Mutual has purchased assets from The Rye Agency and our new website will launch in 2017.

Basecamp 3 (BC3 herein) is now available for everyone, so we figured we'd share our thoughts about the new version for those looking at diving in.

Pricing

BC3 costs more than BC2 did for us. We pay $20 (£13) monthly for BC2, but this has increased to $79 (~£50) for BC3. So at a glance it's 295% more expensive.

It's not a like-for-like comparison though. We now get unlimited projects (as opposed to 10), the new features, access to the client side (more on that later), and a much bigger storage limit.

For an agency like us, the amount they've added and improved trumps the modest pay rise they've requested. And if you don't need the client side, they have a smaller plan without it that costs $29 (~£20).

Project transfer

At the moment there isn't a BC2 to BC3 transfer method. Actually not a big deal. We can keep our projects on BC2 running and then archive them once they're completed. That means that we don't need to transfer projects and risking losing data. And most importantly it means we don't need to train our clients in a new system half way through their project.

We do need to pay for two accounts though (one BC3, one BC2) - that's not ideal, but Basecamp offer existing customers $150 (~£100) of credit.

Edit: Jason from Basecamp let us know in the comments that if you pay for BC3 you don't get charged for BC2 anymore, for as long as you don't add any more projects. So effectively you get $150 towards BC3 for free. Win.

Chat

Campfires used to be a separate product made by the Basecamp team, but it's now baked straight into Basecamp. In the days of the Slack's and Hipchat's of the world, this might seem a little old fashioned, but it's actually turned out to be quite a game changer. We've stopped using Slack for day to day chatting.

One of the habits we found on Slack is that things get lost in the noise pretty quickly. But with BC3 we can quickly shift gears away from instant messenger into a more thoughtful discussion thread, we can go "should we move this to a message?".

Chat stops becoming a project management tool and turns back into rapid fire questions. More detailed work should use the more serious tools.

There's a few UI shortcomings with Campfires. There's no status markers, you can't tell if a colleague is active, on their mobile, away, on holiday, etc. When you get a response becomes a mystery. If your message is longer than a sentence or two Campfires automatically assumes it's a quote and formats it strangely. And when you upload images using drag-and-drop there's no upload indicator.

Slack and Hipchat still have their place. They're brilliant for community chat, for integrations (support desks, etc.) and for larger teams that don't work on a project-basis but rather in departments. But for our simple use cases, Campfires brings a bit of clarity to things.

Files

Files in BC3 are more human friendly than they were in BC2. Gone are "tags" and in are folders - it feels more familiar. The UI works well for small numbers of files, but I imagine that if you had multiple levels of nested files and folders it could get really messy quickly.

It also integrates into other storage services. Right now that means Google, but Dropbox and Box are on their way. This is great from a client services perspective. In time we won't need to force the client to upload the way we want them to. Their team could use a mixture of Google, email and Dropbox as they see fit, and it's all fine - because we would just link them into Basecamp's file section.

Client side

One of the biggest changes from BC2 is the new "client side". Previously clients saw the same interface as us. We could hide certain message threads, certain to-do lists, etc. from clients, but effectively they had the same noisy environment as us.

With BC3 the Client Side is a simple message board. And that's all it is. Clients don't need to log in anymore, they just respond using email - like they always wanted to anyway.

This might seem a bit limiting if you consider than with BC2 clients could add to-do's, upload files directly and add events to the calendar. You can still do all of that stuff by adding more savvy clients as contractors. But you can also copy things from the agency side to the client side easily.

So say for example a client wants to see where we are with the content to-do list; we just press send to client and they get a copy. A copy. Not the live version. So if the plan changes throughout the day, the client still gets the version we were happy with them seeing.

Client side is the calm and tranquil version of the noisy mayhem that is the average project.

Automatic check-ins

This might be my favourite feature in BC3. We're a semi-remote team, and so we're not always in the same office as one another. Each morning BC3 asks us:-

  • Where are you, and when are you able to talk today?
  • What are you working on today?

And at the end of the day:-

  • Did you get done what you needed to today?

Answers are public for the rest of the team to see and comment on. It keeps us all in the loop and helps us identify problems before they become serious.

We have other questions too, like "Seen any cool design stuff recently?" and "What sucks about the company right now? How do we fix it?". They get asked each month and help us grow.

Notifications

BC3 doesn't have a desktop app, which makes Campfires feel a bit weird at first. But it works fine, actually. With Chrome or Safari you can snap the tab so it gets out of your way and it uses web notifications so you get notified when somebody needs your attention - just like Slack or Hipchat. But again, because this is a complete communication tool, you also get the same style notifications for discussion threads, to-do's, and automatic checkins.

It has a feature called "Work can wait". You set your work schedule, and everything that happens outside of your hours is held until you're next available. Buzzer free evenings.

There's a three-hour snooze too, if it is work hours but you just need to get your head down. That will mute notifications on desktop and mobile for 3 hours, or until you un-snooze.

This universal way of handling notifications across all communication on BC3 is really useful. It helps everything feel like they fit together.

Mobile app

This is probably the weakest aspect of BC3 right now. It's a much better app from BC2 and when you have a decent network connection it's pretty much perfect. But if, like me, you travel by train across the English countryside where your signal goes from 4G to 3G to Edge to 2G to nothing and back within the space of 5 minutes it becomes quite buggy. You get the occasional Javascript error alert, which seems weird for an iPhone app.

I think it's because they built the app as a hybrid - web views but with native navigation. Most of the time you wouldn't notice anything; but it clunks out juuuuuuust enough right now for me to notice it's not quite 'there'.

Don't get me wrong, in terms of functionality and UI it's great. It's just a little unstable when network conditions are wonky right now.

Conclusion

If your team really clicks on Slack, HipChat, Trello and other tools like that. You probably won't find much joy in BC3. It'll probably feel limited to you, compared to those more advanced (or at least customisable and extendible tools).

But if you've had friction with those kinds of tools, or feel like they're too complicated, or that you're doubling up on communications across different platforms - give BC3 a go. The first Basecamp (their word for project) is free, so it's worth a shot.