February 2, 2009 in Design Process, Misc

Basecamp Changed My Design Process

basecamp-design-processThe last few months I have been experimenting with Basecamp Project Management and how it can help with my work flow, my findings; its changed my design process forever, improving communication with my clients and allowing me to easily run multiple design projects.

Project Management

Basecamp is a piece of project management software created by 37 Signals, it allows me to login to manage any of my projects from anywhere in the world with an Internet connected PC. It also allows my clients to login and check on their project progress, send a message, collaborate on a document (writeboard), upload files, make a to-do list or add a project milestone.

Design Process

When I get a new web project I add my new client, and add their project to Basecamp. This now means both parties can access one central hub of information. I usually write a quick introduction message to the client and email them informing them of their login details by email or phone, Obviously this type of system will not suit every client but my more tech savvy clients have taken to this system well.

To-do Lists

My design process consists of some linear phases; analysis, plan, build and test and I actually create a to-do list for each phase. A typical project will have four to-do lists and could look something like this:


  • Identify Business Goals
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Identify Unique Selling Point
  • Gather Website Content
  • Identify Users / Demographic


  • Sitemap
  • Siteframe
  • Calls to Action
  • Mood Board
  • Graphical Mock Up
  • Keyword Research


  • Database Setup
  • CMS Installation
  • Create CSS Layout
  • Set up Navigation Structure
  • Add Main Content
  • Add Analytics


  • Valid XHTML
  • Valid CSS
  • Content Spelling
  • Email Forms
  • Web Browser Display
  • Web Safe Images

I usually order my to-do lists and their items so that I can tick each completed task off and move onto the next project phase. This is where Basecamp really shines, it does one job really well, the to-do lists are fantastic.

At the end of each days work I send a message to the client through Basecamp informing them of project progress and informing them that they can check out the to-do lists if they wish to see how things are moving.

To-do list templates

Many web projects have a very similar method of work and this allows Basecamps to-do list templates to shine, you can create a template to be used for every project.

For instance, I have my basic analysis, plan, build and test to-do lists with some common tasks below them set up as a template, this way every project I start I have a basic designed structure to work from.

Assigning Tasks

I will often add tasks to to-do list that my clients must undertake, I can assign the client a task on the to-do list and assign a milestone, Basecamp will email the client to remind them I need this done to progress.


I usually create a Writeboard and record my findings for each task, for example in the analysis phase:


  • Identify Business Goals
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Identify Unique Selling Point
  • Gather Website Content
  • Identify Users / Demographic

I will add a writeboard called Business Goals, and record my findings, do remember this is shared with the client so from the very get-go if I am heading in the wrong direction or have mis understood a business goal the client can collaborate and make the correction.

Upload Documents

Basecamp allows all project parties to upload documents, I use this to my advantage in the planning stages of a web project:


  • Sitemap
  • Siteframe
  • Calls to Action
  • Mood Board
  • Graphical Mock Up
  • Keyword Research

I upload a siteframe and sitemap and send a message to the client to have a look over them, I’ll often ring the client up and explain my choices and run through the plans I have made, when creating a graphical mock up this is especially useful.

Basecamp Summary

Using Basecamp has really eased the task of running multiple projects at once and has also proved to be very easy to use for my clients. Having one central place for all messages, files , to-do lists and milestones that both parties can view anytime is a real bonus and one I recommend you should at least try.

I know theres a monthly charge and we all hate those, but for me it has changed my design process for the better and for my clients it brings real insight into what I am doing for their money and my progress with their projects.

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About Anthony

Anthony Brewitt is Design Bit, has been for years - he's an experienced WordPress Designer, and Muggle-born Marketing Philosopher. Let’s talk about your website; your marketing, blog design, and that cool new mobile web thingy. Contact Anthony

21 Responses to Basecamp Changed My Design Process

  1. Thanks a lot for this write-up. I’m just starting my business, and even before this I’ve had my eye on BC. Your detailed process has really helped me see how it could facilitate my work flow. Though it’s a new business, I already have 5 different clients and I’ve been worried about how to keep all my tasks and communication straight. Thanks!

  2. Great post.

  3. Love this post, really quantifies the process you should go through, as a developer, if you use Basecamp (or really any other online project management tool). We just did a review of basecamp and I couldn’t agree more that it has revolutionized our process and business.

  4. Basecamp’s great- but I’d definitely not use it as the only way to communicate with clients during a project (not that you say you do).

    Anything that helps a client understand that there is a process to web design and it’s not just throwing up pixels is a huge plus, though.

  5. I agree, often clients don’t see the process, probably the designers fault. We should make clients more informed, if they want to be involved.

  6. Nic

    Great article and very usefull tips!!

  7. Thanks a ton for this. We signed up for Basecamp a while ago, and while we like it we’ve had trouble with work flow. This HELPS a ton! Seriously the one weakness in Basecamp/Highrise/Etc…is the lack of model work flows, to help people generate ideas! Thanks for the great post!

  8. Sam

    This is great! Thanks so much. Hope it will continue.

    you can get interesting post about web usability and technology on my Web Usability Blog.

  9. I like your process, and I agree Basecamp is great tool. But I think a lot of the credit goes to the project managers in the how well organized and process-oriented they are.

    I’m building a Basecamp extension for Offline access. I’m curious to know, from a web designer perspective, if there’s something that Basecamp falls short in. Thanks.

  10. It is good to make an plan before you start. I helps you stick to what you have planned.

    Not many times i do an plan. Too bad for me…..

  11. Really nice tool

  12. @Nancy: gantt charting would be useful. We’re running 30+ projects and it would be great to see them all at a glance and to find a way to avoid overlapping/over committing resources.

  13. @Nancy: I think a simple CRM would be a great feature as well as an integrated calendar.

  14. mark scantlebury

    we are thinking about adopting basecamp. Is there anyone out there who can help us set up? (for a fee). we are in clerkenwell.

  15. mark scantlebury

    sorry should have left contact mark@quietroom.co.uk

  16. A few months ago, I was looking into web-based project management systems and also gave Basecamp HQ a go. At the time, I thought this was the best thing since sliced bread – that was until I did some further research and realised that many dedicated Basecamp HQ users, were switching to something equally easy to use and maintain, but with more features and a smaller cost – Teamwork PM (http://www.teamworkpm.net/). Having now used both project management tools, the latter for the past 3 months, I can see why people were switching. I strongly recommend trialling out Teamwork PM before handing over your hard earned cash to Basecamp HQ.

  17. Fantastic platform, it’s helped our team tackle many large projects very efficiently.

  18. Nice article and posted very structured way..

  19. Awesome Post! I’ve been trying to compile information like this for my company and wrote my own blog about why we’re sticking with Basecamp. Check it out if you’re inclined: http://lab.neo-pangea.com/blog/2011/02/basecamp-sucks-less-than-everything-else/

  20. I am really amazed. Today I spent a lot of time searching for something interesting on this topic. Finally I found your blog. Thanks for that!

  21. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

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