Creating Your Wayfinding Signage Program

Smart Wayfinding Programs Make Better Customer Experiences

Exterior wayfinding for Baptist Medical Center

It seems simple enough, visitors to your location need help finding their way around your business park, campus, or residential area. So you need a wayfinding program that can help them find their way. But it isn’t as simple as it might appear. Here are some things to consider before investing in your wayfinding program.

Know Your User

First, you need to know your most common first-time visitors and what they are most likely to be looking for.
Campus wayfinding signage at Jacksonville University

  • Who are your visitors?
  • Where do they arrive at your location?
  • How they get from place to place?
  • Are they on foot or in a vehicle?
  • What kind of person are they? Do they respond to imagery and maps or text and arrows? Do they have an appointment or are they in a more leisurely context?

Interior or Exterior

If your wayfinding program mainly lives along paths or roads outside, it will require different materials and methods than an interior program.

Exterior Wayfinding Signage at Disney World

Architectural exterior wayfinding Harbinger custom manufactured for Disney World.

  • Are the signs in a covered area?
  • How exposed to elements will they be?
  • If interior, are they regularly cleaned? What cleaning products will be used?

Choosing the right inks, surfaces and treatments are important for the longevity of your sign program.

Readability – Typography & Content

The size and amount of information should always be as little as is necessary to retain focus and consider the visitors own schedule and the size of the text needs to consider the distance and velocity of the visitor. Someone driving 25 mph past signs in a business park has a different set of needs than someone navigating the corridors of a hospital on foot. It is important to consider these things when deciding on typeface and letter sizing to maximize readability.

Multiplicity of Users & Destinations

How many different users need to be directed by each sign. If you have multiple destinations for various visitors, how many touch points do you need to make sure your visitor doesn’t get confused and frustrated before they even arrive? Your design team needs an understanding of each potential user so the program can provide clarity and consistency to get each person to their destination smoothly.

Design & Delight

A strong wayfinding program will effortlessly guide your visitor to the destination they seek and re-enforce your brand identity. It should use colors and visual clues that re-assure the visitor they are reading signs intended for them based on the consistency between your brand’s appearance based on what they’ve seen from your brand previously. And if the wayfinding program made them feel comfortable and certain that they are on the right path, they will arrive delighted and likely not even realize that the wayfinding program helped them feel confident and ready for a fulfilling experience.

Exterior directional sign at The Cummer Museum

If your company works with a design firm or designer, bring your sign provider onto your design team as early as possible. Your program will get the most benefit from an understanding of your brand elements, the challenges presented by your specific location, and the sign designers input on materials, processes, and capabilities. This will make sure everyone has all of the information they need to set benchmarks and create the most effective wayfinding program.

User Testing

Before you fabricate anything, do some user-testing. Invite people that have never been to your location before to come by and give them a scenario that matches your proposed target visitor.

  • Where do they naturally go?
  • Observe where they hesitate or appear to have questions. This can help you determine touch points with an understanding of how they naturally approach the journey.
  • Put temporary signs in place and observe which ones are noticed and how much time people spend trying to understand the proposed content of the sign system.
  • When they get to their destination, ask them questions about what worked and what confused them. Note what they didn’t see on the signs they looked at or signs that weren’t seen at all.

All of this data will help your finished program be more effective.

Digital Wayfinding

A traditional wayfinding signage program could just be the start of the most effective possible wayfinding program. Consider also the proliferation of smart phones. If some of your visitors are likely to be millennials or digital natives, you may want to supplement your wayfinding sign program with a digital wayfinding program.

Some Digital Opportunities for Wayfinding:

  • Create a web-based app that can guide visitors to their destination while they are on their mobile device.
  • Incorporate beacon or GPS technology to notify visitors at specific touch points. This provides even more guidance for the visitor that is texting while they walk and not paying attention to physical signage.
  • For interior digital wayfinding, consider touchscreen digital signage that lets visitors select their own destination from an options screen and provides customized directions. This level of engagement could also make it possible for guests to check in for their appointment as soon as they walk in the front door of your facility with an elegant kiosk.
  • Maybe you have an attendant at the front door. Could they loan your guest a tablet that would lead them to their destination? What other efficiencies could this make possible to help them achieve their goals?

There are a number of new technologies that can provide an array of conveniences to make your wayfinding program more effective, elegant, and delightful to a broader base of users. Just be careful not to complicate the experience so much for ancillary users that your primary users get lost.

Google Tools

googlebusinessWhen you first approach your wayfinding program, think also about how they get to your property.

  • Is your facility registered in Google+ and Google Maps? Did you know you could Google Map your facility?
  • Have you considered Google Business View? An authorized Google photographer will come and capture panoramic imagery of the interior of your facility. This way someone could map their entire journey before they even leave their home and know exactly what to expect when they arrive.
  • Bing and Yahoo! also have similar features that are often free or inexpensive.

Social Networks

Does your business have a Facebook page or FourSquare listing? Are you hosting an event? Have you created a Facebook event? This way, when the guest arrives, they can check in and their networks can be aware of your business or event. FourSquare also provides location information for a number of social networks including Twitter and Instagram. So claiming your location in FourSquare can make you present and share-able in a number of online resources.

Always Be Testing

Even after your wayfinding signage has been fabricated and installed and any digital programs have been launched, continue to talk to guests to determine complaints or anxieties that weren’t addressed by the wayfinding. It may present critical unforeseen issues that warrant a change here or there, or it could just turn into a list of items to consider when the time comes to update your wayfinding due to growth, a rebrand, or some other consideration in the future.
Wayfinding and building signage at Memorial Hospital

How Harbinger Can Help

Harbinger has created hundreds of wayfinding programs for a wide variety of businesses. Our experts can bring a great deal of insight to your way-showing challenges. From digital opportunities to smart experiential design to physical signage that integrates dynamic content, we can help you distill your opportunities down to the program that will work best for your specific case.

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