Hot! Basecamp Countdown Review

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I was recently informed of Countdown, a Basecamp addon, by a commenter and thought I would check it out and give my review.

What is Countdown?

Countdown is simply a budgeting extension for 37Signals’ Basecamp. The service allows you to provide estimated hours and then track your real hours against those estimates. For example, let’s say you have 8 hours budgeted to create a screen design, you (perhaps as project manager) provide countdown with the estimate/budget, telling countdown you have 8 hours for the task(s). Then your graphic designer will add hours as he/she progresses. You can then quickly see whether you come up short, meet, or exceed the budgeted hours.

According to their website:

Countdown is an budgeting extension to Basecamp using the Basecamp API. You use it by utilizing our special bookmarklet (a bookmark that does something). While in Basecamp, clicking on our bookmarklet will open up Countdown, and will show you the information related to the project you’re looking at in Basecamp, all without leaving Basecamp itself.

Countdown seems to be unique (as far as the addon’s I’ve personally used for Basecamp) in that it works via a special bookmark you click when in areas of Basecamp. When you are on the correct screen and click the book mark a window appears allowing you to either add estimates or track estimates.

Pros

  • Very simple to install (only uses a book mark – does require registration)
  • Simple to use (once click operation once you’ve signed in)
  • Doesn’t try to do too much

Cons

  • Weird/Confusing – I don’t have an alternative, but the fact that you have to click a book mark, AND be on the right page(s) can get a bit confusing.
  • Doesn’t REALLY track each individual task within a to-list. It only tracks total hours within a to-do list, for laser targeted tracking this is a big shortcoming.
  • Notice how there are no pictures in this post? Unfortunately Preneer isn’t branding Countdown separately so there is no logo, etc.
  • Is it really necessary? Professionally we’ve always tracked time estimates progressively throughout a project using either our project manager and/or just making sure to list requirements in to-do items. IE, when we create a to-do item we just let everyone know the amount of time that can be spent on the task or whole to-do in the description.

Overall, you may find a great use out of this tool, but personally I doubt it will be picked up and used that much because of it’s awkward use, lack of specificity and the fact that a similar thing can be accomplished using Basecamp‘s available tool set.

For more on the tool visit Countdown’s website and watch their informative video.

As always if you agree or disagree or want to put in your 2 cents, feel free to comment!

Author

Zach Katkin

Zach is the owner of a number of small businesses including Atilus. He has used many of the small business tools and tips featured on this site in order to help his company. Zach – who general doesn’t like speaking about himself in 3rd person – wants to help you – that’s right, now I’m talking to you – make your small business the best it can be using the Interweb.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. We’re looking for user input as we come out of beta on how we can improve Countdown and make it as useful as possible, without making it over-complicated.

    Let me briefly address your cons:

    Weird/Confusing: The “show the right screen based on where you are in basecamp” setup worked well for us internally, but we are finding that some find it strange. We are looking at possibly allowing full navigation around Countdown from any screen.

    Doesn’t really track individual to-dos: Actually, that’s not true. Individual todo item hours are indeed tracked. Currently, though, our reports only show individual items that are near or over estimated time, along with a summary for the whole list.

    Branding: This is something we’re working on. Stay tuned!

    Is it necessary?: It might not be for a lot of people. Other people might find it extremely useful – we did in our business. As you say, that’s up to you!

    Thanks again for the review. We welcome all comments and feedback as we look to continuously improve Countdown.

  2. Hi Tony,

    Thanks again for stopping by and checking out the review. I could definitely see it being useful for some companies and the ability to export estimates and then mass compare them versus real time spent could also be valuable. I look forward to seeing more in the future.

    Zach

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