Basecamp is a solid, powerful service that does what it has to, but lacks the pizzazz of its competitors. That said, its pricing is decent, so if getting the job done is what you need, it may be the project management tool for you. Check out our full Basecamp review for all the details.
Basecamp pitches itself as a comprehensive tool, with every feature in one place. That means you can use it instead of a whole load of other services. Whether you’d want to is the subject of this Basecamp review.
It has solid foundations, being created by the team behind Ruby on Rails. Formerly known as 37signals, the company renamed itself a few years ago to reflect its focus on its project management application, Basecamp.
After debuting in 2004, it grew to 100,000 users within a couple of years. It has since amassed 2.8 million accounts, so its growth has been impressive.
Basecamp has had a long time to refine its user experience. There are a lot of players in the project management sphere, though, so we’ll see how it compares. We’re especially curious how the venerable old dog stacks up against the new kids on the block.
To give you a taster, we thought Basecamp was good, but unspectacular. It has a decent selection of features, but never set our hearts racing. Have a look at our best project management article if you’re looking for something with more va-va-voom.
- Cheap for large teams
- Free for educators
- Helpful wizards
- Expensive for small teams
- A few user interface issues
With a strong selection of features, including file sharing and communication, Basecamp can be used as an all-in-one replacement for tools such as Slack, Asana and Dropbox. It needs to be strong in all those areas for its core selling point to stack up, though.
Basecamp is good for sharing files between team members, and its flat pricing makes it a better value as the team gets larger. If there are only two or three of you, a dedicated service might work better. Take a look at our best cloud storage for sharing article to see if you can find something suitable.
Campfire is one of its core components and allows you to conduct group chats on a per-project basis. It lets you attach sounds and video, too. We found video sharing clunky, though, as our test video showed as playable in the uploader’s chat window, but was only available as a download for other people.
Take a look at our best cloud storage for Slack piece for an example of how well file sharing can work with an online communication tool.
Aside from that, campfire works quite well, but not well enough that we’d want to use it over other things. It also feels limiting because you only have one campfire per project.
There is also a message board that allows you to post to everyone on your team. Much like campfires, it is decent enough, but it would be nice if it had more flexibility. The sorting options are limited and changing them affects every user on the team.
Its to-do list allows you create tasks, assign them to team members, add due dates and notes and specify people to be notified when a task is completed. That is useful, but it would be nice to have subtasks and dependency management, too.
You can make events with its calendar. They can repeat if you like and you can choose who gets notified when they are created. You can subscribe to events via Google Calendar, Apple Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.
You also get a handy 500GB of cloud storage to share your project files, which is more than some dedicated cloud storage services offer. If you need more than that, though, there are plenty of places to get it. We look at some of them in our best cloud storage article.
When other team members make relevant posts, you get notified by a red dot at the top of the screen and in Basecamp’s browser tab. That keeps you aware of anything you need to check or respond to.
In addition to the browser-based interface, you can use Basecamp on the go with its Android or iOS app. There are also desktop versions for Windows and macOS.
Most of what Basecamp offers is adequate and does what you need. It lacks killer features, but this is project management. It isn’t going to get anyone excited, but if you want a functional, no-frills experience, it will provide that.
Some tools have plenty of features, but are hard to use. If you want something that stays out of your way and keeps things simple, Basecamp does that well. If you need something more full-featured, read our Wrike review, as it’s one of our favorite project management tools.
Basecamp Features Overview
Basecamp’s design is geared toward user-friendliness and approachability. Its smiling logo and friendly, hand-drawn images welcome you in and make you feel at home. It clearly aims to be a warm, cuddly application that people will be happy to use.
When you sign up, it asks for details about your team to help you get started. The process isn’t difficult, but it is good to have the information on hand. You also get the chance to invite coworkers by email, which you can do later if you prefer.
If offers you a brief welcome video on start-up, but the UI failed us there, with the size of the video not adjusting to our standard-sized Firefox window correctly and the speaker cutting off at the bottom right of the screen.
It’s not clear how to close videos, which left us clicking helplessly before eventually getting rid of it with the escape button. We had similar issues with other pop-up elements, too. More worrying, many on-screen elements that look as though they should be clickable sometimes are not. For example, once, after closing a video, the menu elements at the top of the screen didn’t respond to clicks.
When creating new teams and projects, Basecamp often offers to assist. If you accept, it takes you through a few questions to help you get started easily.
It’s a nice approach that lets you get lots done without having to tweak everything manually.
It also creates messages for you. For example, it will draft a welcome message that your team members will see when they are invited to your projects. It goes beyond the usual sentence or two and includes a few paragraphs welcoming people and giving them useful pointers.
It is almost like having a secretary draft it for you, or you could give the best speech-to-text software a try if you prefer dictating to typing.
The UI on the top screen feels narrow, with everything compressed into the middle of the screen. That gives it a dated feel and makes it hard to find things. When you move to the task-focused applications, though, things are much better.
It is just a shame the top screen is a mess because it doesn’t give the best first impression. The subcomponents work well, though, and are intuitive enough for anybody to use. The design is chunky, with large buttons that convey their function clearly.
The team area shows members at the top and has large, tablet-style buttons to open components, such as campfire or to-dos. A team activity section below that shows recent activity by you and your colleagues. It would have been better to put it at the top, though, since not everyone will bother to scroll down to see it (you know who you are).
Sometimes, people’s contributions will have a discuss button that enables you to start a dialogue. There is also a little rocket you can click to give your teammates a boost.
It is a nice feature that makes Basecamp more fun to use and reminds us of Asana’s “celebrations,” which you can read about in our Asana review.
Its text editor, used in several places, is good and has a simple, clear layout with an easy-to-read font. The undo function seemed haphazard, sometimes deleting several lines at a time, but the redo function always saved us.
It sends you notifications about practically everything by default. You’ll get a lot of email if you leave it like that, so heading to the options and changing the notification settings is a good idea.
Basecamp is a well-evolved platform with a workflow that provides plenty of nudges in the right direction. You get tips when you need them and things are done for you in a way that helps. For example, you get emails asking you to fill in your daily work diary. Everything is friendly and mostly functional. We saw the odd bug, but the program was pleasant to use. If you want something really simple, you could try Trello. We put together a helpful beginner’s guide to get you started.
Basecamp takes an unusual approach to pricing in that it has a fixed monthly cost regardless of your team’s size. At $99 per month, it might seem expensive if you have a small team, but it is an incredible value for large teams.
Many tools charge around $10 per user, so the savings with Basecamp could be significant since it does not limit team size or the number of projects you can have.
Fortunately, there is a 30-day trial, so if you are put off by the relatively high starting price, you can try it to see if it’s right for you. You don’t need a credit card to sign up for the trial and you can extend it if you ask support nicely.
There is good news for educators, too. Basecamp is free for classroom use. You can’t beat that for value. Nonprofits get 10 percent off, which, though not free, is a good deal. Depending on the size of your team, the price might be off-putting or the best thing about Basecamp, so you’ll have to do the math and judge accordingly.
Though it has a friendly design, Basecamp takes a tough stance on privacy. It complies with the law, but promises not to hand data to anyone without a warrant and to inform users if that happens unless legally prevented from doing so.
Your data becomes inaccessible when you close your account and will be deleted within 30 days. Basecamp also complies with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, giving you another layer of protection. It says in one of its help pages that it can read users’ chats, but doesn’t do so. Your messages aren’t private, but then little is these days.
It takes a robust approach to security, with files being stored using AES-256/SHA-256 encryption. There is a bug bounty program, as well, so if you fancy trying your hand at penetration testing, you could help improve its security.
Its database files are backed up hourly and encrypted. That is always good to hear. If backing up your data matters to you, take a look at our best online backup services article for more information.
It does lack two-factor authentication, which is a shame. It used to support phone verification, but that was removed earlier in 2018. That makes it easier for someone accessing your password to steal your account. Read our article on two-factor authentication to learn why that matters.
You can get around that by using Google’s two-factor authentication to authenticate instead. Whether that’s an acceptable compromise is for you to judge. It would be nice to have the option to use a non-Google email address and get the added security.
We have not seen evidence of security issues or privacy leaks with Basecamp, which is a good sign for a platform with such a long history. Evidently, its approach to security works.
If you need help with Basecamp you have a few good options. It may not have everything you want, but what’s there is excellent.
In the app, there is a question mark at the bottom right of the screen that offers a selection of help and support options. Curiously, it takes a second or so to populate the first time it is used.
There are links to help pages and tutorials in the menu, as well as a search function and the option to contact support. The tutorials are well written and offer plenty of useful advice. There are also videos if you prefer to learn that way, though we found them clunky.
As with some of Basecamp’s other screens, it is a hassle to get back to the top menu after clicking around the help topics. There is a close button in the top right of them, but you have to close every topic you’ve looked at individually before returning.
Support is offered via a contact form. Staff respond quickly, but only promise to do so during CST office hours. We asked about setting up two-factor authentication. We sent our inquiry at 3.30 a.m. on Friday morning and got a response within three minutes, which is the fastest response we can remember getting.
There is no phone support and, though a contact email is provided at the bottom of its support page, email isn’t highlighted as a support option. If you prefer to talk with someone directly, you’re out of luck. Given the blisteringly fast response to the contact form, though, we have little to complain about.
Basecamp is good at what it does and offers a selection of tools that work without being spectacular. Some of its headline features feel like they would have been impressive at one time, but have since become standard. There are also a few rough edges to the UI.
Overall, using it isn’t a bad experience, but we feel it has work to do to catch up with the competition. It has a nine-to-five feel about it, just doing what it needs to without going the extra mile.
Powerful, but imperfect, Basecamp has a lot to offer and room for improvement. It is worth checking out, especially for educators because they get it for free, but also for those with large teams who want value for their money.
If you’ve used Basecamp, please let us know your experiences in the comments below. Thanks for reading.