in books and interviews, as saying “no” to everything customers ask for, might there be a dark side to the culture this philosophy creates? How customer-focused can you be if there’s a strong mandate from the top to just say no all the time? After saying “no” to the same request for so many years, are you even consciously saying “no” anymore? Or are you just thoughtlessly ignoring people?
It can be very empowering as a customer when you share your feedback with a vendor and see your suggestion get integrated into the product. But when customers feel their product feedback falls on deaf ears, they learn to stop trying. As a product manager myself, I could go on-and-on about all the things you could do to improve your product. (I’ve handed you the code to make a simple keyboard shortcut improvement months ago — something people have been complaining about for years.) But it sounds like you guys don’t want to hear it.
A lot of companies lie and say, “Sure, we’ll do that.” We never make promises that we can’t keep…
— Jason Fried in an Inc.com interview
Sure, some companies lie and say, “Sure, we’ll do that.” But is your goal merely to be better than companies that lie? There are other companies yet who do an amazing job at rapidly addressing issues and delivering new, valuable features. There are companies much more open to product feedback. Companies like Shopify deliver astounding sets of game-changing features at a truly breakneck pace. Stripe deploys changes to their platform 16 times a day, and they ask for feedback on every page.
With all the competition in this industry, it seems like you’re trying to claw back market share with a lot of PR efforts (and lawsuits). But it’s the product. It just doesn’t feel like anyone is giving it the love and attention it deserves.
There’s a lot to love about Basecamp, but it could be so much better. It’s hard to get team members onboard when they’d rather communicate over Slack than Campfire, and use Notion because Message Board lacks support for tables, pasting images, markdown, and even basic keyboard shortcuts.
I think if you’re going to bundle up a bunch of features into a project management app, it’s only as good as it’s worse set of features. Why buy a newspaper which bundles classified ads, sports scores, and outdated weather forecasts when you can get up-to-minutes sports scores from ESPN, real-time weather reports on your watch, and when Craigslist provides a 10X better classified ad experience?
Unless you deliver a really good experience across each set of tools, the whole value-proposition of an all-in-one app starts to fall apart. And if the company culture has a strong bias against learning from customers, how can you even know if you’re doing a good job or not?
Think about it for five minutes.
Tools matter. I want the best tools for my team. I believe there is enormous potential in this industry, but I feel like Basecamp fails to live up to the UI/UX we’ve come to expect from productivity tools like Slack, Asana, Monday, Airtable, and others. Maybe it’s your stack?
In your Employee Handbook you boast, “People who work here are some of the best and brightest in our industry.” But we wonder: “What’s holding them back?”
Clap if you want to save Basecamp.
UPDATE: We’ve given up on Basecamp. Read: Why we switched from Basecamp to Monday.com.