It is true that there is an increasing number of tools being developed to help you and your team collaborate and get things done efficiently. There is a tried and true champion of this realm however, and that is Basecamp, developed by 37Signals. A lot of people are aware of Basecamp, but what you may not know if you’re not a regular user is that it recently underwent a massive redesign, to the point where the service was rebranded as “Basecamp Next” and functioned separately from the original (with a separate API and everything).
As a user of Basecamp Next nearly since it’s launch, I’m pleased to say that the first iOS app to support the new service has finally been released. Today, we’re going to look at Lodge, developed by Rounded Development, and see how well it brings Basecamp Next to the iPhone.
In the interest of full disclosure, I first sat down to review Lodge several weeks ago, when version 1.0 was available on the App Store. And to be perfectly candid, while the app was functional, it was also hideous. The icon was lackluster, and the interface was clumsy. I can only fault Rounded so much for that though, because it was the first and only option available for working with Basecamp Next on the iPhone.
Before we published that writeup, I noticed that Rounded had plans for a complete overhaul of the design, and after a exchanging a few tweets with the developers regarding the release date, I opted to wait for the update before running the review. Well, so much changed that my original assessment had to be scrapped entirely, but let me just say that I am very glad that we waited.
The UI overhaul was exactly what Lodge needed to become an app that I wanted to use on my device. The interface makes use of the side-style menus that you might be used to using in apps like Facebook, which work much better than the drill-in-drill-out style menus that were common in the early days of iOS development. The bland bi-chromatic design of Lodge 1.0 has been replaced with gorgeous wood textures and elements that provide a sense of depth without creating an unnecessarily complex skeuomorph.
Once I was able to get over the staggering improvements to the UI, I finally dug into the functionality of the app.
You are able to see all of the projects of which you are member from a single screen, which also indicates the last time a particular project was updated. Tapping on one will bring you to that project’s hub, where you can manage todos and see things such as documents and calendars.
There is an almost universally present “+” button on the top bar that, when tapped, provides you with the option to create a new list or a new to-do within the current project. There is also a handy Me view now, which filters out items from various to-do lists and discussion threads that are assigned to other people, so you can easily see only the interactions of which you are a part.
The buttons across the bottom provide iconic access to Basecamps various functions, like documents and calendars. While the original version of Lodge had very little support for file attachments, version 2.0 adds support for nine different file types in the Files tab, from simple PDFs to iWork and Office documents.
My tests found a few of the functions, such as creating and manipulating to-do list items, to be slightly buggy, but not overly annoying. Even though this is version 2.0, the app is still fairly new, and as I mentioned above, still the first to use Basecamp Next’s API, so I’m willing to cut them a little bit of slack in terms of performance. And even with some finicky issues, the app still gives me access to all of the information I need, effectively eliminating the requirement for me to ever even visit the Basecamp webpage when I’m away from my desk.
The original iteration of Lodge left me wanting more and feeling a little torn. However, now that the app seems to be coming into it’s own (and continues to be the only Basecamp Next application for iPhone, to my knowledge), I can say that I’m impressed with what Rounded is doing and I look forward to seeing what will happen in the future. It’s still not quite perfect (I so badly want Headquarters to come back), but it’s getting there.
The UI overhaul and complete redesign of the entire app has more than made up for the $5 price tag, so give it a shot and let us know what you think!