• Nikki Ault

Digital Wayfinding The New Yellow Brick Road

Clicking your heels together 3 times and whispering "There's no place like home," doesn't work when you are trying to navigate places like hotels, conference centers, cruise ships, schools/universities, hospitals, corporate campuses, etc.

This can be as frustrating to us, as Dorothy felt trying to return home from Oz.

We often feel helpless, frustrated, stressed, and quite frankly, angry, at the fact that we can't figure out how to get to where we need to go.

If only Glenda, The Good Witch would come along and direct us to "follow the yellow brick road." Is it possible that a digital wayfinding solution could be that yellow brick road?

Digital wayfinding is a technology put in place on digital screens located throughout the types of venues listed above as a solution to help you navigate your way.

Wayfinding, like Glenda, helps you orient where you are, and how to get to where you're going with little difficulty.

Instead of meeting the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, along this yellow brick road, we will explore the different types of digital wayfinding, the benefits of wayfinding, and what you need to know to implement a digital wayfinding solution.

Types of Digital Wayfinding

Different scenarios call for different types of wayfinding solutions. You wouldn't necessarily use the same type of wayfinding solution on a small corporate campus that you would a hospital. So what are the different types of wayfinding solutions that can be used through digital displays?

Static: A static wayfinding solution is a non-moving image such as a map, arrows, or words that can provide you with direction. They may be color-coded, updated easily if required, and are suitable for a smaller facility.

They provide a better option than your standard printed sign or poster but do not include customizable routes or features like some other solutions.

Dynamic: The dynamic wayfinding solution is similar to the static, but often includes other sorts of pertinent information to the visitors or staff. The images may depict a more realistic It becomes multi-functional, showcasing not just a map or directions, but may also include announcements, news, weather, emergency information, etc.

For locations that have multiple displays, content can be managed down to the specific display and can provide information specific to the area where the display is located on campus. These types of signs are found in small hospitals, hotels, or conference centers that may need to provide announcements or information to the visitors, but that do not require extensive directions to get somewhere.

Interactive/Kiosk: Interactive wayfinding is a much more customizable option from the viewer's perspective compared to the static and dynamic options. This type of wayfinding solution is great for those really hard to navigate places such as large corporations, college campuses, hospitals, airports, and cruise ships.

The user can be selective about where they want to go, routes can be specified, and step by step directions can appear on screen, can be printed, or can even be sent to your internet-connected device.

The options for interactive displays almost seem endless. Real time updates can be made to the maps and detours can be sent as needed. Directories for staff, departments, events, meeting rooms, restrooms, and elevators can all be easily found through an interactive solution. Emergency information can be shared immediately including safe routes out. Recommendations for local restaurants, entertainment, and areas of interest can be great content to add as well.

Beacons: Beacon technology uses radio transmitters to search for bluetooth enabled devices, such as smartphones, and can send specific triggers to an app on that device.

The interesting thing is that the digital signage displays can also receive signals from the beacon, and in this case, the beacon can become the bridge between the viewer and the digital signage display. Check out our blog on how Beacons can be used in your Omni-Channel Marketingapproach.

This type of technology can be very beneficial as a wayfinding solution. The same information that is provided on your digital display can be transfered to an app on the viewer's smartphone. This gives the viewer full access to navigate to where they need to go. You can also include options within that app such as social sharing, meeting information, and advertising.

The Benefits of Wayfinding

Getting a basic understanding of the different types of wayfinding solutions, begins to give you a good feeling about why they may be used to your facility's advantage. So what exactly are the benefits, besides the fact that they look really cool?

Saves your visitors time and frustration: We have all been to that hospital trying to find a loved one, turning corners, running into dead ends, following detour signs and spending no less than 20 minutes endlessly searching to find them, even after reading a static outdated map. How frustrating! Digital wayfinding can help save the wasted 20 minutes and the added stress of being lost.

Saves printing costs of traditional posters and signage: Traditional signage printing costs can become astronomical with the constantly changing world around them. Utlizing a Content Management System to update your digital wayfinding system helps reduce those costs of printing, publishing, and distributing, those printed signs. This also saves on the environment by reducing landfill waste and reducing your carbon footprint that delivering those signs can cause.

Instantaneous updates: Using a content management system for your digital wayfinding solution allows for instantaneous updates that can be delivered to any and all screens within your facility. Is there an area under construction, your signage can be updated to include a new route around it. Is there an emergency situation, your signage can give the directions or path to the safe route out. Is there a sale on a particular item, your signage can help your customers navigate to that department and pick up that item.

Branding enforcement: You can create consistency and visual identity using your digital wayfinding system.

Provides additional information: Using a digital wayfinding system enables your maps to become more than just maps. You can showcase meeting room information, include restaurants or entertainment near your facility, and even use RSS feeds to provide news, weather, and sports information. The content options are endless.

Real time interaction: Interactive wayfinding systems can give you options such as; reserving meeting rooms right from the screen, typing in your phone number and receiving a text message with the directions you needed, or searching up to date flight and gate information at the airport.

Coupons and information sent directly to your smartphone or tablet: Digital solutions provide a few different ways of actually pushing information to your viewer's internet connected devices. You can utilize QR Codes on your screen that can be scanned and takes your viewer to a coupon or map that is then directly on their device. The option mentioned above of having a touchscreen display to be able to enter a cell phone number or email address and have the information sent directly to them. Also Beacon technology can communicate directly with the device and send coupons, specials, or pertinent information directly to their device.

Getting That Witch's Broomstick

Dorothy was given specific instructions on how to get back home, find the Wicked Witch's broomstick and bring it back to the Wizard. She developed a plan with her team and set out to make it happen. You will need to do the same thing when preparing your digital wayfinding solution. There are five major steps to take to implement.

Assess: Know your goals or objectives for the signage. Understand your audience. Know your budget. Figure out the amount of displays, sizes, and orientation of them. Be sure to choose the type of digital wayfinding solution that will meet your goals and your budget. Get your team on board. Dorothy would not have been able to get the broom without the help of her team.

Map Out: Know what sections or floors or departments you want to include. How in detail do you plan to get? Determining the type of digital wayfinding solution will allow you to know the options you have for that type of solution. Know where you will place beacons if you plan to use that solution.

Design/Content: Figure out your display orientation and resolutions. Be sure to keep ADA requirements handy as you design. Ensure graphics and branding are easy on the viewer's eyes and are approachable. Determine, if any, what types of content you want displayed along with the wayfinding and maps.

Test: Be sure you test in an environment conducive to the actual environment. Use real visitors to help determine what can be adjusted or where changes should be made. Run through each destination to verify all routes are accurate. Gather feedback and be flexible with suggestions.

Maintain: Determine who will be the primary person for maintaining the system. All updates and changes should be made accordingly. Your content management system should be able to assist you with this. Update photos, beacons, and content accordingly.

Wayfinding has come a long way in the technology world, especially with the introduction of digital signage. Dorothy was able to follow the yellow brick road, to find the wizard to get home. Will you or your viewers be as lucky? With a digital wayfinding solution, and the help of Coffman Media, they may just find that there's no place like home.

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