As you may know I find desire paths quite interesting from a user experience point of view. I came across this when I was out for my lunch time walk the other day. The original path arches round and people have just decided to walk across the grass in a straight line. It must save a matter of seconds, but it shows that people want to make their daily activities as easy as possible.
I recently came across a really interesting group on Flickr called ‘Desire Paths‘. Now if you are wondering what a desire path is then Wikipedia has a good explanation:
‘A desire path (also known as a desire line or social trail) is a path developed by erosion caused by footfall. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.’
The group admins description of desire paths is slightly more anti establishment:
“The key to the desire path is not just that it’s a path which one person or a group has made but that it’s done against the will of some authority which would have us go another, rather less convenient, way.”
While I had picked up on these little paths (sometimes very big paths) before I had never really given them much thought, I just used them. This is what good design should be, their use is intrinsic.
Naoto Fukasawa uses a term “without thought”. The basic premise is that people shouldn’t really have to think about an object when they are using it.
People shouldn’t really have to think about an object when they are using it. Not having to think about it makes the relationship between a person and an object run more smoothly. Finding ideas in people’s spontaneous behavior and realizing these ideas in design is what Without Thought is about.
This got me thinking about how this behaviour can relate to the way we design interactions and the impact good user research can have on a project.
For example when we design a new website it could be compared to creating a new path. If the basic structure and navigation of a website is incorrect, if it doesn’t align to the peoples goals, then users will get frustrated and won’t use the site to it’s full potential, or worse they wont use it all. Users should be able to flow through interactions ‘without thought’.
I believe that taking the time to carry out early research into users different behaviours and goals is incredibly important. In my opinion, whenever possible designers should work to discover what paths users want to follow and try to design with these insights in mind. This can help take you someway towards creating designs that are natural to use.
Photo credit wetwebwork