Basecamp is a popular app that is part project management solution and part communication tool, though we would argue the emphasis is on the latter. While it does a fine job of allowing team members to talk to each other, it falls seriously short of the best project management software in a few key aspects and is more of a basic task manager.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have a place in a specific company structure. Larger teams, especially, will benefit from Basecamp’s communication pyramid, and it’s a match for most communication tools in many ways. Add to that its calendars and to-do lists, and Basecamp might be the replacement for Slack that business owners have been looking for.
- Basecamp is a communication app first, and a task management software second. While it does grease the wheels of team collaboration, it won’t help you keep track of projects.
- Basecamp scales communication very well and makes it easy to keep track of the order of the day.
- Basecamp relies rather strongly on third-party add-ons for its functionality, which can be annoying if you need a lot of different functions.
If your communication needs are already met and you just need a powerful project management tool to keep track of your business’ goings-on, then you may want to ignore Basecamp and check out our monday.com review or nTask review instead. That said, you can also use either in conjunction with Basecamp, so let’s see what it can do.
Please note that this is a review of Basecamp 3. Earlier iterations of the software have been discontinued (though are still supported). Our earlier reviews mentioned both Basecamp 2 and 3, but we decided to focus only on the latest version from now on.
Basecamp is a project management tool, and a pretty good one at that. Unlike most of its competitors, it maintains its own distinct approach, making it a great fit for specific types of companies.
Basecamp is secure. Though it’s been under attack twice in the past, it held up under pressure, so we’re confident your files will be safe. However, like many other messaging services, phishing campaigns have started using Basecamp to distribute malware, so be careful of suspicious links.
While there is a lot to like about Basecamp, it’s not the best project management tool out there. That honor goes to monday.com, which is a lot more flexible.
Though it depends on what you’ll be using them for, overall Asana is a better project management solution than Basecamp. It’s more flexible and has more features.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Great communication app
- Offers good oversight
- One-size-fits-all paid plan
- Few project management features
- Slightly annoying interface
- Expensive for small teams
- Limited features on free plan
Overall, Basecamp features little in the way of project management and a lot in the way of communication. It’s more of a task management app than a project manager, and even then most of those features serve to support talking about work rather than directing its flow. Still, there’s a lot to like about its approach.
The best place to start talking about Basecamp’s features is its pyramid-like structure. All communication in Basecamp takes place in one of three layers: the top layer — called “HQ” — is for the whole company; the “teams” layer is for separate departments; and “projects,” the lowest layer, is for project-specific discussions.
As is explained in the tutorial videos, there’s some method to the madness. The idea is that announcements that affect the whole company are discussed in HQ, while departments discuss their issues in teams and project-specific issues are talked about in projects. This keeps communication compartmentalized and should keep information flowing where it needs to.
Basecamp Communication Tools
Each card — be it HQ, a team or a project — comes with some tools, all of them the same regardless of position in the pyramid. There are six tools in total, and Basecamp handily explains what each one is supposed to do right there on the tin.
The “message board” serves as the main hub where invited people can discuss posted issues. It works much like a forum, with individually created posts that people can react to, and these reactions extending below.
The “to-dos” are checklists where anybody can see what needs to be done. The lists are a bit sparse, though, and don’t offer much use.
“Docs & files” is where team members can find files and serves as a kind of note-taking app, though not nearly as comprehensive as Notion’s (read our Notion review for a very interesting take on task management and note-taking).
The “campfire” is like the message boards, but meant more for informal chat, while the “schedule” is a calendar like almost any other; we complain about its usability in the user-friendliness section.
Last is the “automatic check-ins” tab, which is meant to replace the stand-up meetings of the Agile methodology or the quick email a manager sends their team to see how things are.
This is probably the most revolutionary thing Basecamp does, and we really like how properly implemented check-ins could save lots of time and — let’s face it — annoyance. Rather than having to drum up the team just for some minor progress updates, Basecamp lets you conduct a quick poll. We’re pretty sure plenty of managers will get great mileage out of it.
Scaling Team Collaboration
The above features are the same at all three levels, making for a surprisingly uniform experience when you use Basecamp. The only thing that changes is the scale. The hierarchy keeps everybody in their own lane, though it can make it hard to communicate with people outside your team or projects.
As you can see, though, most of Basecamp’s features are oriented toward talking to team members, with project management tools taking the back seat. There’s no kanban board, no Gantt chart — just a to-do list and a calendar. This gives it a bad score in this section, but there is a solution by way of integrations.
As with Atlassian siblings Jira and Trello, Basecamp relies rather heavily on third-party add-ons to flesh out its meager functionality. The integrations page in the app is just a massive list, though not all it offers will be familiar, as they are often tools that help integration, rather than usable tools in and of themselves.
While it does allow you to get more out of Basecamp, we’re not huge fans of this approach. Third-party integrations can be a lot of work to set up (check our Zapier guide for one example), plus they may cost extra money and even then may not work entirely as intended. As Basecamp can be quite expensive for small- or medium-sized teams, we’re not sure if it’s really worth it.
Basecamp Features Overview
- Kanban board: No
- Timeline: No
- Spreadsheet view: No
- Gantt charts: No
- Workload planning: No
- Long-term planning: No
- Multiple project management
- Dependency management: No
- Native scrum management: No
- Set user permissions: No
- File storage
- Time-tracking: No
- Built-in integrations
- Reporting features: No
- Free plan
- Free Trial: 30 days
- Web app
- Ticket-based support
- Live chat: No
- Phone support: No
This brings us to Basecamp pricing: it offers two plans, one free and one paid. While there is a lot to say for this simplified approach, we feel the cost for the paid Basecamp Business plan can be a bit steep, while the free version, Basecamp Personal, disappoints when compared to the best free project management software.
Below is a table with Basecamp’s pricing for customers in North America as well as internationally. Note that there is a 15 percent discount for the Business plan if you pay up front for a year, which we’ve worked into the table. The Business plan also comes with a 30-day free trial.
- 3 projects, Maximum 20 users, Limited features
- Unlimited projects, Unlimited users, All features
Basecamp also comes with a file storage allotment, which is decent, but won’t be blowing any of the best cloud storage providers out the water. For example, Google Workspace, which already integrates with Basecamp out of the box, offers 2TB for less than $150 per year (read our Google Workspace article for more on that).
Basecamp’s Free Version
Though it’s always good to see a free version of any product, Basecamp cuts things awfully close to the bone with its Basecamp Personal plan. It offers almost nothing — not even HQ or team chats — and limits users to communicating at the project level. Slack’s free plan offers this and a lot more at no cost, so you’re best off sticking to that for a free communication app.
When it comes to project management, there are also much better free plans out there. For example Jira and Asana offer almost full suites of task management software for the price of nothing, no integrations or anything else required.
Basecamp Business Plan
The Business plan unlocks everything for either $99 per month or just over $1,000 per year if you pay annually. We like how Basecamp doesn’t fudge the numbers here and has just one plan that offers everything described in the features section. It’s a pretty good deal for big companies, but smaller ones may find it a bit expensive.
Whether or not Basecamp is worth the expense is a calculation managers need to make for themselves based on the number of people in their company, but we do want to spend a few paragraphs talking about how Basecamp defends its cost.
On the pricing page, Basecamp offers an infographic comparing it to other providers — we’ve put a screenshot of that below.
While Basecamp’s pricing is pretty decent, Basecamp’s math sucks, as does the way it values its own software. The first entry, Slack, is the one we disagree with least: Basecamp can replace it, though we would hesitate to do so.
However, Basecamp’s comparison of its features with Asana’s is just nonsense. As you can read in our Basecamp vs Asana piece, Basecamp is just a few checklists, while Asana is a full project management tool. Because of its extremely limited feature set, we actually hesitate to compare Basecamp to any of the providers featured in our project management reviews.
As for lumping Google Drive and Dropbox together, for the purposes of this little sum it’s nonsense. Google already offers storage for teams: as we said above, you can get 2TB of file storage for less than $150 per year. The price for individual email addresses does come on top of that, but it’s not like a company can do without email when using Basecamp; it’s pretty much unavoidable overhead.
Though Basecamp is a decent enough app in its own right, the featured savings are bordering on false advertising. It’s a shame, too, as Basecamp doesn’t need it: the pricing is reasonable enough. With 20 team members or so it costs less than Slack does, and you get a lot of functionality for that money. As such, we’ll still give Bascamp some decent points here.
Basecamp is pretty easy to use, but it comes with a few annoying niggles that keep it from being more than middling. First, the good: Basecamp is best used on desktop, with apps that work on Windows and Mac, as well as one that opens in your web browser. There is also a mobile application for iOS and Android.
Mobile works a little better than most other project management apps, mostly because there is less to display; so if you’re on the move a lot, Basecamp is a good pick. The desktop apps work fine, mostly, with little lag or other slowdowns.
As Basecamp is a pretty simple app, navigation is quite simple, too: click on the team or project you need, select the function you want and you’re off to the races. What we don’t like is that you have to return to the main screen using the navigation bar at the top to go to another project or team, which can feel a bit finicky as the tabs are kind of small.
Overall, we enjoyed our time with Basecamp, but we experienced more minor annoyances than with more user-friendly project management tools like monday.com or Asana. Its emphasis as a communication tool has led to some neglect in the fluidity of its task management features, it seems.
Security & Privacy
This overall good impression carries over to security. Basecamp has a full security overview, but the upshot is that it encrypts data in transit and at rest with a reliable cipher, so your data should be safe enough. The only potential issue we see is that it uses AWS and its leaky buckets, but then again, so does everybody else (read about one exception in our Wrike vs Basecamp article).
Basecamp Security Concerns
Of course, the proof in the security pudding lies in the tasting, and we’ve had a few opportunities to do so. The first was in 2014, when extortionists carried out a DDoS attack on Basecamp, and the company told them where to stick their demands. The other time was in 2019, when attackers staged a mass login attack, but again Basecamp weathered the storm.
In both cases, it was the company that came forward with the news and advised users what to do to protect themselves — while also beefing up its own security. This earns Basecamp high marks from us in this section.
Basecamp customer service is basic, but decent. The knowledgebase is accessed from the website and is pretty much a series of videos and articles. While we like how it all works, we were taken a little aback by the sales-y tone of the videos. We had already signed on, so we didn’t really need the sales pitch at that point.
Still, a few minutes was enough to get us acquainted with the software and to get us going. We ran into no real issues in our daily use, and the one time we tried out customer support — which is entirely ticket-based, with no chat support — answers came back promptly. We predict you’ll have few problems with Bascamp on this front.
Overall, we’re not huge fans of Basecamp here at Cloudwards. While it does well enough as a communication app — though we prefer Slack — when compared to other project management tools, it falls desperately short. We’re sure some business owners will leap at Basecamp’s functionality, but we’re inclined to give it a miss.
That said, Basecamp offers a solid 30-day free trial, so if you’re not sure, give it a spin. If you do, please let us know what you think of Basecamp in the comments below — or if you have any other questions or suggestions. Thank you for reading.