3 Thoughts on 37signals’ 2012 Redesign of Basecamp.com

Basecamp, one of the better web-based project management solutions out there, recently updated their homepage into a version that is surprisingly different than their previous versions.

This iteration showcases vastly more copy than images and is surprisingly sparse. It’s not until you click the “Find out why” that you begin to dive into 24 varying reasons why you should sign up, try the system out, and ultimately make a purchasing decision.

The code managing this behavior is quite simple as well:

And although it’s not obvious how many reasons you’re browsing through you can see the total count near the bottom of each section:

Overall I’m a bit ambivalent toward the re-design as a whole. If it works for them then good on them for making it happen!

But there are a few things that I noticed that are worth taking note of that I thought I’d share:

1. Social Proofing

You’ll see on more of their pages the use of social proof to help justify to you (and convince you) why becoming a customer of theirs is going to work out just fine.

You’ll see that they say on the frontpage how many businesses used their system in the previous week and challenging you to become part of that large group of believers:

This is not the only spot though because if you click into the “Signup” page you’ll see another example of social proofing in place:

The psychology of leveraging social proof and bringing attention to an existing community of users is not new but I believe what 37signals has done is smart and done very well.

It is interesting thought as it appears to be updating in real-time as well as I refreshed the page a few times while drafting this post and the numbers changed – fantastic!

This strategy is definitely something to think about if you run a business and are looking to provide conversion based on your existing client base. I think numbers can and do matter but only if done well lest it become a non-factor. I think this is very similar for bloggers who can employ social proof to their advantage as well.

2. Not a Model to Be Copied

If you’ve been following 37signals, have read their blog, and followed some of their vocal founders, then you’ve gotten a good taste of their product development and business philosophy as a whole and it could be easily summed up like this (using a slight variation of founder’s unique vernacular):

Screw you – we do things differently and it works.

As a result I’ve never considered 37signals a model to be necessarily emulated nor copied. But, I do find inspiration from their unique perspective and appreciate the historical context from which it comes.

I think this complete picture helps me extract not only the right amount of inspiration but also helps me appreciate the qualitative differences that they bring to the table and the overall industry.

It helps me understand that their methods and philosophy are unique and their success is based on those things intimately and if I hope to achieve similar success it must be closely aligned to how my own business’s methods and philosophies instead of borrowing someone else’s.

In other words, just because they did it and it worked doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you or me and we should all take them (and ourselves) a little less seriously (although we take the business of “doing business” and all that is within very seriously).

Be inspired rightly and leave the rest to your own creativity. Besides, they’ve done the contextual research that makes this design work for their business goals, product, and company – unless you are 37signals it’s not going to work for you!

3. Decisions, Not Options

Unless I was a part of the UI/UX and design team I really am left at guessing about all the things they considered for each single page that they’ve got but I have noticed a few patterns that are quite simple and impressive.

For example, you’ll notice a consistent header and footer that wraps nearly all the pages together with a variable middle section for content:

But they forsake the footer for “critical” pages calling for specific action by the user, such as Signup page:

And the Pricing page:

And even the Contact page:

It makes sense that they remove the footer from these areas to reduce the “noise” of that options create when given multiple decisions to be made.

On those few pages it’s clear what needs to be done and what 37signals is looking for you to do – no need to clutter up the bottom! I like that there are decisions to be made and data to be entered instead of “options” that the user can engage with – just get it done.

It’s these small things that I appreciate the most about a well-designed product and landing page – it’s what one of my startups is doing as well, even going as far as hand-crafting icons and obsessing over tabs. These small things make a big difference because they reflect the greater company philosophy.

Again, as I mentioned previously, I am still ambivalent to the overall design but I can appreciate it for what it is and I’m sure it’s going to continue to convert new customers into their already-growing user base.

Well done gentlemen, well done.