Open the Doors

February 22, 2022

A couple months ago Basecamp added a new feature they call “Doors” — it’s a an extension of the their “Cloud Files” linking feature but on the project and team level. Allowing for linking out to any URL directly from the list of tools. Along with this new functionality cloud files was expanded — adding numerous more supported services.

This is where the issue lies.

In both cases the user is wanting to add a link to an external service and in both cases the first thing the user must do is contend with a wall of options.

Library of Doors

If you looked at this screen at first glance you might think these are the only services that you can add — that isn’t the case, there is an “Other” option allowing for any URL to be used — but the initial UI doesn’t make this at all clear. Instead making the user scan a grid of icons and names trying to find the service they are using. For cloud files, the user is presented with a vertical list of monochromic icons and names making the required visual differences even less clear. A design that will only get harder to use as more services are supported.

The choice of the service as the first step only provides two pieces of functionality, first is adds a custom icon and two it adds the requirement that the added URL match the format of the given service. Both features could be facilitated with a single option “Add a door…” or “Add a cloud file…” where the user would be presented with a single field to paste their URL. Upon submitting it could be checked against known services and the icon automatically chosen or just the generic “link” icon could be used.

The main benefit is that the check on the URL could fail and fall back to a generic icon but the user would still be presented with requested outcome — a link to the external service. For example, when this feature first rolled out the iCloud file type wouldn’t accept shared Pages, Number, or Keynote links since they use special URLs that the iCloud service type wasn’t expecting — requiring them to be added as an “Other” link. I reported the issue and it was corrected in a few weeks.

There may be some hope — while collecting the above screenshot from the Basecamp updates blog, I noticed this internal message:


Without reading the internal post I’m just guessing — but with a title of “What if we turn the cloud-files flow around” it seems that someone inside Basecamp has at least a similar take to me on the above feature. That putting the burden of choice (especially when it isn’t required) on the user — isn’t the best flow.