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Wayfinding 101

Dec 16, 2010 12:06 PM, By Maria Porco

Digital signage is more than just directions.

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 Case Study: Wayfinding in Action

Digital wayfinding

Digital wayfinding technology is not only useful to users navigating large facilities, it provides an additional revenue stream and cuts costs associated with printed information, which can quickly go out of date.

There are several different types of digital wayfinding applications, but they all share one common goal: to help visitors of a facility find their way around. It’s particularly challenging in larger, multibuilding facilities such as convention centers, medical facilities, or university and corporate campuses.

Answering the Need

Traditionally, wayfinding in facilities such as convention centers has relied on paper signage, where conference attendees navigate a facility based on a printed site map or a large poster that directs them to their meeting room, while paper agendas outside conference rooms confirm that they have arrived at the correct place. This approach has obvious drawbacks: The meeting’s time or location may change, which means reprinting and posting new schedules and maps for visitors. Not only does this increase printing costs for the event organizers, but if the changes aren’t posted in time, attendees can become confused or frustrated.

Digital signage has the ability to completely transform wayfinding in convention centers, hotels, and other facilities. Digital wayfinding provides easier navigation and an improved experience for attendees while saving hotel staff time and money on printing, posting, and updating maps and schedules.

Types of Maps

The most basic type of digital wayfinding is a simple map of an area, similar to Google Maps, presented as a static graphic on a digital screen. A static map allows the viewer to situate themselves in regard to their desired location and find their own way. A step up from this would be an interactive map, where the visitor can select the end destination. This provides the viewer with basic directions in a graphical fashion from point A to point B. Finally, there are interactive maps that provide a three-dimensional view of the facility. These higher-end maps show users how to get to their destination with an improved perspective, making it much easier for them to orient themselves. They also provide additional information on other amenities the facility offers along the way.

Source of Revenue

As an additional source of revenue, digital wayfinding maps can be augmented with advertising from businesses within the facility or near it. For example, if a visitor at a convention center is looking for directions from conference room A to conference room B, logos can be shown of businesses they will pass along the way, such as a Starbucks or a FedEx office. The start and end points on the map can also feature a video or image from corporate sponsors, providing branded messaging relevant to the visitor. Advertisements for local attractions and restaurants can also be placed in areas around the map. It is important, however, to prevent the screen from becoming too cluttered, which overwhelms the viewer and detracts from the overall experience.

Mobile Interactivity

Of course, looking at a wayfinding map doesn’t ensure that the viewer will remember the directions after they walk away from the screen. As a solution, digital wayfinding can also be augmented with connectivity to mobile devices, such as cell phones. Users simply email directions from the interactive screen directly to their phones, allowing them to view turn-by-turn directions or the map as they go.

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