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the path of least resistance


I’m reminded of that every time I walk past Highbury Fields in north London. It’s absolutely beautiful. There’s a big open green space.There’s Georgian buildings around the side. But then there’s this mud trap that cuts across the middle. People clearly don’t want to walk all the way around the edge. Instead, they want to take the shortcut, and that shortcut is self-reinforcing.

Now, this shortcut is called a desire path, and it’s often the path of least resistance. I find them fascinating, because they’re often the point where design and user experience diverge.

So our job is to watch for these desire paths emerging, and, where appropriate, pave them, as someone did here. Someone installed a barrier, people started walking across and round the bottom as you see, and they paved it.”

Finding the path of least resistance is not just relevant to design. Taken as an abstract notion, it throws an almost Zen-like perspective on doing things. Could be writing clean copy, efficient everyday problem-solving or “life hacks” that save time and trouble. No matter what aspect of life you’re trying to polish, that solution — the path of least resistance — has to be preceded by listening to the problem. It’s not as easy as it sounds to turn the eye inwards and try to be objective with yourself, or focus on what’s really needed within a cacophony of opinions and well-meaning advice. But often the solution is in the problem itself. Give it time and sincere attention. You’ll see it (and we can see less of such).



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