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Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D

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On Desire Paths & Inclusive Design

About This Post

This post is currently a placeholder for a talk I am giving today, to a group of student developers who are looking to explore ideas for social impact. Learn more here and check back later today (and this week) for longer posts and updates

Update: Presentation Slides

Here are the slides from my talk - I'll also add a couple of posts to this series to expand on some of the ideas I talk about here:


My motivation for doing this talk is simple. I am a long-time mobile developer and researcher, and also a recent developer advocate at Microsoft, focused on mobile and fusion dev teams.

And over two decades I've seen the mobile landscape transform from a communications ecosystem (centered on the phone application) to an information appliance (focused on internet access) to a social appliance (focused on media creation) to almost an extension of self - where my mobile device is now my virtual assistant, my development environment, my entertainment complex, my personal album and a lot more.

The problem is that all mobile devices are not equal, all mobile environments are not consistent, and all mobile users are not identical. And so, as we keep evolving the ecosystem, we unwittingly grow the gap between what users want - and what they actually get.

Unless we become more intentional in our design-dev workflows, this gap will only continue to widen.

Desire Paths

Desire Paths are the organic trails created by natural human movement in a physical environment (like a college campus or a hiking trail). They emerge as preferred shortcuts or alternatives that are taken because the constructed paths are either non-existent or ineffective for that user's context.

Here's a a sketchnote on what desire paths are and how they relate to ideas like wayfinding

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The Design-Dev Workflow

Find this interesting? Check back here later this week for a longer essay (or series of posts) that break this down into a design-development workflow for building more inclusive mobile apps for next-generation devices and ecosystems.

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