Hot! Basecamp Next First Impressions

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Well, Basecamp Next is finally here. They announced its arrival just a couple of months ago, and all of sudden it was launched today. I think I’m more surprised than most in learning that Basecamp Next has completely replaced Basecamp Classic.

Now if that sentence throws you off – 37signals assures us that classic will continue to be supported for years to come – which assuages my fears (a bit) however, I thought this would be ANOTHER product – in addition to classic that 37Signals would be offering.

It turns out it is not.

As of today it completely replaces Basecamp Classic – so all new accounts will be using the new interface, features, tool. All updates will be made to “basecamp next” and no new updates will be made to “basecamp classic.”

Basecamp Next First Impressions

Whether it was visiting their site this morning, signing up, adding users, or creating projects, one thing is glaringly clear – everything has been simplified. This tool (and the marketing and it’s use) feel like 50% of Basecamp classic was taken and made as fast and as simple as possible.

I truly feel ANYONE can use basecamp now (we do some quick coaching on Basecamp classic for new clients) – however, out of the box this should require NO training. Basecamp has always been more of a collaboration tool than a project management tool and Basecamp Next underscores this. Although I’m not a huge fan of the new front facing website (personally I feel their other site did a better job of explaining basecamp) I can say that actually signing up, getting started, and creating a project was much simpler than Basecamp Classic.

Creating Projects

[This is not a complete review, simply a first impressions session as this is our FIRST day using Basecamp Next.]

Creating projects was simple, and extremely fast. No more adding clients, adding companies, people, etc. Simply create the project title, description, and add the email addresses of those involved. Boom! Done! This alone saves a couple of screens and steps, and leads to simpler user management on projects overall.

The interface here is attractive and easy. Once created your projects show up on the new re-imagined dashboard. Have a look…

Very attractive. You can then click on a project to get to more details. I filled in a sample project quickly…

Again, attractive, simple, and very easy to update, add, etc.

Basecamp First Impressions Pros

Calendar – the calendar is gorgeous and is unified at the company level – allowing you to see what’s going on within EVERY project – or simply creating calendars for misc. stuff. The calendar doesn’t exist within the context of a project (which really does make sense) you can simply add events (which of course show up on the project.

Speed – The new system really is FAST! Everything loaded extremely quick – uploads were fast and overall I feel like I could save time over the previous interface (but there are some caveats I will get to in a minute).

Daily Progress – This kicks ass! Much like the Facebook “timeline” this shows a list of the progress that was made at your company. Scroll down to see more. A fantastic tool for small company owners or project managers. When your clients ask you “what was done today” you can simply click here and find out within 2 seconds.

Basecamp First Impressions Cons

I’m going to preface this by saying that I think 37signals made some grave errors in completely replacing classic with Basecamp Next – in that current customers weren’t consulted (although perhaps usage data was used in determining what changes made the cut). Most our my cons come from tools that were omitted:

Time Tracking – Simple… there is none. I feel like this is the gravest mistake that they could have made. Atilus our parent company has used Basecamp for nearly 6 years, and recommended/signed up nearly 10,000 businesses to Basecamp – but without time tracking we won’t be able to use, or recommend this new version. Jason Fried hinted at removing it – and it’s been removed. Why is time tracking so important? I feel EVERY business that uses a program like Basecamp MUST be tracking time, hell, I even wrote a whole series about it. Web developers (the primary audience of Basecamp) as well as other professionals need to know how many hours are spent on each item/task/todo/project – period – most go out of business because they don’t know how much time (and money) they spend on stuff. Basecamp was our goto tool for this – and classic will continue to be… for now. Not only must you know how much time you’re spending, but simply tracking time is a crucial business tool for those businesses that bill hourly. Classic did a great job of tracking time on todos so that our clients could receive a perfect report each month on what time was spent where. That does not exist with Basecamp Next.

Contact Management – The new contact manager on Basecamp Next is simple – too simple. I found it confusing creating companies, AND, you can no longer associate company information with an actual company (no address, phones, website, etc.).

Messaging Management – Not much has changed here, with the exception of one huge problem – as of right now I don’t see the ability to make messages private/public (so that only your managing company can see or so everyone can see). This is vital for any businesses using Basecamp (or wanting to use basecamp) in client facing situations (which I also previously recommended).

With that said what’s our overall impression of Basecamp Next? Well – I think for a simple project management tool – it’s awesome. However, as a business YOU must track time – and that’s why – on this premise alone I can’t recommend it. Overall, I’m glad they’re going to continue to support Basecamp Classic, but our real issue lies in the new divvying of directions. 37Signals has already concluded that it would not be making any more updates to Classic (only Next) so it completely alienates/inconveniences 100% of their audience. It’s only those users that switch that will continue to receive development attention.

As of now, Basecamp Next feels more like Basecamp… next! (I think that was the corniest thing I ever wrote).

Include the three missing elements above – and I think you have a great update. We’ll see what the future holds for the Basecamp Next vs. Basecamp Classic turn. What do you think? What are your impressions of Basecamp Next?



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.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Zach.

    A lot of work when into the new Basecamp, but today is just day one. Basecamp is going to get even better. This is just the beginning. Even the iPhone launched without copy and paste 😉

    I hope you’ll stay tuned and see where we take it.

    Also, re: private items… You may want to check out the all new Loop-in feature which attacks the private concept from a different angle:

    • Hi Jason, Thanks so much for stopping by. I understand it’s just day 1 (technically day 2 now)! And considering that, it’s been a fantastic experience – typical software has so many bugs and problems on launch, but besides the occasional tiny rendering error we couldn’t find any here. With that said – I do like the new Loop-In idea, although feel it would be better suited in ADDITION to the way Basecamp Classic handled things (with companies and employees). I definitely love the dynamic team/department setup which helps. Looking forward to seeing future iterations.

  2. What I disliked intensely about both BaseCamp and Campfire the last time I used them (which has been at least a year or two ago) was there was insufficient structure to indicate WHERE in them commonly used information belonged.

    This led to every company putting the same type of information in a totally different place OR not having the most important information even IN the tool at all.

    This was compounded by the lack of a global search function. If there had at least been a way to SEARCH for what you knew was there – SOMEWHERE – that deficiency would not have been such a time-wasting issue.

    Have they resolved that problem in this new version? Can you confirm whether it has a global search function now?

    The biggest issue I had with business owners using either one was not an issue with the solution – it was an issue with their need for control and unwillingness to take the time to understand the importance of establishing best practices for any solution you implement.

    One CEO ordered his people to put everything in Basecamp AND email it AND message it so they ended up doing TRIPLE the work instead of being more organized, having everything in one place, and doing LESS documenting. You can imagine how well THAT worked.

    He liked to boast his company was a Jet taking off. I told him, his business WAS a jet taking off – but it was already flying on fumes (because he was expecting his employees to work 23 hours a day – I am NOT exaggerating – some of them were literally doing that trying to do what he expected) – and that he was going to crash and burn and I didn’t have to come along for the ride. When he would not listen to reason he became an ex client in record time.

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