Many times in life we can plan our way to highly optimal situations that don’t work out the way we want them to. They usually don’t account for human nature and the bumps that life provides to us all.

An example of this is the tree policy that many cities have these days. I know, tree policy? Why am I reading about a tree policy?

Anyhow, many cities have a policy of not planting similar species of trees next to each other1. The main reason for this is that if a pest that affects just one species of tree invades then all the city’s trees won’t be wiped out. Sounds like a great plan.

But then the human nature kicks in. And humans find it difficult to replace just one tree because a pest killed it. After all, there are four other trees right near by that are all healthy. No need to replace that one!

What ends up happening is that the city’s tree coverage slowly dwindles until it is next to nothing and someone finally notices after the benefits of the trees have been lost for years.

The optimal, logical solution to a problem doesn’t work with human nature.

I don’t think that anything designed for human use or with humans involved should be designed solely for efficiency. It should be designed for human nature, and in particular the nature of the humans that will be using it. What happens when the economy is bad, will a tree be replaced? What happens when your app’s user is tired, will they find a shortcut for the process?

Make plans for real life and real people.

  1. All the information about trees and city planning that I’m including here is based upon reading “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” by Jeff Speck several months ago.