Goodbye Basecamp, continued

This is in reply to the discussion thread in the Hacker News, related to my post Goodbye Basecamp.

Joel Spolsky said:

[…] As users gain more experience, their needs become slightly more complex. They start to understand the simple product completely, and then they have the cognitive ability to understand more fancy bells ‘n’ whistles. For users who have been doing project management for a long time with any software product, they will have a long list of things that they know — from experience! — that they need.

That is why there’s a market for simple and there’s a market for full-featured. Both are discrete markets, usually.

If this would be the whole truth, my mother wouldn’t use the same MacOS than I do. There might be a market for discrete solutions, but only as long as somebody comes up with something better. See: Apple. Peter Armstrong mentions the same thing here.

Obviously every software designer strives for “power made easy” — it seems easy at first, but there is power under the hood when you need it.

Exactly. I think the ultimate goal for software design is to increase the number of features and simplify the interface at the same time. That is where the say-no-by-default-approach fails. Keeping it simple is only half of the battle.

Jason Fried said:

For reference, here’s our original post on this very topic in June of 2006 when Basecamp was 2.5 years old.

http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/growing_in_vs_
growing_out…

Today Basecamp is 7 years old. Signups are stronger than ever.

Whenever we survey customers asking them what they love most about Basecamp, the top response by a mile is: it’s simple, easy, and their co-workers and clients actually use it. It’s not multiple choice either – the words “simple” “easy” “intuitive” show up more than any others in the open ended textarea.

We’ve made Basecamp a lot better over the years. Some people still ask for more. Others say it’s too complicated and they wish it was even simpler.

Software development is a challenge. Everyone wants something different. So you do what you can to thread the needle and make as many of the right customers as happy as possible. Not everyone is the right customer.

It sucks to lose a customer because we did something wrong, but it’s OK to lose a customer if we just aren’t the right fit anymore. People move on from all sorts of things. Clothes, houses, cars, jobs, relationships… Why not software? As circumstances change, one product may not fit someone forever. That’s OK as long as it fits plenty of other people at the same time.

Some customers stick with you forever. Others come and go. Many who go come back after trying other tools that promise them more but that no one actually used. In the end, the tool that actually gets used is the one that’s the right fit for someone. It’s really really hard to get people to actually use things.

We’ve found that the simplest stuff is what actually gets used. It’s why email is still the world’s most popular project management tool.

Thank you for your answer. I am glad to hear that Basecamp is still growing (actually I wasn’t sure). As I said, I owe you a lot, and I mean it seriously. But judging from the comments (and traffic) I receive, I’ve hit a sweet spot, and I thought it is important that you know.

Grammar nazi (in the comments) and languagehacker:

All your I’s in the middle of a sentence are lowercase!

Am I the only person who couldn’t get anything out of this post because of its bad grammar?

Apologies. But I insist, my English is better than his.

  1. Christian Jung says:

    IN REPLY TO: GOODBYE BASECAMP
    Since I couldn’t post directly to Christian’s blog here’s my comment on Goodbye Basecamp, continued | Christian Jung)
    http://blog.checkdisout.com/post/6933889715/in-reply-to-goodbye-basecamp

    I’m with Christian in this matter. Still, I am using Basecamp. I haven’t used for a year or so, but as part of founding a new company I quickly needed a proper platform to manage deadlines, files etc.

    I was surprised that Basecamp hadn’t really been pushed forward within this year. Yes, the new calendar was announced, but I agree: that’s not enough. Basecamp charges 24$ each month, which I basically would be fine with- if the service was right and the price-performance ration was right.

    From my perspective- it isn’t anymore. Basecamp has lost its on-top-of-the-game status for me. If you fiddle around a little, you can build almost the same functionality using free software, such as Google services. A big downside for me are the functionalities of the Writeboards. Just one user can edit a file at a time. Sorry, that’s not acceptable for me in 2011. Move on, innovate. Basecamp always has this “not enough” feel for me. The Milestone functionalities were okay, but you would always need to run a real calendar elsewhere. That’s not enough. No spreadsheets, no real time editing of docs with multiple users, weak calendar. In the end too much of not-servicing for 24$ a month.

    Therefore, I find Basecamp an O.K. solution. But certainly not the perfect match for my needs today. Before renewing my Basecamp subs, I was looking into other services, but I didn’t really find something that caught my eye. Podio seems to be interesting, but on the other hand I think their 2-stage freemium model isn’t the right fit for me either.

    Yes, I want some more controls and users, but $99 a month is 4x the price of my current basecamp subs. 37signals have always been talking about pushing things forward, being easy-to-use and innovate. I think they did a great jobs in terms of their branding, but I agree that their service hasn’t caught up with their big words. Jason Fried from Basecamp said:

    “It sucks to lose a customer because we did something wrong, but it’s OK to lose a customer if we just aren’t the right fit anymore. People move on from all sorts of things. Clothes, houses, cars, jobs, relationships… Why not software? As circumstances change, one product may not fit someone forever. That’s OK as long as it fits plenty of other people at the same time.”
    While I appreciate him getting back directly to Christian’s remarks,I think that it’s a pretty lame explanation for a company like 37signals within a fast-pacing software development market. I think they should have innovated and developed more. But they didn’t. Look at Google: constantly pushing forward their apps, deploying new features. I am not cancelling my account as of today, but once I figured out which other solutions I might focus on, I will. My feeling is, that it won’t take so long anymore.

    Cheers Matthias

  2. Leila says:

    Hallo Christian,
    Gute Artikel. Wir benutzen BC an der Arbeit und solche Informationen sind immer sehr nutzbar.
    Danke auch für das lustiges Video… mein Deutsch und mein Englisch sind auch besser als seine!!!
    Viele Grüsse aus Argentinien!