BusinessWeek Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Robert D. Hof was invited to tag along and watch how one design firm (R.Bird) and one client (Chelsea Milling Co, the people behind Jiffy Mix) used Basecamp to collaborate on a project. Some highlights:
Chelseas experience with Basecamp illustrates why. Created by the
five-person software developer 37signals LLC in Chicago, Basecamp lets
groups of people post messages and files, create to-do lists, and set
milestones for a project, all on simple, no-frills private Web pages.
Items on each page, created by clicking on a button and typing, are
listed sensibly in reverse chronology like a pile of papers on ones
desk, but much neater. Thats it no manuals, no arcane commands. Like
Googles spartan home page, its so simple you cant do anything wrong and so addictively easy to use that one customer calls it Basecrack.
The doubts soon dissolved. It quickly became apparent we could do a
lot with the Web, Kennedy says. Instead of hopping a plane every time
they wanted to see a new design wrinkle, Chelsea folks could view
crystal-clear PDF files of mockups online, often while talking on the
phone about tiny alterations they wanted. Such exchanges, which used to take as much as two months, now took minutes.
It all paid off. Kennedy estimates that by using projectpath, as R.Bird calls its in-house version of Basecamp, Chelsea slashed the overall time to complete the massive redesign project from at least two years to about eight months.
Says Kennedy: The Web-based file sharing made it seem like [we] were
next-door neighbors. Moreover, says Bird, Decisions are made more
quickly, and I definitely spend less time managing the communications
of the project. We can spend more time creating.