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    A Digital Wayfinding System Makes the "You Are Here" Maps Obsolete

    By: Dan Olk
    June 3, 2014

    digital_wayfinding_systemWhen was the last time you needed a sign that wasn't there? How about at the mall? Have you been to a museum or zoo lately? Airports and universities are other common places where it is difficult to find your way around and easy to get lost. Is your organization large and complex, making it difficult for customers and/or visitors to navigate through? Or maybe your organization is small, but you are located in a large, shared office building. Unfortunately Google Maps doesn’t direct visitors through hallways and elevators, guide shoppers to specific stores or lead travelers to the appropriate terminal.

    Luckily, digital wayfinding systems can.

    Wayfinding 101

    It wasn't until the 1970s that urban signage started to catch up with the rest of the world. Until that point, most signs were randomly placed and didn’t contain much guidance. By 1970, designers had started to research how the public responded to signage, and what could be done to guide them through complicated cities and shopping malls. This is when the term “wayfinding” came into planner’s consciousness.

    Mall and Airport Signage

    When visiting a friend in a new home, almost everyone has asked the question “Where's your bathroom?” at least once. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that complex buildings, such as major airports and sprawling shopping malls, require tools to direct visitors to their desired locations. Without these resources, you could take a wrong turn and walk for hours without coming across the store you're looking for, or worse, be stranded at a terminal in the airport and miss your flight entirely. These experiences leave you with a negative impression of the facility.

    This goes without saying, but, people that easily find their destination are happier, more likely to return and spend extra cash. As a consumer you know that the easier it is to find what you are looking for, the more likely you will walk away with a positive perception and the desire to return.

    It was this information that prompted businesses to develop “You Are Here” location signage. These signs tell you where you are, show you where the store you are looking for is and give you a map to determine a path that will take you where you want to go.

    Digital Wayfinding Systems

    Wayfinding technologically advances upon these “You Are Here” signs.  Digital wayfinding systems give your business the opportunity to help and connect with consumers in an unprecedented way using stationary touch screens, as well as mobile devices, such as tablets and smart phones. Here are a few ways digital wayfinding systems are enhancing navigation today:

    Update Information Immediately

    One of the major drawbacks of traditional wayfinding is that it was difficult to update information. For example, if a store was replaced in a mall, every map in the building would need to be replaced. However, thanks to digital wayfinding, information can be updated through a central software application and pushed out to all wayfinding locations.

    Custom Messaging

    Digital wayfinding systems offer another avenue for advertising – for businesses within or affiliated with the facility. For example, imagine you own a store in a shopping mall. Traditionally, the only way to advertise a sale within the facility is to put up posters in your windows. However, a digital wayfinding system gives you an additional outlet that reaches beyond your store’s window front, so you can inform customers of current sales when they are looking for navigation assistance within the mall. This would allow you to increase traffic to your store and attract customers who may not normally walk by.

    Mobile Integration

    Integrating mobile technology with wayfinding systems enables not only location-based navigation, but content distribution as well. Putting wayfinding in the palm of user’s hands enriches and expounds upon the experience of the stationary maps and kiosks.

    Corporate Tech Decisions states, “[…] exactly how information is communicated from the content management system to the personal device varies with each type of digital signage software.” HTML5 and platform-specific apps are examples currently technology used to make this communication possible; however, “From QR codes to open source Web code, developers are looking for ways to create unique mobile answers for the already effective practice of digital signage — more specifically wayfinding.”

    The Future

    Essentially, those “You are Here” signs you have seen in malls and airports will all eventually be replaced by this latest navigational technology. Wayfinding technology continues to make it easier for not only you to do business, but for your customer’s to find you – both of which affect your bottom line. Request a consultation with a Digital Signage Specialist to discuss these opportunities for your business.

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    Topics: Digital Signage
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