First time on-boarding experience of Basecamp 3

Summary: First time use, also referred to as FTU is the on-boarding experience a user goes through while trying a product. In a SaaS product, a FTU experience is responsible (in many ways) for the how many customers convert from trial to paid customers and reduce churn. This article walks through Basecamp 3’s on-boarding experience.

Sign Up & Optimal Number of Form Fields

As in previous versions of Basecamp, the content on the website is centered aligned with a single column long form product information. Personally I have found this design to have the following benefits –

  1. Easy on eyes and less distraction, thus reducing cognitive load.
  2. Focus on product features and screenshots with no stock photos, thus reducing confusion and adding clarity on what to expect.

Compared to other competitive products like Asana, Smartsheet and Wrike, Basecamp sign up form has 3 fields — Name, Email and Company. Other products start with only an email address but asks for this information once the user has validated their email.

You will need to test what works for your product but based on real data and science behind lead generation by HubSpot, 3 form fields is optimal. Reducing the form fields is not necessarily better than 3.

I found that as the number of form fields increases, conversion rates decrease slightly, but not as steeply as I expected — @danzarrella. Tweet this

Verify Email -Priming & Sense of Urgency

Once you sign up, the next screen has explicit instructions on what to do next — notice “click the button inside the email…”. Here is perfect example of priming. According to the book ‘Sleights of Mind‘ priming is a phenomena in which subtle suggestions to the subconscious mind can influence subsequent behavior. By adding a simple message “click the button…” Basecamp 3 is priming you to take this action when you open the email.

Subtle suggestions to the subconscious mind can influence subsequent behavior. — Tweet this

In the email you receive you will notice examples of a perfect CTA and a gentle message below the button “… this link expires in 15 mins…”.

For the Call to Action (CTA) Basecamp is giving ownership and focusing on the benefit right away. According to @aaronbeashelHow to create a perfect call to action for your email marketing campaigns” these two elements make a perfect call to action.

Further, Basecamp is creating a sense of urgency that encourages you to complete validation, but trying not to push hard. According to Neil Patel “We as marketers can use a timer to raise anxiety and urgency, thus compelling users to respond to our call-to-action.”

This is important because in SaaS apps often people sign up but then never validate their email. For that reason some apps let you try the product without validating your email.

Setting up a Basecamp

At this point your account is setup but not your project. On the welcome page Basecamp gives you two options — play with existing project or create a new one. Sometimes people start with a new project but don’t know what to do so trying an existing project helps in seeing the value of the product.

If you notice, they are suggesting you play around with the existing project and reminding you that nothing would go wrong. People also fear that they might mess up something, that’s why Basecamp is reminding them that nothing would go wrong, thus reducing any anxiety.

A Project in Basecamp is now called Basecamp. Generally in a team based project management tool it’s all about people and teams. In general it seems this is a four step wizard, but to complete all details it is around 7–8 steps.

The screens are simple, with no clutter. Basecamp is not forcing you to add anything at this point to get started, other than a project name. You can skip through all the screens but if you want to add people there are more screens. It seems Basecamp has dumbed down the flow and only offers one thing at a time via one screen. It’s a good approach and caters to many types of users but the flow becomes longer.

Animation to keep moving — a guided path

By this time you have invested quite a bit of time in setting up account and project information but to use Basecamp 3 you need to start adding content. Even though Basecamp project page design is simple — just 6 tiles, you still might drop-off at this time. There are many reasons to it — you could be tired by now, feel overwhelmed thinking you need to add so much more content, not sure where to start — campfire, to-dos or docs.

Many products use a step by step guide tour like but Basecamp 3 has taken a different approach — animation! Once you land on your project page you get a large welcome message and recommendation to start with Campfire section. The Campfire section has pulse animation. Check it out — play the video.

The use of animation continues further. Once you are in Campfire page, the arrow animates guiding you further to say ‘Hi’ and get the project started with your team.

Start using your Basecamp

From this point onwards, you can navigate through the rest of the sections and various things like todo’s, schedules or any files related to the project.

Concluding this experience, I think Basecamp has done a good job. It does take somewhere between 10–20mins to get started if you add everything but Basecamp or for that matter any team project management tool will not be useful if the complete team doesn’t use it.

Basecamp is a great example of simplistic design, it has removed everything else and using a single column page design — no sidebars, just top navigation. Just focus on the content you are working on — reduces cognitive load specially when you are spending a lot of time on the product.

Other reads on first time on-boarding experience:

Originally published at on November 29, 2015.