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At my company we use Basecamp every day for project management (also with our customers involved) and for internal time tracking.


Today a link to a survey popped up asking for feedback on how to improve Basecamp. A chance to improve a great product we use so many hours every day. Therefor I care. Basecamp is better than every other project management tool I have seen and tested, yet it sucks in some important aspects. Here’s the feedback I gave:
 

What do you like least about Basecamp? What are we completely missing?

 

1. No Meta Data for To Do’s

We have to write names and dates (!!) into the text field for to do’s in order to later know who to ask and how old an item is. You don’t have to clutter your interface with meta data – a simple tool tip would be enough.

2. Drowning in Emails

People from different companies will cc entire companies when they don’t know whom to contact. In consequence entire conversations often spam many people. A real problem!

Ways to deal with that:

  1. Promote the function field in profiles (and display those functions). When I add new people from other companies as admin I often don’t know their function. Make it clear to them when they sign up that the function field matters.
  2. Make it easy to unsubscribe oneself or other people from conversations. People often refrain from answering as they see that answer would go to too many people, yet they can’t influence the recipient list. (With email they can!)
  3. Equally: Make it easy to subscribe oneself or other people to conversations! People now cc everybody as there’s no way to later change the recipients.

 

4. Weak Findability

Basecamp feels like an obscure data dump. You know you saw that file or information somewhere, yet where? Fulltext search is slow, well hidden and doesn’t give very good results. And there are too many places where one can post something.

5. The Dashboard Sucks

  • Since the calendar was added the things that matter to me (and milestones don’t!) are 900px (!!) down from the top.
  • The project list in the sidebar is unusable due to its size and structure. Right now I see 19 active projects listed under 15 companies. Makes 34 lines with no apparent structure.
  • Fulltext search box should be on dashboard. (Where else!?)
  • Add ALL projects to my dashboard, not just those that belong to my company. Currently I have to check my dashboard plus 4 projects “owned” by other companies.

 

6. Contact Information Missing

I regularly want to contact someone whose name I see (eg. on overview page), yet I can’t click their name to get a telephone number or something. I have to hunt that information down. Think hypertext please!
 

7. Time Tracking is only almost great

Time tracking is simple and can be attached to To Do’s. That’s great and the main reason we chose Basecamp. Yet if a project is owned by another company we can’t use it for time tracking (although we have a plan that includes time tracking). We have to replicate the project and its To Do’s, that’s crazy.
 

What are we doing well with Basecamp, but could improve on?

 

Ease of use. Basecamp is easy to use, yet could be so much easier.

  • Let us remove unused tabs. We use Calendar/Milestones in only 2 projects out of 21, and Writeboard only in 1. Why do I have to explain customers what those are and why they don’t need to care?
  • Files: That’s ok as a meta view, a quick way to find attachments – but why does it need to be a stand-alone-feature? An own tab? I can’t send you a file without sending you an email – why can I upload a file without a message or note on Basecamp? Makes too many places where one will have to look.

 

If you integrate Files with Messages plus Notes with Messages (attached to To Do’s) that will boil down Basecamp to one single news feed. You could even easily merge the messages list with the overview list. See? Same functionality, yet half as complex.


 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

 

Basecamp is great. Really. But it sucks at most astonishing places.

I could rant about the poor integration with Highrise (which we also use) and many features that may be missing. But I don’t. Please don’t add new features. Just don’t. Simply streamline what you have. Not feature-wise, but process-wise. Think like someone with many lively projects and then start to remove those daily nuisances, make stuff easier to find, people easier to get in touch with and projects easier to get an overview of.

Thanks for making it easier to make our job every day. (You already do.)


 

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4 Comments
#261433 Lisa says on June 29, 2011 at 9:26 pm
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I just started using Basecamp and already stumbled upon some weird things that bug me. I also agree that the dashboard is a bit confusing. Yet so far I like it. Any recommendations for alternatives?

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#261435 Helge Fahrnberger says on June 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm
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@Lisa: As I said I still prefer Basecamp over everything else I’ve seen so far.

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#261436 Torbjoern Karlevid says on June 29, 2011 at 9:37 pm
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I switched to GoPlan some months ago. I think it’s better then Basecamp.

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#264360 Klaus-M. Schremser says on August 1, 2011 at 7:15 am
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I also had a look at Basecamp but then decided to use GoPlan … I like it

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