Path of least resistance

Ensure that your desired end result is on the easiest path through the process. Hide disclaimers in locations away from this path.

Examples

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Principles

You see desire lines in everyday life. Look at the landscaping around a university campus or in the parking lot of a shopping mall. If the landscaping happens to form a barrier between individuals and their destination, they will jump over it or forge a way through it.

Designers have been co-opting this natural inclination for some time. The (re)design of Central Park in New York and of the University of Oregon campus both relied on observing existing desire lines that people had worn into the ground, and then building proper paths at those locations.

How to design for the path of least resistance

  • Design and test desire lines on your web pages and promotional e-mails. Ensure that users’ eyes are drawn to the items you want them to see, and away from items you’d rather they didn’t see.
  • Move any mandatory disclosures far away from the path of least resistance.
  • Use low-contrast text in “dead” areas of the screen (top right, bottom left) to hide information. Alternatively, make it look like an advertisement so that people skip over it without reading it.
  • Label buttons with dynamic calls to action to encourage users to move forward without reading too much on the screen.
  • Make buttons large and colorful to attract attention toward moving forward rather than reading the current page.
  • Hide content by placing it beneath the action buttons on the page. When users find the action button, they’re ready to move on.

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