Today is a very exciting day for us here at 49digital. It's not because of the expected announcement of the iPad 3 (or HD depending one which reports you choose to believe), although we are very excited about that too. More on that later. No, we are excited about the fact that we are using the newest version of 37signals' Basecamp (dubbed Basecamp Next) for the first time. Technically, it was released yesterday but because 37signals is in Chicago and we are across the Atlantic in the UK the time difference means that today is the first chance we've had to check it out.
We've been using Basecamp for about two years now and we love it – so the bar is pretty high. Initial thoughts are that we are very impressed. The UI looks beautiful and easy to use, which is essential with this sort of software. Well, all software actually. It's easy to see how to do the main things you would want to do, like upload a file or start a discussion. And it's very pleasant to do these things because the UX is superb. I particularly like the Daily Progress feature which reminds me of the timeline in Path. A very nice touch.
There are some things that need getting used to though. Firstly, what used to work before doesn't necessarily work now. We have a client login for Basecamp on the front page of our website and this still works, but it only logs you into Basecamp Classic. Maybe this would not be the default behaviour if we switched completely to the new version but it's hard to know. I'm working on finding a solution.
All of our users were imported to the new Basecamp, including a number of legacy accounts that we no longer require. In Basecamp Next it is really, really easy to add users, but not so easy to delete them. There appears to be no way to delete in bulk - each user must be deleted individually, and it is not obvious where to go to do this. For information, it is found under 'Everyone', then click on the user in question. In the upper right-hand corner there is a little link for '[User]‘s superpowers and access to projects’. Click this and then there is an even smaller link to ‘Remove [user] completely from Basecamp'. As I say, not obvious. But, this is v1.0 after all so such things will probably be sorted out in time.
Certain things have changed, for example, 'Milestones' have become 'Events' and although they are supposedly very similar, there are differences that aren't apparent to me yet. I imagine this will become more obvious when I have more time to use it. Also, there is no time tracking which has upset some people, although it is not a feature that we use.
Looking at Basecamp Classic and Basecamp Next side-by-side, it's amazing how antiquated Basecamp Classic really looks. Although we use Basecamp every day, we never really thought much about how it looks since we are just so used to it. But it is now clear it was desperately in need of updating.
It is clear from v1.0 that 37signals has stuck to its core values and released a solid, well thought-out piece of software without all the bells and whistles and doo-dads that other companies might do. It is more important to them to get the foundation right and build on it. Here are 49digital we are huge fans of this approach and it is how we like to run our business as well.
Having said all that – we do have a wish-list, albeit a short one. We would love to see some sort of ability to customise it with our company logo and colours (like you can in Basecamp Classic), and we would love an API because we love building things with APIs. Thanks 37signals!