One of the things I love about our flexible work environment at Basecamp is the freedom to step away from something whenever I need to.

Right now I’m exploring designs for a new product idea. R&D work like this depends on having good mental and emotional energy. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t.

When you’re energetic and motivated, great things happen spontaneously, in unpredictable bursts of inspiration.

But when you’re tired, distracted, or in the weeds on something, it’s usually better to stop working. Just admit (temporary) defeat and give yourself a chance to regroup. …

The Book of Life (1898)

(And what you can do about it)

There’s a term we use in software design called the happy path. It describes a best-case scenario, in which customers use a product exactly as intended, without bumping into any edge cases or uncommon problems. This includes the interface you see when you sign up, setup steps you have to complete, and so on.

For software designers, a happy path is also an extremely powerful psychological tool that allows us to control people’s behavior and direct them to do whatever we want.

If that sounds surprising—and slightly terrifying—think about how many times you’ve blown past a lengthy software license agreement…

At Basecamp, we write a lot—from announcements to pitches, and everything in between.

Quite often, we’re presenting something that has a Before and After, like a mockup or interface design that’s been revised. Until now, this was always kind of frustrating. Basecamp only supported full-width images, so it could be difficult to quickly compare two images at once.

Today we’ve added support for side-by-side image galleries inside written posts!

This is a subtle but substantial change: galleries support and enhance your writing by making it more fluid, expressive, and precise. …

Why we skipped adding new features for a while, and improved all the old ones instead.

When you’re in charge of a software product, there’s an endless number of things you can do with it. You can add features, make existing things work differently, change how you sell it, tweak little details, whatever. The sky’s the limit.

And hoo wee, there’s no shortage of ideas! Every day you hear opinions and feature requests from all over the place — your mom, your friends, your plumber, random people on Twitter, stoned college students sending App Store reviews, and so on.

It’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of the original vision you had in the first…

We gave up on Likes and invented a totally new form of tiny communication.

If there’s one thing you can’t avoid on the Internet, it’s Likes. They’re in nearly every software platform where people post photos or write text messages.

Sometimes Likes are called Faves, Hearts, Reactions, Claps, or something else, but the basic idea is the same: they’re a small, quick way to express your feelings about something, usually accompanied by a count of other people who had that same feeling.

Until today, we had exactly this sort of feature in Basecamp 3. We called it Applause. If you liked a post, you’d clap for it. …

If you search the Internet to learn about A/B testing, you’ll find scads of articles bursting with tips for cranking your business performance into the stratosphere.

You’ll get blazing hot secrets like…




…and it just keeps going like that, into an overenthusiastic pit of armchair psychology and semi-authoritative pseudoscience.

As the gurus tell it, A/B testing is like Vegas slots: plunk some crap into a machine, score a handful of 🍒🍒🍒s, and voilà, Easy Bake Revenue!

With a pitch like that, who could resist? It sounds so simple. …

Last month, we shared a sneak peek at some major design improvements we’ve been cooking up for Basecamp 3. Today’s the day — you’ll see those changes in your Basecamp account right now!

There are countless little tweaks and improvements throughout the entire app, but here’s quick recap of the most important new stuff.

High-level Changes

The examples we showed in the preview still stand: improved navigation, colors, and typography, better use of space on desktop screens, and more consistent placement for buttons, headers, and menus. These changes apply everywhere.

Illustration via The British Library

“How much time left until I’m dead?”

I try not to think about that question, but yet, it’s always there, hidden away in my mind’s attic, nestled alongside all the other intentionally suppressed memories, which, despite my best efforts to keep them stowed, tend to stubbornly reappear in my subconscious against my will.

I’d better get to work.

Work staves off my feelings of helplessness against the unstoppable march of time. I’ll get some work done and feel accomplished. I’m using my time wisely after all. Not frittering and twittering away my precious minutes.

In a modern life where stillness…

Synoptic Table of Physiognomic Traits

Ruminations on the heavy weight of software design in the 21st century.

Recently I took a monthlong sabbatical from my job as a designer at Basecamp. (Basecamp is an incredible company that gives us a paid month off every 3 years.)

When you take 30 days away from work, you have a lot of time and headspace that’s normally used up. Inevitably you start to reflect on your life.

And so, I pondered what the hell I’m doing with mine. What does it mean to be a software designer in 2018, compared to when I first began my weird career in the early 2000s?

The answer is weighing on me.

As software…

We made a brand new Hello Weather, for the love and fun of it. Here’s the backstory.

Throughout 2017, our friendly weather app has been totally stable, paying its own bills, and getting great reviews. We launched a steady stream of swell updates—and an Android version—but otherwise kept things on the mellow.

Then Apple announced iOS 11 and iPhone X, and some serendipity happened: Apple’s design language started to match up with ours.

iOS 11 has strong typography, with big bold headers and heavier body text throughout. …

Jonas Downey

Previously head of design at Basecamp + HEY. Currently looking for something new. Co-creator of @helloweatherapp.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store