Hill Charts

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What's a Hill Chart?

When projects require problem solving, you can’t track progress with to-dos alone. To-dos show what’s done and not done. They don’t show what’s unknown and where the team is getting stuck.

Before someone can complete a task they first have to figure out how to do it. There’s an “uphill” phase where they learn what’s possible and try out different approaches before settling on the right direction.

Once work is “over the hill,” you can count on it happening. The unknowns are gone and estimates become believable.

Hill Charts give you a bird's eye view of what's moving forward with confidence and what isn't. You'll know exactly where to jump in and troubleshoot — without all the meetings it usually takes to figure out what's going on.

We created Hill Charts to give you a quick, flexible visualization of where your projects stand, and what questions need to be answered in order to keep progress moving.

Tracking a to-do list on a Hill Chart

To track an individual to-do list with a Hill Chart, click the name of a to-do list and then choose “Track this on the Hill Chart” from the ••• options menu:

Screenshot of a to-do list with a red arrow pointing at the Track this on the Hill Chart option in the options menu

After enabling Hill Charts for at least one list, To-dos will look a bit different. Each tracked list will get a colourful dot beside it and it will appear on the Hill:

Screenshot of To-dos tool page with Hill Chart for multiple lists at the top

You can check and uncheck what to-do lists are tracked on a Hill Chart in settings:

Screenshot of To-dos tool page with a red arrow pointing at the Hill Chart settings in the options menu

If you uncheck all of the lists there, you'll remove the Hill Chart entirely. When enabled, you'll also see the Hill Chart on the To-dos tool card:

Screenshot of the project page where you can see the Hill Chart on the To-dos tool card

NOTE: Clients will see any to-do lists that you've marked as visible to them, but they will not see the Hill Chart.

Updating a Hill Chart

The dots on a Hill Chart won't move automatically — you adjust them as you go. To move the dots, click the Update button:

Screenshot of the Hill Chart with a red arrow pointing at the Update button in the upper left corner

While updating a Hill Chart you can do the following:

  1. Drag the dots you need to their new position.
  2. Add an optional note, providing some context for the progress you've made or the roadblocks you've hit.
  3. Choose who to notify about your Hill Chart update. You can notify just the folks working on the project, everyone who can see the project, or no one at all.

Screenshot of the Hill Chart update with 3 steps indicated - 1) Drag each dot to adjust its position on the chart 2) Notes section where you can add extra details about the update, and 3) When I post this, notify section

When you choose to notify someone, they'll see an entry in their Hey! menu. Clicking this line will take them directly to the Hill Chart Progress page where they can see the latest changes (and the full history):

Screenshot of the Hey! menu with a Hill Chart: Progress update notification

For people receiving email notifications, they'll get an email with the text as well as a link to the full update.

In cases where the project is active but the Hill Chart is not updated, we'll show a reminder about it at the top:

Screenshot of the Hill Chart with the reminder at the top that says It's been a while since the last update

Progress History

You can review all of the updates to a Hill Chart and see how your work is progressing over time. Use the arrows in the upper right corner to quickly go through the updates:

Screenshot of the Hill Chart with a red arrow pointing at the hill chart arrows in the upper right corner that allow you to quickly go through the updates

You can also check individual update by clicking the "Read the update" link under a user's name or click the "See history" at the top to go to the Hill Chart progress feed. Updates are grouped by date, can be commented on, and even Boosted:

Screenshot of the Hill Chart Progress page where you can see a feed of updates sorted by date

Want to delete or edit an update? You can do that from the ••• options menu in the upper right:

Screenshot of the Hill Chart Progress page showing you how you can edit notes for an update or delete the update altogether

Are you a product development team? You may want to check out Shape Up. You'll see firsthand how the team at Basecamp uses Hill Charts and other specific techniques to address the risks and unknowns at each stage of the product development process.

Next up: Schedule →

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