Desire lines

By Vicki Ball

Desire lines is the name given to a path made by the erosion of many people walking along the same trail- sometimes completely ignoring existing paths established by designers and architects.

You can learn more about them from Wikipedia or this article.

It’s a lovely name, given to an interesting idea. Often these desire lines represent the most direct or the easiest path from A to B.

“…those well-worn ribbons of dirt that you see cutting across a patch of grass, often with nearby sidewalks ignored—particularly those that offer a less direct route. In winter, desire lines appear spontaneously as tramped down paths in the snow. I love that these paths are never perfectly straight. Instead, like a river, they meander this way and that, as if to prove that desire itself isn’t linear and (literally, in this case) straightforward.”

Concepts that apply to the “paths” that we design for people on our websites and applications. When we imagine a “user” we picture some sort of logical, almost robotic, person- one whom we believe has the same destination in mind as ourselves.

But what desire lines are our users really following? Unfortunately, websites are not like grassy landscapes that obviously show (to us or other users) what paths people are following.

Is there a way we can show these pathways to ourselves and others?

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