I had lunch with a friend and her parents last weekend. Her father is a landscape architect so I couldn’t resist asking him about desire lines. Desire lines are the paths people make when they cut across a grassy area instead of following the prescribed walkway. Rather than discourage people from making their own way, landscape architects can opt to design walkways to accommodate the natural patterns formed after a period of use. It’s a nice illustration of an emergent design technique that’s obviously analogous to such techniques for web sites. However, he mentioned something that I hadn’t heard before — not only will they wait to see where the users prefer to go, but also they’ll take note of the more heavily worn and thus more popular paths. They’ll then design wider pathways for these high traffic areas. So, you might have the situation where the grandest building on say a college campus, might be the administration’s preference for a large, imposing walkway, but the usage patterns dictate that another building is the more popular. The result is the familiar negotiation between what the stakeholders want to project and what the users need.