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The Science of Wayfinding

18 June 2017

Finding your way through a store, a shopping centre, a hospital or a school isn’t always simple. Large buildings are by their very nature, confusing to navigate, and relying on signs alone can’t always help customers thread their way through your property to find you.

The ability to find a way through a building can be affected by many different elements – interaction with employees, the actual signage, physical barriers directing people in one direction instead of another, and perhaps even poor design of the building.

Poor wayfinding can negatively impact businesses and organisations.

In retail, poorly designed shopping centres prevent customers from being able to reach stores or access products. If they don’t know where to go or find difficulty in navigating their way to your store, why would they want to visit your store? This leads to a dive in branding and loyalty, and wastes retailers’ investment in advertising and staff training. With a continuous lack of customers making it to the stores, the retail business could soon fail.

In healthcare, poor wayfinding renders patients unable to navigate complex buildings. Staff may be constantly side-tracked from their jobs because they are escorting patients through the building, leading to lowered productivity and reduced morale.

Designing a proper wayfinding system isn’t just about signage. An experienced wayfinding professional will take a wide variety of factors into account when designing a solution.

This includes, in the first instance, determining where and why customers are getting held up when finding their way through to you. Are directions unclear? Are there no directions? If customers are being held up at the first point of contact with the business, it is then important to look for the obstacle causing this initial hold up.

Subsequently, further investigation by the wayfinding specialist will ascertain what other barriers deeper within the business contribute to this. Are physical barriers or design flaws present that may compound issues with wayfinding? Are signs properly displayed in prominent locations to overcome this? It may be that signs are clearly displayed at the entrance to the business, but is there continuity all the way through the premises, or do they cease to exist?

Removing frustration, and increasing the smooth flow of traffic through your site or building is achievable with wayfinding that is consistent throughout the property. This is why good wayfinding systems is like a science. They are differentiated according to industry and the type of facility, influenced by the perspective and requirements of the users, and take into consideration the requirements of the facility. These factors are important to informing the appropriate wayfinding strategy and correct signage solution.

How can good wayfinding further improve your site? Chat now with Programmed to find out how.

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