Heresy! Underwhelmed by Basecamp

I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Web 2.0 darlings 37signals. I used to read their ‘design not found‘ articles fairly avidly and even bought their excellent book ‘Defensive Design for the Web‘. Their sense of aesthetics is faultless and they put a lot of thought into making simple details of usability perfect.

So I finally tried out Basecamp – the project management web app.

And I must say I feel a little under-impressed. All the parts seem a bit separate. You can’t link messages to to-do list items or milestones or anything else. The only place where everything intertwingles is on the overview page and this appears as nothing much more fancy than a chronological list of changes.

I know the whole philosophy behind their apps is a about simplicity and avoiding featuritus but this harks back to the debate about simplicity that went on a few months back. Simplicity of use doesn’t imply absence of features and some well chosen additions to Basecamp could make it massively more useful.

It also implements one of my pet hate – plain text boxes that allows formatting via simple markup. I hate this in Wiki’s, I hate Textile and Markdown and all the others. Mainly because there *are* several and I can never remember the formatting rules.

Although web-based rich text editing is far from perfect I feel like I’m flung back to the stone age everytime I have to use markup on a site.