You want to make it easy for people to get around your corporate or college campus. Printed signs seem out of date, can physically degrade, and are expensive and time consuming to update. In a dynamic modern space, digital wayfinding is a better solution – it gives the visitor a more engaging self-service solution that can be updated regularly. But what kind of wayfinding is right for you? Let’s look at some options and their pros and cons.
Static Digital Signage
If you don’t need interactivity, and your physical locations are fairly easy to navigate, this might be the right choice. You can incorporate it into your existing digital signage deployment as soon as you have the messages designed.
Your wayfinding messages will show a map and then maybe a list of rooms, people or events. Or you could have a map in one content zone with the other information being pulled in to another from you CMS or directory.
Make the maps easy to understand with a good “you are here” indicator and think about what people might need to know in order to get to where they want to get to. Don’t clutter the message with too much or unnecessary information, but make sure to have just enough to help them on their way.
Make sure your maps are attractive as well as simple. Think about making wayfinding messages full screen and have them repeat frequently in the playlist.
- Less expensive displays
- No coding required
- Good for small facilities
- Can be used almost immediately
- No personalized wayfinding experience for visitors (like routes)
- Requires thoughtful design for readability
- Should have a detailed plan that anticipates audience questions at key locations
- Can get lost when mixed with other items in a playlist
Interactive Touchscreens & Kiosks
With this option, a world of possibilities opens up. A lot of information can be accessed using touchscreens – just like on a website. Visitors can choose between several different maps, alter the orientation, and sift between various directory types (staff, locations, events, departments, etc.). You can even add extras like real-time maps and schedules for shuttles or public transportation, or queuing systems. Basically, you supply the data, and your audience decides what to access. You can even have an interactive legend, so people can highlight important destinations like restrooms, elevators or emergency exits.
Wall-mounted touchscreens are great, but think about floor-standing kiosk models as well. They can go just about anywhere you like and are perfect for high traffic locations like lobbies, elevator banks and waiting areas. And because they are physically lower to the ground, they are often more ADA compliant that other interactive screens.
Some organizations expand the concept of interactive by including SMS options in their system – sending point-to-point directions directly to people’s phones – or QR codes that let people download campus maps or go to a webpage.
Unlike static digital wayfinding, interactive wayfinding lets you create accurate route maps and point-to-point directions from the touchscreen to the destination. You can even have multiple languages available – accessed just by touching a button on screen.
You’ll need some backend coding for interactive wayfinding, so ask if your digital signage vendor has professional services in place to create a project that’s tailored to your facility and needs.
- Personalized wayfinding experience for visitors
- Fit more information on screen
- Include a variety of directories to choose from
- Feed events info from your calendar app for real-time updates
- Use hot spots to launch other applications or playlists
- Incorporate text messaging and QR codes
- More expensive displays
- Requires experienced designers and developers
- More time required for design, development and implementation
Responsive Mobile Wayfinding
This option takes your interactive kiosk project and makes it available on the web. With this method, the SMS link or QR code you provide can direct visitors to a responsive version of the project they can carry with them on their phones or tablets. Because HTML5 is responsive, it adjusts to whatever screen size it’s displayed on. A mobile site is something your audience will already be comfortable with, since people today are used to accessing information on their mobile devices.
You won’t need as many touchscreens or kiosks if you use this option. Basically, you co-opt screens people already have with them into being part of your wayfinding. They still have the full resources of your interactive wayfinding, but can take them with them when they walk away from your screens.
Some design features will have to be different for this. You won’t be able to show a “you are here” indicator or route paths, since the screen itself will be moving around and changing locations quickly. You should skip including message playlists, but can still highlight popular destinations. You’ll also have to rethink button size and placement for phone screens.
- All the advantages of interactive shown above
- Could need fewer kiosks
- Allows visitors to take wayfinding with them
- Looks good and easy to navigate on all screen sizes
- Requires additional design and development
- Dependent on visitors to access the site online
- Visitors need internet access (wi-fi, etc.)
How to Choose
Regardless of which option you choose, you need to consider your facility size, staff and budget. Also think about whether you might expand your facility later, or increase the coverage of your wayfinding offering. Get a digital wayfinding system that is powerful, easy to use and update, and is flexible and expandable.
Budget – What type of hardware can you afford? Will you get more bang for your buck with one interactive display in the lobby or multiple displays around campus? What kind of fees are involved in the development, implementation and upkeep of your project?
Staffing – How many people and what skills will you need to launch your wayfinding? Do you have designers or developers on staff? Are they experienced in map design, databases and app development? Who will manage the project? Who will update it?
Facility – How complex are your maps and how many of them do you need? What’s the natural traffic flow, and how congested will areas with wayfinding kiosks be? Will your audience be best served by a single screen, multiple screens at various locations, mobile wayfinding, or a combination of these?
Directories – How many types of destinations do you want to offer visitors? Do you want to show lists of buildings, rooms, departments, staff or events? How will you feed the directory information to your displays? Are you already using a database program? Who will be responsible for updates?
Value-adds – Do you want to just have wayfinding maps and directions, or do you want to include other options on screens? Should you show daily messages or visitor welcomes?
And, of course, put yourself into the visitors’ shoes and think about the user experience:
- What kind of experience would you want to have?
- What information would you want when you walk into an unfamiliar space?
- If you can only have one kiosk, will people have to wait in line to use it?
- Do you want people to be able to access wayfinding when they walk away from the screen?
- How much burden will you put on the audience to access wayfinding information?
Walk around your facility pretending to be a visitor, and see what they will need to have the best experience possible. The only thing more irritating than no wayfinding at all is bad wayfinding. But a well-thought-out digital wayfinding system creates a great impression, provides a superior visitor experience, and will continue to engage your visitors each and every time they come back.