New in Basecamp: Recurring Events

Now you can add [daily, weekly, monthly, yearly] repeating events to the Basecamp schedule. Here’s how it works:

When you add an event in Basecamp 3…


…you’ll see a new option to repeat the event…


…the options include every day, every week day, once a week, once a month, and once a year…


…you can choose to repeat the event forever, or until a certain date…


…the repeat frequency is shown on the event page as well…



This feature has been a long time coming. Thanks to everyone who sent in a request, to Merissa on the support team for championing the push to make this happen, and to Jeff, Conor, Pratik, and everyone else who pitched in to help make it all work. The new feature is live for all Basecamp 3 customers on all platforms (Web, Mac Desktop, Windows Desktop, iOS iPhone + iPad, and Android). We hope you find it useful.

Library Rules: How to make an open office plan work


They’re mostly terrible, but there’s room for smart choices.

Last week, DHH skewered the open office floor plan. He was right. But wait, we have an open office floor plan. And we’ve done a respectable job figuring out how to make it work. Maybe I should share something about that.

First off, an open office is appealing from a few perspectives:

  • It makes economic sense. Building out separate private spaces for everyone is costly. Yes, you could argue people being unable to work out in the open is even more costly, and I wouldn’t fight you on that, but that’s an abstract economic impact. Paying construction bills has a very direct economic impact.
  • It’s more flexible to remain open. Companies like to imagine growth. If you have 20 employees today, but may have 40, 60, or 80 a year or two from now, it’s very difficult to forecast what you’re going to physically need. If you don’t build enough private offices for everyone, then some people are going to get pissed. If you build too many, you’ve wasted a bunch of space. Open is flexible and flexible is comforting — especially if you’re signing a 5+ year lease.
  • You need less space. You can pack a lot of people into 5000sqft of open space. You can nudge desks together, you can squish people in a few feet, etc. I’m not suggesting these are good ideas, but they’re practical and workable. But if everyone needs private offices, you’re going to need a lot more space, which means a lot more rent. That’s expensive.

So it’s not hard to see why open offices make sense from a purely practical, economic perspective. They’re also easier to clean and maintain, too. But like DHH, I don’t buy the collaborative benefits. Not for a second. That’s a mask used to obscure the real reason — cost savings. Open plans are cheaper to execute, period. And the people who make the decisions about how the office is designed are usually the ones that make the financial decisions.

Ok, so given all that, if you do go open, how do you make open work?

Library Rules

Walk into any library in the world and you’ll notice a few things. One, they’re generally open spaces with a number of desks and surfaces scattered throughout — similar to an open floor plan office. And two, they’re quiet. There are few things as culturally consistent as library design and library behavior. At Basecamp we call these Library Rules.


Different executions, same idea.

Libraries are full of people working, reading, thinking, studying, writing, contemplating, designing, etc. Yet they’re silent. People are heads down doing independent work. In our opinion, this is the model business, the model office. We pattern our way of working around Library Rules.

So this is the first lesson: Embrace Library Rules. Open offices work all around the world every day. They’re called libraries! And the more you treat your office as a library of work — rather than a chaotic kitchen of work — the better an open floor plan is going to work. Making an open floor plan work is a cultural decision.

Library Rules means keeping to yourself, keeping your voice down in hushed tones, not distracting one another. If you do need to talk to someone at normal volumes, grab a room. A key to making open floor plans work is also having private rooms scattered throughout the space. A place where a few people who need to discuss something in real time can jump in, talk it up and work it out without bothering anyone on the outside.

At our office, we call these private spaces Team Rooms. Here’s what they look like:

We have 5 team rooms at the Basecamp office. The carpet outside the rooms is striated red and grey, but the carpet inside the rooms are just red — signaling focused, quiet space.

BTW, eliminating distractions doesn’t just mean physical distractions. It increasingly means virtual distractions. Real-time chat rooms/channels are basically open offices — and worse in many ways. So even if you’re fortunate enough to work remotely, or in an office with private rooms for everyone, if you’re forced to follow multiple real-time conversations all day long, you’re effectively working in open plan office too. Sorry!

Acoustics

What’s worse than an open floor plan? An open floor plan loaded with hard surfaces! And given that many open plans are housed in old warehouse/loft-like spaces, you’re materially at a disadvantage. All that wood and brick and glass looks great, but it sounds awful.

Our office space started as a 10,000sqft concrete and glass box. It was a former furniture factory, and a present day echo factory.

A big part of our office design was acoustic design. For example, we built a huge volume in the middle of the office that’s wrapped in stacked felt. The felt serves as a sound absorbing material, and the irregular stacking helps deflect sound. The material and application looks like this:


Detail and zoomed out.

We also lined one long wall with an acoustic material used in recording studios to help absorb and deflect sound.


Detail and zoomed out.

Carpet tiles lines the floor of the open work area to further reduce echo and sound transmission when people are speaking openly:

Striated outside, solid red in the team rooms

And even the team rooms themselves — rooms designed for collaboration and normal volume communication — have been designed with acoustics in mind. From the acoustic ceiling tiles, to the stacked and slotted cork walls to deflect sound and kill echo, each decision was deliberately made to keep sound from traveling where it shouldn’t.


Ceiling tiles, and stacked + slotted cork walls.

And because we can’t help ourselves, we even installed neoprene grommets between any team rooms that shared the same glass wall. It’s hard to see this in the photo, but there’s a slight gap between rooms where the glass passes across an inner wall. The neoprene expands to fill that space and kill sound transmission between rooms.

Me pointing at the airtight heavy neoprene grommet between the wall and the glass.

We also built a separate sound proof (room inside a room) recording studio for recording our podcasts. It’s also lined with the same material we had on that long back wall.


Desk dividers out in the open office are made of another acoustic material made from recycled plastic:


Detail and zoomed out.

And finally, anyone who needs to make a private phone call (personal or business), can duck into one of three phone rooms. The rooms are sound proof and lined with the same material we use for the desk dividers. There’s also an IN USE sign that lights up whenever someone’s inside — reminding everyone that someone’s in there.

Me on a fake phone call sitting in one of our phone rooms.

Density and desks

Aside from acoustics, there’s another consideration which plays a large role in keeping an office quiet a calm — density. Packing people on top of each other is a form of induced stress. Desks face each other (but dividers keep people from seeing one another), and there’s about 10 feet of space behind each person’s desk. You never have to worry about rolling your chair back and hitting someone.

Everyone gets a standing desk, and everyone sits near a large window.

Further, our desk layout is arranged so no one is looking at anyone else’s screen. Knowing people are looking over your back — even unintentionally — is a really uncomfortable feeling. We’ve eliminated that with our layout.

Last, the desks are lined up along huge windows to make natural light a full part of everyone’s day. Natural light is especially calming, and independently operated shades help with the rare glare based on the season.

Open’s a choice

Yes, an open floor plan is a choice, but it requires a cultural commitment to respect and quiet. Luckily everyone already knows how to do that since everyone knows how to behave in a library. Beyond that, it also requires a capital investment and deliberate office design choices. Even if everyone’s quiet, tossing a bunch of desks in an echo chamber isn’t going to get the job done. If you want to keep things quiet, you have to think about what you’re designing. Every decision has an impact one way or another.

And it’s all optional!

We did the best job we could designing an open office (and a culture) that allows everyone to work in focused peace and quiet every day. But even that’s not good enough, which is why no one is ever required to come into our office. Basecamp is a fully remote company of 54 people, and even the 14 people who work in Chicago work remotely from home most of the time. Walk into the office on any given day and you’ll see 3–5, if you’re lucky. Yes, it’s a tremendous waste of space most of the time, but that’s a concession we’re comfortable making.


You can find more photos of our office right here. We talk about the above strategies, and more, in our upcoming book “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work.” And if you want to try a product that’s deliberately designed to keep work as calm as possible, check out Basecamp 3.

Short time horizons keep it fresh

When do we do our best work? When we’re excited about something. Excitement morphs into motivation. We do our best work when we’re motivated. A great way to stay motivated is to work on something new. No one likes being stuck on a project that never seems to end.

The typical project

Long project waveform

The typical project starts out great but then our motivation and interest wanes as time goes on. It’s natural. Staying interested in a project over a long period of time is a challenge for anyone. The longer the project the thinner the tail. You’re not going to do your best work in the tail.

The ideal series of projects

Project series waveform

When you do a series of small projects, or break a single big project into smaller individual projects, you stand a better chance at maintaining motivation and rekindling interest. When you have a pile of tiny projects you get the chance to work on something new more often. We do our best work when we’re excited about starting something new. That’s why the bulk of our projects fit into cycles that last 6-weeks or less.


Credit for the waveform concept goes to Jim Coudal.

The owner’s word weighs a ton


Be careful not to throw your weight around without knowing it.

Yesterday I was in a board meeting for a company I advise. Great group, strong business, profitable, all the good stuff. But the owner-CEO was stuck. He felt like he’d laid out a pretty clear vision and direction, but people’s priorities kept shifting. This thing was important, then all the sudden it was this other thing. Lots of bouncing around, not quite enough focus. He didn’t know what was causing it, but it turns out it was him. But how?

We dug into it. As we went, I recognized the problem.

As much as we’d like to pretend we’re just one of the crew, the owner is the owner. And when the owner makes a suggestion, that suggestion can easily become high priority. It’s rarely what the owner intends, but it’s often how it’s received. When the person who signs your check says this or that, this or that can quickly become the most important thing.

It’s like the old EF Hutton ad “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.”

So something as minor as “Are we doing enough on Instagram?” can shoot Instagram to the top of the marketing priority list. It was a mere suggestion, but now it’s a mandate. “Why would he be talking about Instagram unless he really thought Instagram was super important?”

What’s worse is when the owner finds him or herself in the weeds. Meddling too much in this problem or that problem. If that’s where they’re spending their attention, people assume it’s top priority. It may be a mere curiosity, but that’s not the impression it makes. If she’s looking over there, then we should be looking over there. The owner’s presence in a problem area can re-prioritize the organization’s plate without intending to.

And that’s just one example. But owners like to lob ideas all over the organization, and often many at the same time. You can think of them as tiny pebbles being tossed into a pool. When the pebble hits the surface, it radiates small waves. If you’re in that pool, you’ll be affected. A splash over here sends waves this way, a drop over there sends them in another direction. Before you know it, the stillness is broken up by intersecting rings of water. It can get chaotic pretty quickly. And after a while, it’s unclear where all the action started, it’s hard to trace. It’s just busy, churning water. It takes a long time to settle it back down again.

So if you own the place, be careful what you say and when you say it. Most of the time your word carries more weight than you wish. Reserve that weight for when it’s really necessary.

Mind the gap

How to spend your time when there’s nothing left to do?

This morning something happened that reminded me of an important lesson re: time well spent.

Three of us are working on an illustration project for our forthcoming book, “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work”. In our previous books, we had an illustration per essay. This time we’re going in a different direction. Rather than an illustration per essay, we’re aiming for ~15 full page spreads spaced evenly throughout the book.

We’re going to be illustrating historical and contemporary figures with work methods that line up with our point of view on work. People who’ve done big important things without pulling all nighters, working crazy hours, or forgoing leisure for the eternal hustle.

Here’s an early example of a spread:


We like the direction, and so does our publisher. We’re going for it. So now we’re off to find interesting subjects to illustrate and feature. It’s research time. That means there’s going to be some design downtime — a gap in the project for the designers.

Now, back to what happened this morning… The designer leading the layout charge offered to continue to explore layout concepts while we look for more subjects to feature. He wanted to tweak the layout on the right, add some more details to fill out the space, etc. We’re happy with it, but could we be even happier with it? The tweak muscle yearns to be flexed!

That’s a perfectly natural reaction. Certainly there’s always room for improvement. And there is always more to explore. Always.

Always is the problem.

The always option is where you turn time well spent into time wasted. That time could be used on other projects that need attention, rather than projects that desire attention. The layout above is perfectly fine — it doesn’t need tweaking now. The designer may desire to tweak, because designers love to design! There’s a tendency to keep pushing the thing you’re on because you’re already in the middle of it. Natural. But it’s on us to inject a sense of enough so we don’t sink good time into something that doesn’t need it. Going from 99% to 100% is expensive. I’d rather we spend that 1% going from 0% nothing to 1% something (or 50% on the fence to 51% conviction) on something else.

So I gently reminded him that we’re all good here. He did great work, the layout looks great, and there’s even a risk of fucking up a good thing (it’s always easier to fuck up a good thing than to fix a bad thing). There’s more to do elsewhere, and his time would be better spent on those things.

He agreed. We’ll come back to the layouts once we have new subjects to illustrate and design. And maybe then we’ll see a different way forward once we have more examples in front of us. Now isn’t the right time to continue to tweak. Let’s wait to see if new ideas pop up via new work that has to be done rather than revisiting what we’ve already done.

Launch: A brand new way to work with clients in Basecamp 3

When we launched Basecamp 3, we introduced a new way for client services firms to work with their clients. We called it the Clientside. It was an entirely separate part of a Basecamp project where all client-facing communications lived. Essentially, it was a mini project within a project — a distinct space with separate tools and a different interface.

Conceptually it made sense, but practically it was inflexible and not collaborative enough. It worked well for some people, but it missed the mark for far more. We fell short of what we hoped we’d be able to create.

So we put our heads together and spent a couple months working on a complete revamp. Today we’re introducing something better.

Introducing Clients in Basecamp!

Starting today, not only can you send messages to clients, but now you can work with clients using all the same tools you already use with your team. That means you can assign clients to-dos, share files and folders, schedule events and meetings, chat around the Campfire, and even ask clients automatic check-in questions! If you can do it with your team, you can do it with your clients. And now it all happens in the same place as the rest of the project — no more separate Clientside. It’s everything you’ve been asking for.

You’re in 100% control of what clients see. Clarity and privacy is at the core of this new feature. That’s why everything in a project is now labeled as “private to our team” or “the client can see this”. Plus, to reduce anxiety and prevent “oh shit, they weren’t supposed to see that” moments, everything in a project starts off as private just to your team. When you’re ready to share something — a message, a to-do, a file — just flip the switch:



Whenever you post something new, you’ll have the option to specify if the client should be able to see it or if it’s private just to your team:

Blue+lock means private to your team, yellow+eye means visible to the client.

For example, here’s a to-do on a to-do list the client can see. It’s also assigned to Victor, your client:


And here’s a message thread about a revised headshot. The client can see it, and they’ve responded below:


And here’s an email you’ve forwarded in that you don’t want the client to see. It’s been marked private for your team only:


And finally, here’s a combination of files and folders. The client can see some folders, but not others. For clarity, only the ones they can see are labeled with the “The client sees this” tag:

They can’t see the “logo redesign folder” in top left, but they can see everything else.

Log-in or email-only — It Just Works!

We all know how hard it can be to ask a client to get used to using a new system. Even an easy system like Basecamp 3. So, Basecamp works even if your clients don’t want to learn anything new. Clients can respond to Basecamp messages right from their inbox, and new email they send you can be forwarded to Basecamp where your whole team can see them. Regardless if whether a client logs in and posts something directly to Basecamp, or they respond to a message via email, you’ll always have everything in one organized place inside the Basecamp project.

Fantastic! How do we turn it on?

  1. Go into a project, click the “Add/remove people” button. This is the same way you’d invite anyone to a project:


2. Then click the green “Add people” button and select “Invite a client to the project” from the bottom of the menu.


Now you’re off and running. Any existing content will be private, and anything new you add to the project will give you the option to mark something as private or visible to the client.

Back to the future?

If you’ve used Basecamp Classic or Basecamp 2, this new setup may ring a bell. You’d be right — it’s based on a similar approach. What’s changed is both the interface and the default privacy setting. In Classic and 2, everything in a project was visible to a client until you marked it private. Problem with that was that you could easily make a mistake and reveal something you didn’t intend to. But then it was too late. That’s why in Basecamp 3 we’ve flipped it. Everything is private by default. You have to expressly give a client permission to see something. It’s much safer this way. Less anxiety ahead.

What if we liked the Clientside?

If you’re an existing customer that used the Clientside in the past, you can continue to use it on any project in your account. It’s no longer an option for new customers, or for existing customers who’ve never used the Clientside before, but if you have, and you still prefer it, it’s all yours. You can even use the Clientside on existing projects and the new way on new projects. Further, if you relied heavily on the Approvals feature, you’ll want to continue to use the Clientside as there’s currently no equivalent feature outside the Clientside.


This is a big change, a big deal. We think you’re really going to like it. You’ll have the power and flexibility to collaborate with clients in true Basecamp style without any of the limitations imposed by the previous Clientside approach. And most importantly, you’ll always have 100% control over what messages, to-do lists, folders, files, Campfire chat, and automatic check-ins your clients can see and participate in. This way you can keep the private work private, and the shared work visible — all in the same project so everything is organized together.

Questions? Comments? Post ’em below. Thanks again for using Basecamp 3!

Getting Real: A new YouTube channel from Basecamp

Click the image above to jump to our new YouTube Channel!

For years people have been asking us how. How do you design things? How do you code things? Why do you do it this way vs. that way? How do you think about writing? How do you think about what makes it into a product and what does? How do you decide which features to build and which ones not to? How do you stay up on everything that’s going on in your business?

We’ve written about these topics for years — and we’ll keep writing about them — but we want to bring some show to the tell. So we started a new YouTube Channel called Getting Real. To start, DHH and I will be posting occasional videos of actual day-to-day work. Down the road other people at Basecamp may join in.

So far we have a dozen videos up. More are coming. Check out what we have so far and subscribe to be notified when new ones are ready to watch.

We hope you dig it! And if you have any ideas for future episodes, please post a comment below.

Outlasting

You in business? What are you doing to last? Not to grow. Not to gain. Not to take. Not to win. But to last?

I wouldn’t advocate spending much time worrying about the competition — you really shouldn’t waste attention worrying about things you can’t control — but if it helps make the point relatable, the best way to beat the competition is to last longer than they do.

Duh? Yes, duh. Exactly. Business is duh simple as long as you don’t make it duhking complicated.

So how do you last?

Obviously you need to take in enough revenue to pay your bills. But we’ve always tried to reverse that statement: How many bills do you need to pay to limit your revenue requirements?

Rather than thinking about how much you need to make to cover your costs, think about how little you need to help you survive as long as you want.

Yes, we’re talking about costs. The rarely talked about side of the equation. I’m honestly shocked how little attention costs get in the realm of entrepreneurial literature.

Whenever a startup goes out of business, the first thing I get curious about are their costs, not their revenues. If their revenues are non-existent, or barely there, then they were fucked anyway. But beyond that, the first thing I look at is their employee count. Your startup with 38 people didn’t make it? No wonder. Your startup that was paying $52,000/month rent didn’t make it? No wonder. Your startup that spend 6 figures on your brand didn’t make it? No wonder.

Even today… Some of the biggest names in our industry are hemorrhaging money. How is that possible? Simple: Their costs are too high! You don’t lose money by making it, you lose it by spending too much of it! Duh! I know!

So keep your costs as low as possible. And it’s likely that true number is even lower than you think possible. That’s how you last through the leanest times. The leanest times are often the earliest times, when you don’t have customers yet, when you don’t have revenue yet. Why would you tank your odds of survival by spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need? Beats me, but people do it all the time. ALL THE TIME. Dreaming of all the amazing things you’ll do in year three doesn’t matter if you can’t get past year two.

2018 will be our 19th year in business. That means we’ve survived a couple of major downturns — 2001, and 2008, specifically. I’ve been asked how. It’s simple: It didn’t cost us much to stay in business. In 2001 we had 4 employees. We were competing against companies that had 40, 400, even 4000. We had 4. We made it through, many did not. In 2008 we had around 20. We had millions in revenue coming in, but we still didn’t spend money on marketing, and we still sublet a corner of someone else’s office. Business was amazing, but we continued to keep our costs low. Keeping a handle on your costs must be a habit, not an occasion. Diets don’t work, eating responsibly does.

Try it for a year. Think less about revenues and more about costs. In many cases they’re easier to control, easier to predict (seek out fixed costs that’ll stay the same as you grow, vs things that get more expensive as you grow), and easier to manage. But only if you keep them in mind as you make decisions about how you’re going to last — and outlast.


Fired up about a new idea, but can’t seem to get traction to make it happen? Chat rooms aren’t traction, they’re treadmills. Lots of talk without going anywhere. You need Basecamp 3 — discussions, to-do lists, schedules, the ability to hold people accountable. Don’t just talk about it, do it with Basecamp.

Hard first or easy first?

Accountants have FIFO (first in first out) and LIFO (last in first out). Product designers have HFEL (hard first easy later) or EFHL (easy first hard later).

No matter the project, there are things you’re more confident about and things you’re less confident about. No brainers, maybe brainers, yes brainers. Assuming you have limited time to complete a project (we spend a maximum of 6 weeks on most projects), you have to decide how to sequence the work. Do you pick off the hard stuff first? Easy stuff first? What to do?

It depends, of course. I don’t have any answers for you, but I can share some of the things we think about when deciding what to do when.

First we get our bearings.

Does this feel like a full project? Is it probably going to take all the time we have? Lots of moving parts? Does this work touch a lot of other things, or is it mostly self-contained? Do we feel like we’ve mostly got it down, or are there some material unknowns we haven’t quite nailed down yet?

If it feels big, and full, and challenging with some significant unknowns, we almost always start with the hard stuff first. The worst thing you can do in that situation is kick big challenges down the road because you’ll inevitably run out of time. You’ll either make bad big decisions that way, or you’ll push the schedule out, or you’ll work late or work weekends. All those are big no-no’s for us, so we tackle the hard stuff first.

Sometimes we start with a quick spike. We put a few days into it and see if we’re able to make any meaningful forward process. That’ll reveal if the problem is really as big as we think it is, or we’ve been overestimating the shadow of worry its been casting. But waiting until later isn’t an option. We chip away at the big rock to see if it’s sandstone that’ll break down easy, or granite that’ll require heavy machinery.

Once we have a sense of where we’re at, we think about what we need, as a team. I don’t mean what does the team need as far as tooling or technology goes, but what do we need emotionally? Do we want to slog along without any short-term visible progress, or can we grab a quick win and start to pick up some momentum? It depends — how did the last project go? Are we coming off a high or a low? If a low, maybe we should find some quicker wins to fuel the spirit. If a win, maybe we’re already feeling good enough about ourselves to go heads down without anything material to show for a few more days. The past plays a surprisingly important role in the present.

We’re currently working on some significant improvements to the way our customers work with their clients in Basecamp 3. It’s a big project, and we’ll likely be working on it over two 6-week cycles. There are unknowns — both technical and visual — but the last time we tried to tackle this problem we ended up putting a lot of work in with nothing to show in the end. We didn’t ship what we built because we 1. didn’t finish on time, and 2. didn’t feel great about what we built, and 3. didn’t want to put more time into a bad time. Therefore, this time, we ran easy and hard in parallel. The programmers worked on a hard problem first, and the designers worked on an easy one. It was a nice way pour the concrete foundation and choose the paint colors at the same time.

On the design side of things, we often try to stay away from the details early. Details can turn into quicksand. We never want to get stuck on something early on — that’s a surefire way to burn too much time on something that’s going to change later anyway. Never ever get stuck on something you just know you’re going to change later. So when we start a design project, we typically go from very big to very small. It’s a bit different from choosing hard first or easy first, but it’s still a choice. We still have to decide where to begin.

One other thing I wanted to add, but don’t know where to put: We aim to avoid feeling like we have something to prove. That’s hero language, and we don’t do hero. We do work. We have work to do. Big and small — we’re satisfied by doing good work and getting it done in the time we give ourselves up front. Heros are only satisfied by rescuing things, doing the impossible, or saving the world. We’ll leave those antics to teams that run on fumes. We’ll run on a good night’s sleep.


I wrote this essay without reading it back — a stream of consciousness burst. I’ve had a bit of writer’s block this week, so I’m trying to bust through by just writing raw thoughts and getting my fingers moving again. I hope it was helpful. Any questions?

Previewing the Basecamp 3 refresh

We’re close to finishing up a refresh of the Basecamp 3 interface on web and desktop. We’re planning on launching it in the next few weeks, so we wanted to give you a thorough preview before it shows up in a browser near you.

First, why?

A combination of reasons, really. One, we have some new ideas that we didn’t have when we launched Basecamp 3 a few years ago. Now feels like a good time to modernize. Two, we have some cleaning up to do. We’ve updated the product hundreds of times over the last few years, and we’ve introduced some inconsistencies and rough edges. Time to pause, clean it up, and set the stage for the next few years. And three, we think this new design makes Basecamp more enjoyable to use, and far more approachable for new customers. It was a heck of a lot of fun to do, too!

Further, we’ve always believed in following the same pattern car manufactures follow. Major model updates every few years, and mid-cycle refreshes about half way into a model cycle. Basecamp Classic (February 2004), Basecamp 2 (March 2012), and Basecamp 3 (November 2015) are our major model updates (entirely new code under the hood, entirely new designs, etc), and the Basecamp 3 refresh like the one we’re about to launch in early 2018 is equivalent to a mid-cycle refresh in the car world.

Lastly, we approached this as a refresh, not a redesign. We wanted to update navigation, page layout, typography, buttons, placement, and proportions, while still retaining a familiar Basecamp 3 feel. A freshening up, not a flushing out. We know our customers are in the middle of important work, and they rely on Basecamp to help them manage the load, so we wanted to tread confidently, but change carefully.

Let’s take a look at some screens

Messages

First let’s look at the screen that shows all the posts on the message board inside a specific project or team. The new design is wider, bolder, and more confident. Fewer floating objects, stronger left margin so text all starts from the same place, stronger callout of comment count in big blue circles, less dead space at the top of the screen, more messages visible without scrolling, etc. Before on the left, after on the right.


← BEFORE | AFTER →

And now let’s compare what an actual message board post looks like. Here you’ll see a tighter layout, fewer intersecting and overlapping shapes, stronger masthead, better type, reorganized metadata, and overall better use of space. It just feels a whole lot more confidence inspiring, which is important when making company-wide announcements using the message board.


← BEFORE | AFTER →

Automatic Check-ins

Automatic Check-ins are of the most popular features in Basecamp 3, and they’re getting a well-deserved overhaul.

Let’s look at the check-in page itself. Here’s an example from “What did you work on yesterday?”. The previous design is on the left, the new design is on the right. We’ve cleaned up the top quite a bit, and replaced an “Add your answer” button with a field you can just type directly into. We’ve tucked some infrequently used subscription options into the ••• menu, vs. having them messily exposed. And you’ll also see a hint of the new answers/comment design — individual comments are now encased in a light grey shape to hold them together and separate them from everything else on the screen.


← BEFORE | AFTER →

Schedules

We’ve tweaked the schedules design as well. While it inherits the new header design you’ve seen elsewhere, we’ve replaced an ambiguous “Subscribe” button with a clearer, front-and-center “Add this schedule to your Google Calendar, Outlook, or iCal…” link. Further, we’ve tightened up the header, and given things a bit more room to breathe, so the screen just feels more solid, less floaty. Before’s on the left, after’s on the right.


← BEFORE | AFTER →

Project/Team home screens

We’ve put everything on a white sheet, vs directly on the background. It helps eliminate awkward negative gaps, shapes, and alignment, and it just tidies things up considerably. The page feels more sure of itself, and better organized overall.


← BEFORE | AFTER →

Docs & Files

Docs & Files also get a white sheet, a new masthead, a general clean up, and the new look:

Organized w/ folders

Navigation and background

You’ll see in the screenshots above, that we’ve lightened up the background. Less beige, less yellow. It’s paler, but still a trademark warm tone. We want Basecamp to feel comfortable and cozy, not cold and clinical like so much software out there.

We’ve also placed the navigation straight on the background, vs. in a strip. This cleans things up and emphases the content below rather than the navigation above. Further, we’ve added a “backsheet” behind the breadcrumb which further emphasizes hierarchy and adds some structure.

Before:


After:


“New” buttons are also all in the same place now. The current design has them centered and big in some places, while small and top left in other places. Now they’re always top left on the same line as the headline like this:



Overarching themes

While this remains a work in progress, and the final product may look a bit different from the previews you see here, the gist will be the same. We aimed to make the interface and user experience more consistent and predictable, the text more readable, and the hierarchy clearer and more intuitive. Further we tweaked the typeface, sizing, spacing, and proportions to make everything feel more comfortable, and removed a bunch of fussiness from the design. Overall, we feel great about where we’re headed here, and we’re eager to share the final version with everyone soon.

Thanks for following along, and thanks for all the feedback along the way. We’ve built plenty of it into the redesign.

All the best,

— The team at Basecamp