Open plan offices are often sold as collaborative workspaces. However, without proper planning, they are little more than a cost saving measure that does nothing to foster collaboration. An open space with people seated shoulder to shoulder without thought given to layout or how the inhabitants might work together just becomes a noisy and distracting place to be. This is not the sort of environment where people can be productive and collaborate.

This is not to say that all open plan offices are bad places to work. Some organizations design their spaces with collaboration in mind. Aarron Walter describes the thought process behind designing the MailChimp design studio–there are some excellent ideas there. He also recommends a book, Make Space, on the subject.

In Hire by Auditions, Not Resumes Matt Mullenweg writes about auditioning candidates at Automattic. The concept, in a nutshell, is to experience the candidate’s work and style with a trial period. During this time, the candidate is given actual work and paid an hourly rate. The candidate can do the work on nights and weekends, so they need not quit their current job–this is not a standard probationary period.

I’ve been on both sides of evaluations such as design exercises and programming tests. They are useful, but carried out as a step in a typical interview process, don’t allow much time for evaluation. These auditions seem like a much better way to vet employees and the additional work required to manage this process should payoff with decreased turnover.

via MA.TT

Does this design review meeting dialog (by Brad Frost) from sound familiar?

SCENE: A design review meeting. Laptop screens. Coffee cups.

Project manager: Hey, did you get my email with the assets we’ll be discussing?
Client: I got an email from you, but it looks like there’s no attachment.
PM: Whoops! OK. ’m resending the files with the attachments. Check again?
Client: OK, I see them. It’s homepage_v3_brian-edits_FINAL_for-review.pdf, right?
PM: Yeah, that’s the one.
Client: OK, hang on, Bill’s going to print them out. (3-minute pause. Small talk ensues.)
Client: Alright, Bill’s back. We’re good to start.
Brian: Oh, actually those homepage edits we talked about last time are in the homepage_v4_brian_FINAL_v2.pdf document that I posted to Basecamp earlier today.
Client: Oh, OK. What message thread was that in?
Brian: Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s in “Homepage Edits and Holiday Schedule.”
Client: Alright, I see them. Bill’s going back to the printer. Hang on a sec…

Unfortunately, this is how things tend to go–and this only describes the meeting. Outside of meetings, much more time is wasted on a typical design project be it chasing down the latest version of assets, or trying to find a decision/approval in an email thread.

There are many tools that attempt to solve this problem, but I appreciate the transparency and simplicity of the Project Hubs Brad describes. I’ve been a fan since I saw him use it on an open redesign project. The implementation of this can be quite simple, and there is timeline template on Github if you don’t want to create your own.

A List Apart has released the results of their web design survey:

In April 2007, A List Apart and An Event Apart conducted a survey of people who make websites. Close to 33,000 web professionals answered the survey’s 37 questions, providing the first data ever collected on the business of web design and development as practiced in the U.S. and worldwide.

A List Apart also provides the anonymized, raw data from the survey. If you’re up for it, you could make your own fun charts to justify a raise to your boss.

via Vitamin News