It’s official. Basecamp for iOS.
I wanted to spend some time with the new official Basecamp app for iOS, v1.0. Hearing much about its great performance, despite being a hybrid app, was something worth exploring. Here is what I found.
- It’s fast, yes, but is it native fast throughout? No.
- As web apps go, it’s simple design is appreciated, but does it compare in design with top native apps? Not really.
- The navigation bar is very well done, although the back buttons don’t respond to my touch - no pressed state. It’s the little things on iOS that really delight users.
- The home screen provides little context for what’s in the list. Is this a list of Projects, or something else? Feels like the app has little to offer since the other functions aren’t surfaced from this home screen.
- The home screen and project feed are fairly responsive to taps, and provide a good UX complete with nice bounce physics on scrolling. Leads me to think, “I bet these are the native screens in this hybrid app”.
- Non-standard user interactions can be a bit jarring and unexpected. I get that some of these are likely intended to parallel the Basecamp experience on the desktop, but I think they hurt the usability. For example, pages that lay on top of each other which can be swiped to discard.
- Not so fast. I see network activity spinners where I wouldn’t expect them. Although fast to load, I would typically expect zero load time as I move from the Project Feed to a detailed record view within the feed. In general, it’s just not as snappy as I’d hope from an app built by a company with such a focus on performance.
- Lacking animation and polish. Lists load and views change without any animation to smooth the transition. Animations often provide subtle context for the view change, but this is lacking.
- Too many taps required. Again, this goes to the non-standard UX within this app. Suppose I’m in the Project Feed. How many taps to create a new To Do? 5. This feels a little heavy.
- Tapping can be awkward. The checkboxes on the To Do list feel a little small and if I tap and hold on most detail views I have the iOS copy selection control getting in the way.
- Dull UI. Though I don’t expect Basecamp to have eye popping design, I do find this app takes little risk in its design. The detail views really feel like unfinished white canvases. These same pages give me the sense that, “yes, this is clearly a web page”, which I don’t believe is a good thing in a native app.
I know that @dhh is very proud of the performance, and is impressed with how their effort has approached the pure native feel, despite being a “mostly” web app, and that’s great. However, let’s be fair. 37 Signals knows quality and cares deeply for the details and performance. They build desktop web experiences which rival any business software on the web. For this reason, I think it’s fair to expect a lot out of this official Basecamp iOS experience. With these high expectations in mind, I find this application is only impressive if you think about it as a web app. Judged as a native app, it suffers from poor usability, dull design, and a less than Instagram-like performance profile. Do I think this will allow Basecamp users to be productive on their iPhone, most definitely. Do I think that 37 Signals should rest on their laurels, with the belief that they have built a hybrid app with a fully native feel, most certainly not.