There are certain known and documented principles that apply to UIX design in general (and other things), such as DWIM, POLA, etc. I was wondering if there's a known and named principle for the following philosophy:

"If it is almost guaranteed that end-users will wrongly use a certain feature, and it is nearly impossible to restrict them from doing this, then it is better to expand that feature to fully support what they will try to do anyways so that the misuse is contained and done without unintended side-effects"

Here's an example scenario where this thinking applies:

  • Say that in a hypothetical application, users can quickly build a document using standard phrases that can be inserted using shortcuts and through a quick-search popup. For various reasons the frequency of usage of such phrases is logged.
  • Users can also add new phrases themselves. These phrases are intended to contain meaningful content, but it's a guarantee that users will start adding new items solely for formatting purposes (e.g. by adding newlines, common subheadings, domain-specific keywords, etc). These "special" items will clutter the usage logs as well as the quick-search feature.
  • To prevent this clutter, it seems wiser to just add an optional flag to the phrase creation/edit screen that indicates "this is for formatting only", so that we can filter out such items from the logs.

The fact that this principle may be in the "Common Sense" category doesn't mean it can't have a more specific name. I'm interested in whether it has a name.


I think the phrase you are looking for is "Pave the cowpaths". The concept of "desire lines" would also be relevant.

For this kind of thing in general (the "is there a name for this approach" kind of question) you could do worse than to look at Dan Lockton's "Design With Intent" toolkit. It's not the newest, and I think it could use some updates, but it's a handy way to cover a lot of different things.


I'm not giving you a named principle, but this is in the right direction:

Change how your interface behaves to conform to mismatched mental models. From NN Group

In case of a mental-model mismatch, you basically have two different options: Make the system conform to users' mental models — assuming most models are similar. This is the approach we usually recommend to fix IA problems: If people look for something in the wrong place, then move it to the place where they look for it.

I believe their statement extends beyond just how you categorize links - It also applies to functionality and behaviour of the interface.

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