Great wayfinding offers clear direction, is accessible, and blends effortlessly into its environment. Our years of experience allows us to guide our clients through this process. Like some individuals, facilities can be directionally challenged, whether it be the general architecture or additions to the facility over time that have created difficulty in navigation.
However, there are several key principles to keep in mind when developing an effective wayfinding plan:
• Consistency – It is important to create directional systems that remain consistent throughout the user experience. Set a standard, stick to it, and maintain it continuously.
• Decision Points – When a visitor reaches a point on a given route where alternative paths are presented, they need to know what to do next. Determine what points along the path require a decision and provide the necessary guidance to the user. Sending a user down a certain path only to have them reach a decision point with no additional information causes frustration and increased anxiety. This in turn causes a user to abandon your system.
• Balance – Too much signage can be overwhelming… we refer to this as “Visual Clutter”. This is often the result of a poorly maintained wayfinding system where more signage (often hand-written sheets of paper taped to the wall) is added by staff to help users… this can lead to multiple signs (of varying levels of legibility) at the same decision point. Most often, users when confronted with this, no longer see/read any of the signs and become frustrated.
• Prioritize – Survey staff and visitors to identify areas of concern/confusion for visitors. Determine the most important destinations and create directional information in a sequence that matches the visitor path through your facility or campus.
• Maintenance – Once you go through this process it is important to maintain the system otherwise all of the time and effort (not to mention the money) spent will provide diminishing returns. In many facilities (particularly in healthcare) there is a continuous movement, rearrangement, consolidation of departments, entry points, and/or new areas so the wayfinding system needs to be updated to match these changes. Too many times we have seen organizations go through the process of updating their wayfinding system but maintaining that system tends to be an afterthought. In many cases, the necessary updating/maintenance responsibility gets delegated to facilities… typically without financial support or a mandate of priority. We view the maintenance of a campus wayfinding system as a Marketing expense as the patient/user experience is directly linked to customer satisfaction.