System failure

if you run a seasonal business, then you have no excuse for not serving your customers effectively, no matter when they have a need.

For example, if you’re an accountant and deal mostly with income tax for individuals, you cannot complain to your clients about how busy you are during tax season.

If you are the student services office at a university and you know your busiest time of year is the three weeks either side of the first day of semester one, you have no excuse for not serving your students during this time.

If you cannot answer the phone during your busy season, it’s not your clients’ problem. It’s your problem. Because your clients, customers and collaborators don’t have three weeks to wait for you to pick up the phone. They’ll simply call the next option on their list. As long as their call is answered, you’ve lost a customer.

Desire paths

A Desire Path refers to ‘traces of use or wear that indicate preferred methods of interaction’ - Universal Principles of Design

Desire paths (or desire lines) can be seen anywhere that humans and animals move. In urban design, they often show up as ad-hoc pathways formed between or around actual paths that are more efficient, in seeming defiance of authority.

It only takes one individual to choose the more direct route for the ground to become a little flatter, a little more worn, to indicate to others that this is a path they can also choose to take.

Often we set up pathways for our customers, only to find that they consistently choose a different route. At first, we might perceive it as willful disregard for the superior pathway we so meticulously created for them. A nonchalant attitude to our expertise and experience.

The challenge is to recognize when your clients repeatedly choose a new path and to meet them where they are. To zoom out and look for the patterns, for the desire lines. And accept these new paths as the democratically chosen way.

Adapt then improve upon them.