You’d think we’d learn… about desire paths.

Dear Folks,

Merry new rock around the sun friends. You’d think we’dve learned by now about desire lines. You’d think I’d have learned about resolutions, bwah ha ha ha.

So here goes a New Years resolution in public blog format: I vow to be funny more often and write a blog post every 2 months this year, that is 6 whopping posts. Now you might think this sounds small and silly folks, but I’ll correct’ya right now. I have averaged 1 to 2 blog posts a year for the last two years. So the track record isn’t particularly fantastic. I had a holiday, and I focused on the sunshine, the garden, the food, and an occasional swim or stretch for the last 2 weeks. Now I am rearing and ready as freddy to dive into 2019. This will be the year of being funny and 6, count them, 6 blog posts. Here is the first, plus its funny!

So now onwards to the funny bit.

I want to share with you a super serious professional user experience researcher joke:

Why did the fancy chicken cross the road?

Fancy Chicken
This is an incredibly fancy chicken. Imagine it crossed the road. Why would it do that?





To get to the other side, as directly as possible…  because the desire path ran right through it!

Get it? the desire path… ran right through it?

Desire lines are the paths of desired journey, or sometimes most direct line of sight, or least resistance / low caloric cost. they’ve got heaps of names, mostly, the shortcut.

“Desire lines, also known as cow paths, pirate paths, social trails, kemonomichi(beast trails), chemins de l’âne (donkey paths), and Olifantenpad (elephant trails), can be found all over the city and all over the world, scarring pristine lawns and worming through forest undergrowth. They appear anywhere people want to walk, where no formal paths have been provided. (Sometimes they even appear despite the existence of formal paths, out of what seems to be sheer mulishness—or, perhaps, cowishness.) Some view them as evidence of pedestrians’ inability or unwillingness to do what they’re told; in the words of one academic journal, they “record collective disobedience.” Others believe that they reveal the inherent flaws in a city’s design—the places where paths ought to have been built, rather than where they were built. For this reason, desire lines infuriate some landscape architects and enrapture others. They also fascinate scholars, inspire artists, and enchant poets. There is a fifty-five-thousand-member-strong Reddit thread dedicated to them, in which new posts appear daily with impassioned titles like “Desire never ends” and “Don’t tell me where to go.” People seem to relish discovering odd new desire lines, the more illogical the better, and theorizing about what desire they express.”

You have most definitely seen one, or walked one before. You know when the sidewalk or pavement you are walking on goes on straight and you want to take a shortcut through the diagonal of an empty field? Only to discover that there is a dirt pathway there from all the other hundreds of pairs of feet that had the same shortcut desire of treading that path too? A desire path is the wearing down and erosion we create by many humans wanting to follow a more desirable / shorter pathway rather that the silly designers or architects straight and inefficient sidewalks or pavements.

Some truly empathetic and innovative designers and architects nowadays leave the space around a building grass for a year and see what desire paths develop over the usage for a periods of time, and then later on have the sidewalks installed to match the desire lines people already made. Neat huh? Smart huh? Good experience design right-o.

It turns out that,

Fancy chickens cross the road just like any other chicken, to get to the other side. 

Ciao for now,



More on Desire paths / Desire lines:


Why should you do user experience at the highest corporate level?

Why should you do user experience at the highest corporate level?

You should do it at every level in your organisation and everyone should own it.

It is a damned good question. One that is in the hearts, minds, and wallets of  many executives. The ever-increasing community of CI, CX, UX, UI, UCD, DE, etc. practioners are all scrambling to get their ideas included in discussions at increasingly higher stratas of companies. It is our newest incarnation of “the customer is always right” philosophy: new and improved, specially tailored to our rapid, demanding, technological, complex, and abstract world. After all it is harder to understand your customer when they aren’t coming in to have a chat at your shop like in the old days. Business is big and the public is savvy.  The battle for what we want is getting tougher for both businesses and consumers. Business competition is rough and the world’s economic challenges aren’t making it any easier. Consumers are being bombarded by insane amounts of messaging all demanding behaviour changes and dollars from their hard-earned pay checks. Then why don’t we work together to  create mutually beneficial situations? Like Apple, makers of what consumers want: an ecosystem that eliminates decisions regarding logistics and focuses all your decisions on content wrapped in an intuitive package. That is a very mutually beneficial situation and the sales say it all.

Everyone’s interactions with each other, spaces, devices, and almost everything in our increasingly modern world is growing at astronomical rates (see any info-graphic representation of how much email, Facebook, Twitter, sms, YouTube activity has grown over the last 5 years, I can recommend dozens). You can’t just take your customer out of their highly connected information dense environment and study them in a lab. You also cannot just go around asking customers what they want all willy nilly. Too many risks are involved. Did you get the right people? Did you ask the right questions? Did you get insights from the customers that impact what you are trying to do?  Too many people have to contribute too much time to research, create, and sell, for businesses to go firing shots in the dark, that costs a lot of money. We need structured approaches to tackle these problems and we need them to be proven in the field and in the battle for behaviour change. That approach exists and it has many names: CI, CX, UX, UI, UCD, DE, etc.  These are all the exact same thing, a user or customer centric approach to conducting business and creating new assets. Those folks at the top of bog organisations might look at all this and dig in their heels proclaiming, “Those are project or implementation level concerns, I do strategy… BIG strategy. We engage stakeholders just fine to drive that big strategy.” Thank you very much, come again. Well Madame or Sir Big Strategy I have some news for you. However you have been “engaging stakeholders” in the past is fine, but there are systematic and scientific ways to maximise your return on investment in engaging stakeholders. In other words, you are not getting your money’s worth, yet. You might do UX at the lower functional levels, but if incentives, key performance indicators, and overall  management support does not align with a core UX philosophy then what is the point? The awesome UX  will be a one-off affair or the change will revert as soon as you are done. Your money will be like a flash in the pan with no sustained effect. People involved will disengage and become quickly disenchanted with being customer centric if the impact is not evident and lasting. To counteract these risks UX must be embedded and supported throughout all levels of the business’s strategy and management.

You and your customers are in the same boat and making your customer experience strategy the core of the decision-making process will get you both rowing in the same direction. 

One Stop Blogging: What is User Experience (UX)?

Unfortunately, I don't know who to credit for this awesome image. If you know who please let me know.

Here begins a series of blogposts entitled “One Stop Blogging.” These posts will provide a crash course in top picks of videos and articles to absorb while tuning into the hip world of user experience, design thinking, and “cool stuff other people are doing that might make me rethink how I do stuff.”

Today’s topic: What is User Experience?

I’ve not only provided you with a variety of sources and perspectives on the topic, but the bottom of the list you will find some sources that might not traditionally fit into UX work. Trust me they are all important and rather pertinent to sustainable and holistic user experience practices.

Ready to crash this course? GO!

The ROI of User Experience with Dr. Susan Weinschenk

5 UX meltdowns and how to avoid them with Dr. Eric Schaffer

UX Enterprise: the Future of UX Work with Dr. Eric Schaffer

UX and UI, Chicken and Egg

A World Without Usability (Used to play in Australia, no longer the case)

10 Usability Heuristics


RSA Animate – The Secret Powers of Time

Quickly understand the mechanics of choice overload from Sheena Iyengar.

Rehearsing Your Strategic Story