Published: Jul 19 2021

Wayfinding, Wayfinding Software and Wayfinding Signage: Everything You Need to Know

The Basics of Wayfinding

What is wayfinding?

Wayfinding is a tool or suite of tools that works to help people navigate their physical environments and understand their location in space. A suite of wayfinding tools can include directions, symbols, colors, kiosks, maps and other communication tools that help viewers effectively find their desired locations. Today, these tools also integrate with wireless technologies, including mobile applications, digital displays and RFID.

Wayfinding is particularly useful in complex built environments that people must navigate effectively, including:

  • School campuses
  • Hospitals
  • Malls
  • Urban centers
  • Transportation facilities, including airports

In such places, wayfinding can not only build trust but also significantly boost the user’s sense of safety, security and overall agency. However, this will only work if the wayfaring tool is effectively planned and created to providing information at key points of the user’s journey.

What are the key principles of wayfinding?

Wayfinding will only work effectively if creators follow some key principals and best practices. For example, wayfinding creators should follow the following principles:

  • Create a clear, comprehensive and consistent visual communication system: Users should not have to think or guess about where they are or where they need to go. Instead, this information should be effectively delineated on the maps, kiosks, etc.
  • Don’t add extra information: To this end, users should only see what is needed, and this information should include location identities, landmarks and well-structured paths. All other excess information should be removed.

When these principals are followed, it is more likely that wayfinding users will be able to orient themselves in the built environment and navigate to their desired location.

What are 4 types of wayfinding signs?

When it comes to signage and information systems, there are four primary types of wayfinding signs to choose between: informational signs, directional signs, identification signs and warning signs:

  • Informational signs: Informational signs, like sign poles, provide basic information that can help you orient yourself and move toward your destination. They usually provide broader information than identification signs. For example, where an identification sign designates office areas – like a conference room or bathroom – the informational sign simply names the building. This can also include signs like “Free Wi-Fi.”
  • Directional signs: Directional signs quite literally point you in the right direction, helping you to way find effectively. Examples include junction signs (pointing you, for example, “left to conference rooms”) or colored direction lines on the floor.
  • Identification signs: Identification signs provide key information about locations and landmarks, including building names or door plaques. These identifiers help users understand where they are and when they have arrived at their desired location. In a building, this could be as simple as a “Conference room,” sign – or a “customer service” sign in a retail store.
  • Warning signs: These regulatory signs indicate any safety concerns and to set boundaries within a space. They can include things like fire escape routes, loitering signs or “employees only” placards.

In most instances, you will encounter a combination of all four types of signs, and they should work together to help you effectively navigate your physical space.

What is a wayfinding app?

A wayfinding app can be used in tandem with a space and meeting room reservation application to help people at work and on campus:

  • Schedule meetings
  • Add or remove participants
  • Update calendars
  • Find their way to meeting locations

What is a wayfinding kiosk?

A wayfinding kiosk is essentially a modern informational sign. Normally a tablet, these kiosks should be used primarily in atriums and entryways, and they should provide information about the:

  • Floor map
  • Building
  • Staff directory
  • Directional information

The Basics of Wayfinding Software

What are common wayfinding challenges that a robust wayfinding software can help with?

Many places – like school campuses, healthcare facilities and airports – are large, complex places that are difficult to navigate. Additionally, people at these locations are often rushing or under stress, both of which can make effective navigation even more difficult. An effective wayfinding system can help, providing easy-to-follow signage and clear directions that make navigating these places a breeze.

What are features of a strong wayfinding software?

There are many features of a wayfinding software that can help visitors and employees effectively navigate their physical spaces. Both end users and facility managers should look for features like:

  • Mobile capabilities: This refers to both mobile tools – like wayfinding kiosks and desk signs – and mobile wayfinding applications with tools like point-to-point navigation or SMS notifications. Overall, the right mobile support can ensure that wayfinding is effective, and that people can access their navigational information directly at their point of need.
  • Point-to-point directions: When it comes to wayfinding, the most important thing is that users can effectively and clearly navigate from point A to point B. Having this clear in the software will help.
  • SaaS applications: We live a multi-site, multi-device world, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Having a cloud-based wayfinding application can help meet mobile needs. That way, users can easily access their information and navigate on-the-go.
  • User-friendly interface: Consumers today expect to interact with intuitive, user-friendly interfaces – and this is certainly the case with wayfinding tools as well. That’s why it’s important to find a tool with features like 2D or 3D mapping, interactive directions, pinch and zoom functionalities, a “you are here” indicator and more. These software features can create a positive wayfinding experience and happy long-term users.
  • Analytics and intelligence: Real-time intelligence can help you better understand your space utilization, make fast decisions and improve the experience on your campus or office space.
  • Additional tools: Wayfinding “extras” like social media, news, weather and transit can help provide users with the all-in-one experience they’ve often become accustomed to.
  • Pushed updates: On the technical side, you also want a wayfinding tool that will update automatically to avoid out-of-date or incorrect maps. This includes software updates and information updates like changing office names, changing area names, etc.

Want to learn more about wayfinding and how it can work in tandem with your meeting and space scheduling software? Learn more about wayfinding with Accruent here.