Paving digital desire paths

Desire paths are unofficial shortcuts that demonstrate how people tend to take the path of least resistance. As software designers, we can learn from urban planners: desire paths are a form of user feedback, and by taking users’ digital “desire paths” into account, we can create better software.

A desire path in Central Park created by many New Yorkers’ desire to get where they want to go a little faster. Photo credit: Katherine Duh.
A fence placed to try and block a desire path from forming at University of California, Berkeley. The student simply walking around the fence is likely contributing to the creation of a new desire path. Photo credit: Peter Merholz.
On the subreddit r/DesirePaths, enthusiasts share pictures of desire paths spotted in their daily lives. This desire path continues past where the sidewalk ends—clearly indicating pedestrians’ need for a safe footpath. Photo credit: u/superduper2099.
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