Target audience: Businesses with fewer than 10 employees
Key Web executive: Jason Fried, founder
No. of employees working on the site: 3
Last major redesign: Second quarter 2009
No. of pages on the site: Fewer than 10
Web developer: In-house
It's difficult to pack a lot of functionality into a few pages, but that's exactly what Jason Fried, the founder of 37signals, was trying to do with his company's latest redesign for its Basecamp product Web site.
Basecamp, an online project management software tool, has more than 3 million users. There was nothing wrong with the product's previous Web site, Fried said, but it looked dated and it didn't cover features and benefits as well as it should have. “The old site was benefit-driven but didn't talk much about the customers,” he said.
Because Fried wanted to show rather than just tell, his team had customer videos professionally shot so users could explain exactly why they love Basecamp and which business needs it fulfilled for them. The company then took the footage and put it front and center on its redesigned site.
To accommodate visitors who don't want to watch Web video, the company also added a screen shot tour of the product with an audio voiceover. But the main focus, Fried said, was on the site's copy. The company barely advertises Basecamp, he said, so the Web site is the first introduction to the product. As a result, Fried and his team spent a lot of time making copy clear and easy to understand, while at the same time standing by their commitment to keep the number of pages low.
“What I am most proud of are our words,” he said. “We spent more time writing the copy than we did designing the site. We didn't just write to write.”
Text-driven navigation uses active language-as-links to explain what the product does and how it helps people communicate. Another new feature: logos of some of the company's more prominent clients, such as Adidas, Kellogg Co. and Sub-Zero.
“We wanted to give the product credibility and help people feel more secure using it,” Fried said. “The existing customers are a big part of why we have been successful, and we wanted to put that out there.”
Expert commentary—Nick Gould, CEO, Catalyst Group: Basecamp's visual design is very accessible and colorful, with lots of breathing space. The site sells the product experience well. You can get an instant feel of what it's like to use the application, and that's a wonderful thing. Too many software-as-a-service sites sell the product but bury the look of it, and that can be disappointing to a customer. The site also has a straight-forward use of language and tone, and it relies heavily on current customers to educate future customers.
|Smith & Fong Co.|