Basecamp Review: High Function + Low Frills

In my experience, a lot of project management systems don’t get wide company adoption. But Basecamp is super simple and super easy to start using. The learning curve and onboarding curve is really quick. We don’t want to spend a lot of time training employees and Basecamp is the best way to onboard. I’ve used 10 different project management tools over the past 5 years, and Basecamp is the most simple tool for project management. It gets the job done without any extra frills.

Andrew Josuweit, Co-founder & CEO of Student Loan Hero

Basecamp: chaos, organized

Created in 2004, Basecamp a true standard bearer of all things project management and to-do list. And it's an outstanding option for startups. Visually, it's no-frills. It's entirely focused on functionality, which we (and a lot of other startups) love. 

Basecamp is a great project management hub for simple projects on business teams, especially marketing teams. The features include a message board, chat threads, to-do lists and easy file storage. We also like the onboarding process; after creating an account, you're immediately asked to watch their introductory videos to use Basecamp. All of the videos are short and get you learning the ins and outs of Basecamp effectively.

Basecamp’s main dashboard will show you the different teams and projects in your company. On your dashboard, there’s a chat thread, a message board, to-do lists, schedules, check-in settings and a document hub.

Basecamp has a cool “latest activity” feed that gives you real-time updates on what is getting done with your team. Very cool for managers to monitor company-wide and project wide activity.

Basecamp has a rich text editor for commenting on tasks and uploading files. There are more text editing options in Basecamp then in Trello or Asana. Basecamp lets you bold, italicize, strikethrough, quote, created bulleted lists, and do other basic functions that text editors offer (if you like the Basecamp text editor you can also find an open source version of it here).

The text editor makes commenting on tasks and projects easy for users (but the text editing options are not available in their “campfire”).

Notifications/Project Tracking

It's easy to loop people into projects and tasks on Basecamp. Assigning tasks and setting due dates are very easy, as is creating a conversation around a task and looping in other team members. Basecamp offers automatic check-ins and daily email updates about projects that have been completed, which are immensely great to look at to get updates on what’s getting done.

With Basecamp’s automatic check-ins, teammates get an email reminder at the end of the work day to fill out the survey.

Integrations

“We went through everything - tried everything - and, for us, project management is Basecamp, with a healthy dose of custom tools and Slack. We tried Asana, but its complexity versus the simplicity of Basecamp was more of a barrier than an invitation. Teaching our team to understand how Asana is most exploitable was less valuable than just using Basecamp and filling in the blanks with Slack. This was the path of least resistance, since we figured out Basecamp + Slack = Happy Productive People.”

Shanon Marks, President of MU/DAI

Basecamp’s integrations and extras are not nearly as plentiful as Trello or Asana. Note that you can develop your own integrations through Zapier, as well as Basecamp’s API available through GitHub.

Mobile

The Basecamp mobile app is also great. You don’t lose any of the main Basecamp features; you still have access to the Activity Feed, Campfire, and your To-Do lists. You can get alerts you when there’s any activity for projects you are a part of so you can always monitor your team’s progress.

While you can use most of Basecamp’s web features on their mobile app, at times, it does feel clunky and hard to get to the specific things you’re looking for.

Scalability & Pricing

Basecamp is great for large teams. From your Basecamp HQ, you can create teams so you can have different hubs for different teams – alongside any other that pop up as your team grows. It's also compelling from a pricing standpoint. Basecamp has a much different pricing plan from Trello or Asana. It’s a fixed pricing plan for $99/month with unlimited users and unlimited projects. 

That said, $99/month is a meaningful expense for smaller teams and hard to justify when there are other free options in the market. 

Common Complaints

“All our developers use Basecamp, but I’m not its biggest fan. I don’t like how Basecamp navigates. There’s too much stuff to scroll through and feels cumbersome.”

Jerry Freeman, Founder & CEO of PaletteApp

Complaints about Basecamp's navigation and UX tend to boil down to their display of the to-do list. Within one project the sections and tasks therein require scrolling. Versus cards and dropdown options on other tools, Basecamp requires a different behavior (and arguably more work) from the average user.

Whereas other project management tools can be useful in some way to any “department” in an early stage startup, Basecamp is almost never a good solution for developers who need a project management tool or issue tracker.

Another downside to Basecamp was that it doesn’t work well with Google Drive uploads. When you upload an attachment, there’s no option to upload from your Google Drive.

Still searching?

The most loved project management tools among startups are Trello, Asana and Basecamp. We did a deep dive on each one to help startups identify which tool is best for them; you can find our reviews on Trello here and Asana here! And for a side-by-side comparison of Trello vs. Asana vs. Basecamp, checkout this infographic.