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What's up with all the Basecamp style clones?

I'm sure most of you here know of about a dozen projects that copy the "Basecamp look" in their online applications. You might even be working on one yourself. Pretty much every project management service uses the same style derived from BaseCamp:

- Lighthouse:
- GoPlan:
- Unfuddle:
- OnStage:

As well as other services like:

- Litmus:

In addition to many others I am forgetting or don't have the bookmark link for. I'm curious about the reasoning behind this. I've come to assume that a few major reasons explain this behavior:

1) It's really clean, simple, and neutral (meaning, it can easily be rebadged and nobody will think much of it), and saves time spent planning your own user experience.

2) Your B2B users are familiar with the layout and appreciate not having to relearn a new interface.

Is it wise to create an online application that so closely resembles the functionality of basecamp? Or, am I totally off-base and did somebody else create this style that Basecamp ran with?

It's just starting to drive me crazy when every website selling an online service uses the exact same CSS layout, fonts, even inline yellow highlighting on their talking points.
Nick Baldwin Send private email
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Josh Goebel has some interesting thoughts on this and 37signals and copyright:
John Topley Send private email
Monday, July 07, 2008
Great post, that's exactly what I was looking for. There seems to be a healthy discussion over there about the implications of all this.
Nick Baldwin Send private email
Monday, July 07, 2008
Apparently, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

There is some truth in that, but a lot of blatant rip offs are springing up, where the exact same layout and design are used, which just seems silly to me.

It is hard to believe that they are making much money.

The thing about Basecamp is that there is a lot more to it than the design, great though that is. They have a load of infrastructure behind it to make it reliable.

I suspect that many of these clones are hosted on VPS accounts which would be overwhelmed by any kind of volume traffic.
Odysseus Send private email
Monday, July 07, 2008
Because it's simple and clean, and looks like an actual application and not a website. 

37Signals by no means created that look (and I've seen it for years, before they became a big name thanks to David Hansson and Rails), they just made it "mainstream" with all their hype.
WayneM. Send private email
Monday, July 07, 2008
I agree that Basecamp is the initial guideline for every new project management app that appears on the web, since they are the ones that are longest on the market. However, I don't think quite all apps are Basecamp like, contrary I think there are many apps that have absolutely nothing in common with Basecamp. 
For an example: Its interface is completely different than any other. It offers many functionalities which are perfectly arranged and offer a perfect flow of the application. Hence, the application is very intuitive and easy-to-use.

All the best,
Sean Bachofner Send private email
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Hi Sean,

I understand there are still people innovating, and I applaud you for doing so. My question here is just me trying to figure out exactly WHY people are doing it.
Nick Baldwin Send private email
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
1. It is easier than coming up with your own design. Copy a market leader(Basecamp may or may not be a market leader I don't know or care, but it is well known among web devs because of rails)

2. there are only so many ways to skin a cat.  For a certain set of features there is are only a few logical organizations for UI.  Cars from different manufactures typically have the same number/style of seats/doors/lights/etc in the same market segments.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
This is a social sciences/psychological question: why do clones spring up in the first place? Because new entrants calculate that they can leverage the success of the innovator, ie ride on their coattails, at a fraction of the innovator's cost or risk. This is the Chinese knock-off strategy and it has worked well. Or, as value investors would put it: imitators follow innovators, and idiots follow imitators. I think we've reached the point where the market is rife with the third category.
Anyway, for something completely different in look and feel and better than Basecamp:
Cheers and greetings
Laurent Liscia Send private email
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
It's nothing but tabs and lists.. and the user interface in question is found.. where?
Mikael Bergkvist Send private email
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Pardon me for being cynical, but this is so typical of any blog that mentions basecamp or any other project management app. A perfectly valid discussion suddenly gets swamped with comments like "check out such-and-such", "so-and-so does a great job", "use, its really unique". Seriously, do a google search for the phrase "basecamp not for you? check out wrike".
Kevin Grobson Send private email
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Maybe I am over-simplifying the issue here, but what exactly is the problem with using UI guidelines from Basecamp?

In all honesty, it is a testament to Basecamp's popularity that the distinct look and feel they use is called the "Basecamp look", but I remember doing this for corporate clients in freelance roles (using good old tables even) years ago!

Secondly, I see no one complaining about why all Mac OS X applications look the same or why almost every new Windows application (I know I am generalising here), strives to have the "Ribbon" and "Vista" look and feel. By the way, that just sounded aggressive but I am just making a point.

In essence, Basecamp is as good as any UI guideline to begin with.
Sarat Pediredla Send private email
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Well in terms of "Vista and OSX feel" those are guidelines set forth by the OS developers themselves to create a unified experience. However, the ribbon bar is not, and it's another situation like this basecamp deal. Are people using styles from Office Ribbon and Basecamp because they're the *right* choice, or because they're the *easy/familiar/fast/etc* choice.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

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