This article set out to explore two of the big players on the Productivity software front. In one corner there is the old-timer that has been around since 2004 in the shape of Basecamp, whilst in the other there is a relative newcomer in Notion.
What is Notion?
Notion is a multi-tool software platform that is feature rich and can handle just about any business or personal organization and productivity task you want to throw at it. By combining all the tools you could conceivably require into one platform, it aims to simplify the organizational and collaboration requirements of a business or team.
It is a web-based interface that can be accessed through a browser or mobile app.
What is Basecamp?
Basecamp has been around since 2004 and is therefore the older of the two platforms. It is described as a project management app but could just as easily be called a collaboration app. Similar to Notion it has a variety of features and functions including task management, deadlines, announcements and calendars.
Both applications have a lot going for them, they are feature laden and comprehensive toolkits that set out with similar goals. This hasn’t always worked in the past; other attempts have failed because the Jack-of-all-trades approach was found lacking in the individual features that didn’t always come up to the mark.
Notion have largely avoided this with a unique modular building block approach and this has resulted in a software app that has avoided many of the pitfalls of its forerunners.
In this section we will look at some of the main pros of Notion.
When you build anything in Notion from a Wiki to a Web page, it is all done simply by creating a new page then assigning an attribute to it. Each page you create can be created using a fantastic range of supplied templates.
The sheer flexibility of Notion is mainly due to its block architecture. You can build your own organizational systems by using these blocks to build components like: –
Using blocks you have infinite flexibility to put together a system tailored exactly for your organization’s needs.
From creating simple documents to entire webpages Notion can do it. It can perform financial tasks, databases, photo galleries and much more.
The hierarchical structural organization of the blocks and pages within Notion is another feature that helps make the software so flexible. With this structure any page can be embedded into any other page.
Notion has a fully featured mobile app that allows you to perform all the functions that you can do through the browser version.
A free version is available for personal use, it supports one user and although it lacks some of the features of the paid version, is still a powerful tool. You can also upgrade this to a fully featured personal version, which costs $4 per month, as a comparison the full pro-version cost $8 per user per month.
Other Notion Pros
- Multiple Views – You can choose a number of ways to view your data including Kanban.
- Great Note System – With full formatting features the Note system is a powerful tool
- Import Data – You can import your own data into Notion
- Scalable Pricing System – Pay only for the users you need
- Intuitive – Although there is a learning curve, once mastered it is easy and intuitive to use
Basecamp has around the block a bit and as such has had plenty of time to hone its features. With a large and loyal base as testament to its usefulness, it has proven track record as a productivity tool.
Here we consider some of the main pros of Basecamp.
Easy to Use
With a very simple interface and a great help system Basecamp has always been easy to use. It doesn’t offer lots of unnecessary features and it is in part down to this simplicity that it is so easy to master.
Great Collaboration Features
One of the real strongpoints about Basecamp is the number of ways that users can collaborate. From chat rooms, message boards, messaging and shared lists and tasks there is great emphasis placed on information sharing.
Many similar apps will charge per user, priced like this, the cost of the software can soon become prohibitive. Basecamp charges a flat fee of $99 per month, this is for unlimited users, so great for larger teams.
There is also a free version available, but it does have limited features.
Use previous or existing projects as templates to quickly create new ones.
Document and File Storage
All users can share and access relevant project documents online, the full package has 500gb of storage space and the free package has 1gb.
Visual Progress View
A great feature that allows you to plot a task on a planning hill. This gives you a great visualization of the progress of the task, giving you an at a glance idea of how far a project is from completion and how it is matching with deadlines.
Other Basecamp Pros
- Project Organization – projects can be categorized and coordinated so that only member working on the project are subject to any relevant communications
- Mobile App – Keep track of everything on the move with the Basecamp mobile app
Overall, the Notion app is a great piece of software that delivers in just about every facet. However, nothing is perfect. In this section we set out to look at some of the cons of Notion.
Unlike in Basecamp, Notion offers no feature to visualize data. Although this shouldn’t be a deal breaker, those who have used the function in other apps will be aware of just how useful a feature this is.
Clumsy Search System
The search system within Notion is good, but it could be better. The quick find feature is a great way of searching on keywords, but there is no option to allow you to filter data from pre-defined tags, although you can actually set these tags.
While Basecamp has an API that allows you to pull data from the software and display it in other systems, Notion has no public facing API.
This could apply to any software, but some are just intuitive out of the box. With Notion the design concepts are different from other models and to really get the best from the system there is a learning curve. After this initial period the actual user experience is easy and instinctive.
Can Take Time to Set Up
Really this is a con that is down to the flexibility that Notion offers. Because it is so flexible then setting it up involves creating functions that most similar apps have already included.
Can be Slow to Sync Between Devices
Making a change in the desktop version can be slow to appear in the mobile app and vice versa.
Can become chaotic if not properly managed
Once again this down to flexibility and must be considered a price that has to be paid. Really this one is down to the user, if care isn’t taken when setting up the initial ‘base’ then it can get rather messy. Making sure a good base is built and other team members are onboarded with some guidelines will negate any problems on this front.
Free Version Limited to One User
Although there are plenty of features in the free version, it can only be used as an organizational tool and not a collaboration tool.
Basecamp has a different philosophy guiding its development and functions. Whilst it is still a feature rich toolkit, it doesn’t have the flexibility of Notion. There are positives and negatives to this approach, in this section we will look at some of the cons of Basecamp.
No Wiki System
In notion you can build Wiki Systems to share internal documentation, procedures and suchlike. While you can perform similar functions within Basecamp using file sharing or the message board, it is clumsy as compared to Notion’s Wiki set up.
Lacks Some Project Management Features
For an app that is dedicated to project management it is slightly surprising that there is no function for setting project milestones and in the same vein the Gantt chart function is limited.
While the pricing system is fabulous for larger teams, if you are looking for a productivity app for a team of say 5 or 6 people, then you will find cheaper options on the market. Although the free version allows for up to 20 users, it is restricted to 3 projects and the limited features are too restricted for meaningful project management.
Too Many Communication Options
While this can also be considered a pro, it does mean that if it is mismanaged then users waste time by checking all the communication channels that are in use. However, this can be alleviated by setting clear protocols within the team as to what methods are used and when.
This is really highlighting the two distinctly different approaches, whereas the high customization of Notion can be both a blessing and a nuisance, the exact opposite can be cited of Basecamps approach. Whilst you are unlikely to get in a muddle with too much customization, it is a fairly rigid piece of software when you need to apply your own touches.
Could have More Features
Many multi-tool apps have more features to cover items like invoicing, lead generation and payment collection to mention a few. I understand that they want the software to be tightly focused on its tasks, but with increasing numbers of apps offering such features it may become a necessity.
Advantages that Notion has over Basecamp
In this section we will consider some of the areas where Notion is a better option than Basecamp.
The block system that is the fundamental base upon which Notion is built was created to allow users to build their own organizational systems from the ground up. It is no wonder then that the app offers far more flexibility than Basecamp.
Whereas Basecamp restricts itself to project management and collaboration tasks. Within Notion there is far more functionality, if you want to design a complete web page it can be done within Notion, if you want to add some finance features, it can also be done within Notion. Setting up Wikis? Once again Notion has it covered.
Cheaper for Smaller Teams
Depending on user numbers Notion can be a more economical solution than Basecamp. With a ‘pay per user’ rate of $8 per user, teams of a dozen or less will be cheaper than Basecamp. In practice this should only really be a consideration for teams that are unlikely to ‘outgrow’ this number.
Better Note taking Capabilities
The note taking system within Notion is up to the standard of dedicated note apps. With the ability to fully format your text and use custom templates and add icons it is a powerful and useful feature
Advantages that Basecamp has over Notion
Built on a simpler and more restricted framework, Basecamp has a different philosophy than Notion when it comes to the mechanics of its app. In this section we will consider some of the areas that this difference has given it the advantage.
Easier to get up and running
Unlike Notion where you ‘build your own’ system, Basecamp is more suited to those who want all the features and structures to be there for them as soon as you set the software up. In this regard Basecamp is up and running far easier than Notion is.
Better for Collaboration
With so many communication options and the ability to assign tasks to teams and users and with every user able to monitor just the information that is relevant to them, Basecamp has better collaboration features than Notion.
Better for Larger Teams
A flat monthly rate of $99 means that for larger teams and organizations this would be a better choice than Notion, which has a ‘pay per user’ price structure. Another advantage of this is being able to involve clients in the system without having to pay for additional licenses for them.
Who Should Use Notion?
For those people looking for more than just an organizational tool, then Notion is the obvious choice. With greater customization and more features than Basecamp it offers a greater range of uses within a team.
It is also a great option for personal use for people wanting to organize their life a bit, or even for bloggers and freelancers trying to organize their life and workload.
Who Should Use Basecamp?’
Project and team managers who want an off-the-shelf solution to improve their productivity and team collaboration would benefit greatly from this software. It is designed with this purpose specifically in mind and it does it superbly.
It is also ideal for larger teams because of its price structure.
If you want a simple to use, easy to set up solution to project management and don’t need any bells or whistles, Basecamp is for you.
Which is Better for Project Management?
While both apps are more than capable project management tools, Basecamp just nudges it with its simpler to use and set up systems that are designed specifically for project management purposes.
Which is Better for Note Taking?
This category goes to Notion, whilst notes are a useful feature within Basecamp, Notion really has the edge here. This is mainly down to the flexibility of the platform that allows you to be as flexible with your notes as you are with any other element in the software.
Which is Better for Collaboration?
The winner here has to be Basecamp, whilst the collaboration features in Notion are not to be sniffed at, in Basecamp they are excellent. In fact, some users have reported that they are too much. However, this is not a problem with the software, rather the way the software is being used.
The developers have placed a heavy emphasis on the collaboration features within Basecamp and it shows. If excellent collaboration is one feature that you must have then this is the tool for you.
Pricing: Notion vs Basecamp
- FREE Plan (aka “Personal”)
- Personal Pro 4$
- Team 8$
- Enterprise 20$
- FREE plan (Basic)
- Team 99$
Conclusion: Our Final Verdict is…
It would be hard to pick a winner between these two apps, they are both excellent at what they do, despite the differing design ethos. The choice of which to get is really going to be down to a user’s needs and preferences.
For those who look to tinker and are looking for greater customization and a more complete toolkit then Notion certainly can do all that and more.
For more straightforward Team Management and Productivity requirements that are easy to use and set up then Basecamp is a better choice. Whichever one you choose, they both are extremely capable pieces of software that achieve what they set out to do, and once set up do so with a minimum of fuss.