Sliver (thesliver) wrote,

Desire Lines

J taught me something yesterday. We went to Worcester to shop and have something to eat before going to the ballet and parked up in the car park towards Shrub Hill which is just by the canal. Its a relatively new car park and there's a path that runs from the bridge over the canal down onto the towpath that passes by at the lowest point and the most direct path to the road for the pedestrian. And its fenced off, there is no way round except by the planned entrance.

If it wasn't fenced off then there's no doubt that there would be a well worn, if muddy in the wet, path tramped by all the people that used their heads and worked out which was the best route for them.

In Planning these are called Desire Lines, the routes that people prefer over and above whatever it is that Planners would themselves prefer.

Which started me thinking as we trundled around Worcester how that applies to software and to the interfaces we allow people to use.

The original posting in the new journal is here

In the software I've written in the past and especially when I've been responsible for the interface I have explicitly included many routes through the interface. I've used menus, buttons on forms, keystrokes and toolbars to get to the same form, the same functionality from as many places as I could think of.

Sometimes those paths haven't been signified at all well and often some of the routes were suggested by users rather than myself after using the software and quite often I've found users navigating through software in ways that might seem to be less than optimal to myself but to them followed the internal map of the application that they'd formulated for themselves and which according to that map made it the most understandable route.

I can't claim any credit for doing this religiously, I follow my own Desire Lines in the creation of the software, I make well travelled paths that make sense to me. In designing interfaces, realising that other people have different Desire Lines even perhaps counter intuitive ones feels like it could be the difference between a well accepted application and one which is grudgingly used because it has some overriding requirement that makes using them necessary.

It feels as if making Desire Lines for individuals possible should make it easier for those individuals to fall in love with the application. At the same time signifying those Desire Lines could become very confusing in itself.

Falling in and out of love with products and applications is something I've been thinking a lot about recently.

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