Basecamp vs Asana – Why we switched, a project management adventure

March 14, 2017 by Alison Foxall |

So, Basecamp vs Asana, which one is really better? Since Matt and I started Gobble Logic in 2012, I have been on the quest for the perfect project management tool. I’ve tried all the popular tools, especially the ones designated for web development and design agencies. I settled on Basecamp from 37 Signals because it was simplistic; I could add several people on a project, manage what they see, and include the client on projects and discussions.

During my time with Basecamp, I tried various others: Podio, Trello, Apollo, etc. Podio came close to a replacement because it’s so generic; it can handle just about anything allowing users to make many custom fields and data handlers. Trello came close for just a regular todo list, but for some reason it just left a lot to be desired. Apollo was just as costly as Basecamp, had similar features, but it was a little too cumbersome to use.

These last months I’ve actually used Wunderlist and sometimes Todoist to manage my own personal tasks. Rarely did I even go into Basecamp. I left it for the rest of our team to use (which wasn’t a whole lot of usage, mind you).

Last week during a WordPress co-working day in Tampa, my friend Jim True recommended I try Asana. I had never even heard of it. Maybe in passing, but I never evaluated it, like I had the other 15 pieces of software back in 2013.

I gave Asana a whirl the next day. So out of Basecamp vs Asana, who is the winner? Well, the day after I tried it, I immediately made the decision to kill off Basecamp. Here are some of the major reasons why we switched from Basecamp to Asana:

1. Basecamp can be costly for a firm like ours

We had projects coming in and out like nobody’s business. At any given time I could have had 60 projects open. Granted, a third of those were internal. Basecamp charges a flat $99/mo. No free tier unless you are a teacher, student, non-profit, etc.

What about Asana? It’s free for 15 team members and unlimited projects. Absolutely no project number limitations. At time of this writing we have a team of 4, sometimes 5 or 6 depending on additional contractor help, so the free plan works out perfectly for us. You have to watch your monthly business expenses, because the little things add up! Asana’s premium plan is only $9.99/mo which is only a tenth of what I’d be paying with 37 Signal’s Basecamp.

Bottom line: Basecamp charges a flat $99/mo fee while Asana charges for users when you pass 15 of them. I know which one works better for me there. Ding Ding, Asana wins this round!

Annual savings: $1188 (wow! for a small business that’s mega $)

2. Basecamp has no high-level view

Basecamp’s design is centered around the user focusing on one thing on a screen. I understand why it’s designed like it is, to really rein in your attention to the particular task or discussion at hand, and it creates a clean work environment. For some reason I’m just not happy about that, especially since you can’t get back to the previous screen unless you click around (was I missing some great keyboard shortcut here?) Asana takes the high-level view approach and gives you a three column view. Granted, this makes Asana appear a bit more cluttered, but I do enjoy seeing everything out there in one view, without clicking back to simply view all my to-do lists.

Basecamp’s Typical Workspace

Typical Basecamp task view of project. Tasks and discussions are very similarly laid out where you are unable to see other tasks lists or discussion titles that may be related until your drill in. Makes for an inefficient workflow.

Typical Basecamp task view of project. Tasks and discussions are very similarly laid out where you are unable to see other tasks lists or discussion titles that may be related until your drill in. Makes for an inefficient workflow. Doesn’t this seem like wasted screen real-estate? What gives?

Asana’s Typical Workspace

Asana workspace has high level view so you can see projects, task lists and individual tasks on one screen. Easily jump to something else.

Asana workspace has high level view so you can see projects, task lists and individual tasks on one screen. Easily jump to something else. Your focus moves across the screen easily in a simple listed/nested format.

3. Asana is just faster to create and manage tasks

Keyboard shortcuts anyone? This is also why I clung unto Wunderlist for a long time. The keyboard shortcuts are amazing. I can’t tell you how much time a user can save, by not even touching their mouse. It really is a time hog when you have to keep going back to it. Asana has around 30 or 40 keyboard shortcuts that make your flow faster. In Basecamp, everything is a click click type action. Especially for assigning tasks– it’s fairly cumbersome. We even encountered a bug with the due date and assigning task function. I don’t have this issue in Asana, it’s more like return, type, return, tab, enter, type, etc.

4. Asana’s to-do lists within to-do lists, and tagging

We love making tired lists. Granted, if we want to go crazy we just use something like Workflowy to really get out brains going. But to have the ability to create subtasks within a single task is incredibly helpful and useful. Basecamp doesn’t have this feature. Another small feature that basecamp doesn’t have is task and person linking. Much like Twitter and now Facebook, in Asana, I can type the @ symbol and begin typing the name of a task, project or person to tag them, which will automatically link to a task/project/person in question. I can also merge and copy tasks! Bulk editing of tasks is also handy!

 

5. Better Slack integration for Asana vs Basecamp

Basecamp: Okay, this makes me sad. A search on Slack repository returns nothing for ‘basecamp’ except Zapier. But aha! Zapier to the rescue because they do in fact have an integration with plenty of options. The only downside to that is the fact that you do have API call limits on Zapier’s end so if you have a lot of things already with their service and are using a free tier, this might be a problem.

No official Slack app for Basecamp 3

No official Slack app for Basecamp 3

Basecamp 3 to Slack integration options

Basecamp 3 to Slack integration options

 

Asana on the other hand has does have a Slack app for easy integration in addition to integrations also available on Zapier. Asana really has this area covered for Slack. party or die

 

6. Seamless Harvest integration

We use Harvest online time tracking software. It’s an integral part of our business. I generate estimates, turn them into invoices, duplicate them, generate invoices on the fly based on hours, track my time, and view time sheets from my team. Asana has a seamless integration into Harvest, whereas with Basecamp I had to rely on the Chrome plugin that injects itself into Basecamp tasks. The more plugins I can get rid of in Chrome, the better. Occasionally I’ll have hangups in Basecamp or other tools where I’m tracking time because of that plugin. So, it’s nice to have software that simply integrates with it rather than a clunky browser extension.

7. Advanced task search

Frosting on the cake here. It is amazing how many times I’m about to hop on a client call and I need to update them on what was completed by my team. In Basecamp, I can’t seem to find anything. Their search is limited and where are the tasks? Where are John’s tasks? I have no idea. Asana takes a detailed approach. I can easily filter out completed tasks from any project within the system, or several projects. It is especially useful if I’m checking in on specific team members to make sure they’re blasting through their tasks for the week.

Basecamp’s Search Feature

Basecamp's search is limited. How do I even search tasks from here?

Basecamp’s search is limited. How do I even search tasks from here?

 

Basecamp reports looks somewhat useful, but 'who clapped for me'? Why?

Basecamp reports looks somewhat useful, but ‘who clapped for me’? Why?

 

Asana's search is such a breath of fresh air. Finally I can find what I need.

Asana’s search is such a breath of fresh air. Finally I can find what I need.

8. Project templates in Basecamp vs Asana

You can easily create project templates in Basecamp. This has been a long-time feature for many years and very loved. I almost didn’t switch because of this. But guess what? Asana has project templates and some are pre-made which is extremely useful. If you want to create your own template in Asana, just create project as a template, then repeatedly copy the project when you need to. That’s it!

Project Templates in Basecamp

basecamp project template

Basecamp project templates are easy to setup

Project Templates in Asana

Asana has pre-made project templates

Asana has pre-made project templates

Conclusion

Asana just works better for what we do. Perhaps for others, Basecamp would be a better choice, but in 2017, I find that hard to believe. Asana is a true task and project management system whereas Basecamp seems like an over glorified inbox when you really look at it since it has a chat feature, message board, post updates, and comments littered everywhere. So when it comes to Basecamp vs Asana, Asana is the clear winner, hands down in terms of features and price.

I would like to say that since this change has happened, we will no longer be inviting clients to view our internal projects. While still entirely possible with Asana, it was never popular, and clients generally preferred sending us feedback via email. There are of course exceptions to that, especially with our software development projects.

Final note: if you’re wondering how we migrated all our projects from Basecamp to Asana– we did it manually (as in, copy and pasting tasks over, re-uploading documents, etc). It was a great opportunity to clean them up and trash projects that weren’t necessary to keep around.


First published Apr 05, 2014. Revised and updated Mar 14, 2017.

About Alison Foxall

Alison Foxall is our resident WordPress aficionado. She's the lead organizer for WordCamp Tampa, as well as Tampa's WordPress Meetup group. Alison enjoys helping her clients succeed and meet their goals through inbound marketing. As a libertarian and member of Conscious Capitalism Florida, she believes that human potential will thrive in free markets.

  • Luca Forest

    Hey Alison, nice blog. I want to recommend you to try proofhub too. If you want to monitor efficiency of team members, proofhub allows you do this. Monitoring tasks, reporting milestones & monitoring deadlines. If you want best results for team collaboration, proofhub can do this for you as it allows instant messaging, status updates and uploading files for sharing to other team members.

    • Thanks, Luca! Proofhub seems to be a little pricey for our uses, but I’ll proceed with the trial and record my thoughts about it. Thanks for your comment and recommendation!

  • Hi Alison, enjoyed reading this post especially since I work at Brightpod (a pm tool for marketing and digital agencies). It is interesting to know what people like and dislike with other apps – cost, features etc. Thanks for the perspective.

  • PeterBoshka

    Asana is great, but why didn’t you just use Bitrix24? It has the best of Asana, Basecamp and Podio (even free CRM) and free is free.

    • Thomas Ledermann

      Thx Peter, I’ll have a look at Bitrix24. It’s even available in German, great.

  • Armand

    Hi Alison. External Users. That is the trick for me. I have no full time staff but work with a lot of people on a project that we are developing for ourselves. We cant drag everyone into our system especially when they are from organized shops. We deal with them via email. So which of these project management tools is best for that? That is what I need to know. Any ideas? This is a great post by the way. Thank you.

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  • Hi Alison! This article was super helpful. I’m at the point of trying out Asana after using Basecamp for a couple of years. Looking to cut expenses wherever I can. Thanks so much for this helpful information!

  • Donovan&Limroth CPAs

    Hi Alison – I’m working with a couple of other accounting firms in to to transition towards providing more cloud based services and we are looking for a tool to share knowledge, questions, tips and tricks to help us accelerate our learning. Do you think Asana would work for this? Thank you!

    • Steve

      Just curious if you ever started using Asana or anything else for your CPA firms? I’m also a CPA firm and looking for ideas on how to better manage the same things as you.

    • Cranston Warren

      Asana literally bends to your will. It will be whatever you craft it to be. There is a learning section that gives some ideas on how to use Asana and provides some basic tips and tricks. It’s free for up to 15 users. Give it a go you’ve got nothing to lose.

  • Theresa Wagar

    Allison, I’ve had similar issues with Basecamp, and hadn’t found anything to really replace it either. Too funny that I’ve been using Wunderlist as my personal task tracker, too. Looking forward to giving Asana a try. I really like the FREE part of it, too. So many expenses for a small website and design studio, it’s nice to see something free once in a while.

  • Jesse

    great info – incredibly helpful as our small team is looking for project/task management software – thank you!

  • I enjoyed your post and the style! Thank you for writing this. Yes Asana is leading edge right now. Basecamp had its time.

    But I also believe the search for a good work manager system is far from over. All current system are based on cartesian science focusing on management of objects and data. Real projects and organizations are not mere objects and data. They are network of commitments that are in constant state of breakdown. A real system would have to be around management of those commitments and interventions by managers. I’d want a system that tells me what are my commitments and where are the breakdowns. Accounting sheets and lists are boring and turn us into machine like minds in our struggle in working with them. This is Asana’s akheeli’s heal.

  • I’m a web freelancer, but often operate as a general contractor/project manager. When working on larger projects, I trend to have various collaborators involved – my logo guy, a few coders, and a content producer. I like how Basecamp allows for assignments and checkoffs for task completion. For anyone have any experience using Trello or Asana for this type of workflow?

    Allison, great post – definitelt explained some aspects of Asana use I hadn’t thought of.

    • Josh A

      That’s basically how I use Asana only internally. We have the premium version at work. I assign out a task to an individual and they do it, checking it as complete when done. That sends me a notice.

      One thing to know about Asana – while they charge by the number of users, it’s only for internal users. You can have an unlimited number of guests. Guests can see just one project or one task. They can’t create projects. This is really useful for when I have a one-off need for access because a contractor, partner or customer needs to be looped into a project.

    • Ava Raynott

      I’d recommend you to have a look at ProofHub.com. Easy management, collaboration and communication.

  • Excellent post, Alison!

    Our team also uses Asana. Mostly for business tasks, plus GitHub for technical stuff.
    By the way, never heard of Apollo, and as for Podio – IMHO not an option at all.

    Finally, (sorry for PR) you may find interesting our time tracking integration with Asana – https://everhour.com/integrations/asana/

    We did it after trying all other alternatives.

  • Thank you for posting this great article. This is incredibly helpful because I’m having the same problem with Basecamp.

  • Cranston Warren

    Alison how are you liking the new dashboard and completion tracking features?

    • It’s really fun to view, but we haven’t used it to really track productivity yet. It’s great to make sure you make at least a little progress daily on a certain project. I’m sure we will use it more in the future when we grow a bit more!

  • Granth Web

    How to migrate Basecamp projects to ASANA? Have automatic way or manual copy only?

  • USGolfTVTroy

    Does Asana have a time-tracking tool?

  • Thanks Alison! Your post helped us make up our mind. We’re going to try switching our 4-person web shop from Basecamp to Asana.

  • Alexander Pokrovsky

    Alison, a nice post – thank you! Did you manage to try Pyrus in your search for an ideal tool for your needs? It’s also free for up to 12 users and offers an advanced workflow functionality and document management along with traditional task tracking.

  • Hi Alison,
    Everything sounds great, however we work with clients all the time in Basecamp and JIRA with agencies. This couple be a problem :(

  • Great article, thanks. We’ve tried Basecamp previously but it just wasn’t right for us. A freelancer recently told me about Asana and after about a week in we’re loving it. I love being able to see everyone’s task list and what tasks are open for each client. The design is a little boring but I’ll take substance over beauty any day ;)

  • Hi Alison,

    Quick question for you – are you able to link projects together for clients?

    For instance: I, too, could have 10 projects just for one client. I’d love to be able to have a “client” view, which would show me all of the current open, or archived, projects for that client. That way, I could easily have a historical view of everything we’ve worked on for that client.

    Does that make sense, and how do you manage that within Asana?

  • Rafaella

    Hello! Thanks for your Article! It was really enriching. I currently use Asana, and I was looking for an alternative for inviting clients to see our internal projects (since we collaborate with them a lot). You mention it is entirely possible in Asana. Have you discovered something I’m not seeing?

    Thank you so much, I really appreciate the thorough comparison.

  • Jacki Whitford

    Luv your writing style and how you laid out the pros and cons. I have used Asana personally since its inception, but right now am looking for a project management tool for a client who only has five employees and would like to track all projects and programs they sell as well as all the work being done. This review helps me tremendously. Thank you.

  • rotexhawk

    Asana is so much better than basecamp. The interface makes sense. It is designed for a very specific task and it does a great job at it. Basecamp is jack of all trades and master of none.

  • Matt Smith

    It’d be cool to hear your current thoughts. Lots has changed in the last two years.

  • Carl

    Great article! We used for Asana for a long time to manage internal tasks and projects in my company. In the end, we moved away from it, as we just wanted something…more. We wanted to be able to handle more aspects of our business from one tool, instead of being spread out across multiple. After a lot of searching, we eventually found a tool called SuiteDash that has fit our needs perfectly. SuiteDash has project and task management functionalities, as well as a ton of other useful features, such as invoicing/billing, client portals, time tracking, and even a built-in instant messenger, all contained in the browser dashboard of the tool. If anyone is in the market for an “all in one” solution to run your business, I would highly recommend checking out SuiteDash at https://suitedash.com/

  • >if you’re wondering how we migrated all our projects from Basecamp to Asana– we did it manually

    @alisonfoxall:disqus Would love this elaborated on a bit.

  • Ava Raynott

    I really loved your post! Very rightly said. There are alot of great task management software’s out there, we just need to explore more and settle down with the one which serves our needs in the best way. I’ve used basecamp and asana both and currently im using proofhub ans I love proofhub. It’s an all in one task management tool; very feature rich, professioanl and easy to use at the same time. Works the best for me!

  • Neesha Mirchandani

    Thank you for this detailed analysis!