I've been using Basecamp for 2 weeks for a small side project. Overall, it's a great piece of software that I'm really enjoying using. Compared to the generally horrible project management software experiences I've had over the last few years, Basecamp is a breath of fresh air.

However, there are some significant omissions and bugs I've encountered already in just my short time using it. I think this would be very limiting and frustrating if I were needing this software for a bigger team or critical project.

Here are a few limitations or issues I've encountered or wonder about for more complex teams:

  • No tabs in the desktop client
    • I literally use the desktop client and several tabs open in a browser just to manage a little project with 4 people using it.
  • Editing to-do titles sometimes works with a single click. Other times, I have to open a menu and tap Edit. It's just really inconsistent.
  • Editing a to-do title sometimes fails to sync across devices.
  • Email is the default notification. There seems to be multiple places to disable this. I just want one place that says "never send me another f'ing email". My collaborators are getting annoyed because they thought they disabled this, but are still getting a few email notifications somehow
  • No obvious way to sign into multiple accounts on the same app.
    • I don't actually need this right now, but I can imagine absolutely needing it if I decide to launch my next product with this service.

My point here is not to rail on Basecamp. As I said, I'm generally quite happy with it and clearly 200K+ customers are as well.  They just announced they have earned a quarter of a billion dollars since they released the first version.  Their website shows that 5,379 customers signed up last week. Those are all astounding statistics for a bootstrapped startup with about 50 employees.

I've personally started 4 different "startups" (side projects really). 2 were complete busts.  One made me a nice little chunk of change when I sold it to a major consumer electronics accessories manufacturer. The one I'm most proud of was my kids texting app that I never got enough traction on and had to abandon after several years of trying to make it a success.

With all of these projects, I labored intensely for months (and almost a year in one case) before I ever shipped the product. I was so sure it had to be perfect. I was sure it needed every feature I imagined someone ever wanting. There could be no bugs! It had to be polished. I had to make the right impression for the very first customer or it would fail miserably. I was too embarassed to let anyone see any iteration that wasn't "just right".

In reality, despite my goals, none of the projects were perfect. There were bugs. There were features I added that no one wanted and features people insisted on that I never could have imagined.

So what's my point?

To point out to you that a product that costs almost $100 per month has bugs and missing features - yet LOTS of people love it and rave about it.

To point out that getting something useful into your first customers hands is more important than getting something "perfect" into NO customers hands.

If you're developing a product, meet some bare mininum usefulness test, and SHIP IT. Get some feedback, iterate, and ship again.

Stop trying to create the Mona Lisa and instead just ship a Lisa Simpson. Otherwise, save yourself the trouble and go play some golf or something.

Creative Commons "Mona Lisa" by Rommeu is licensed under CC BY 2.0