Wayfinding 101

Digital signage is more than just directions. 12/16/2010 7:06 AM Eastern

Wayfinding 101

Dec 16, 2010 12:06 PM, By Maria Porco

Digital signage is more than just directions.

 Case Study: Wayfinding in Action

Digital wayfinding

Digital wayfinding technology is not only useful to users navigating large facilities, it provides an additional revenue stream and cuts costs associated with printed information, which can quickly go out of date.

There are several different types of digital wayfinding applications, but they all share one common goal: to help visitors of a facility find their way around. It’s particularly challenging in larger, multibuilding facilities such as convention centers, medical facilities, or university and corporate campuses.

Answering the Need

Traditionally, wayfinding in facilities such as convention centers has relied on paper signage, where conference attendees navigate a facility based on a printed site map or a large poster that directs them to their meeting room, while paper agendas outside conference rooms confirm that they have arrived at the correct place. This approach has obvious drawbacks: The meeting’s time or location may change, which means reprinting and posting new schedules and maps for visitors. Not only does this increase printing costs for the event organizers, but if the changes aren’t posted in time, attendees can become confused or frustrated.

Digital signage has the ability to completely transform wayfinding in convention centers, hotels, and other facilities. Digital wayfinding provides easier navigation and an improved experience for attendees while saving hotel staff time and money on printing, posting, and updating maps and schedules.

Types of Maps

The most basic type of digital wayfinding is a simple map of an area, similar to Google Maps, presented as a static graphic on a digital screen. A static map allows the viewer to situate themselves in regard to their desired location and find their own way. A step up from this would be an interactive map, where the visitor can select the end destination. This provides the viewer with basic directions in a graphical fashion from point A to point B. Finally, there are interactive maps that provide a three-dimensional view of the facility. These higher-end maps show users how to get to their destination with an improved perspective, making it much easier for them to orient themselves. They also provide additional information on other amenities the facility offers along the way.

Source of Revenue

As an additional source of revenue, digital wayfinding maps can be augmented with advertising from businesses within the facility or near it. For example, if a visitor at a convention center is looking for directions from conference room A to conference room B, logos can be shown of businesses they will pass along the way, such as a Starbucks or a FedEx office. The start and end points on the map can also feature a video or image from corporate sponsors, providing branded messaging relevant to the visitor. Advertisements for local attractions and restaurants can also be placed in areas around the map. It is important, however, to prevent the screen from becoming too cluttered, which overwhelms the viewer and detracts from the overall experience.

Mobile Interactivity

Of course, looking at a wayfinding map doesn’t ensure that the viewer will remember the directions after they walk away from the screen. As a solution, digital wayfinding can also be augmented with connectivity to mobile devices, such as cell phones. Users simply email directions from the interactive screen directly to their phones, allowing them to view turn-by-turn directions or the map as they go.

Wayfinding 101

Dec 16, 2010 12:06 PM, By Maria Porco

Digital signage is more than just directions.

Updating Content

There are several factors to take into consideration when selecting a digital wayfinding solution. One of the most important factors is how easy it is to create and update the wayfinding maps. There are digital signage platforms that allow users to import floor plans and create digital wayfinding maps easily inside familiar programs such as PowerPoint and publish them directly to the network. Such solutions save content managers considerable time in creating maps, and they also reduce the need to learn new tools and applications. If content managers find the tools easy to use, they’re more likely to keep working with the technology.

Management Software

Hotels also want to be able to provide visitors with the most up-to-date information on meeting schedules, without the need to constantly update the screens. This can be accomplished through integration with a facility’s third-party event-management software, such as Newmarket’s Delphi. For example, a visitor at a hotel that is hosting a conference could select a meeting on the interactive screen, and the screen would tell them where and when the meeting is taking place, as well as information on presenters and other relevant details. If a change in the conference schedule occurs, it will automatically be updated on the screens from the management software, allowing the important information to be quickly disseminated to visitors without the need to make any changes on the screens themselves. Additional smaller displays can be added outside each conference room to provide details on scheduled meetings.

Live Feeds

Another consideration to take into account is whether the facility will be doing more than just wayfinding with its digital displays. An HD screen is a terrible thing to waste, and there are many other features that can be integrated to provide a truly personalized experience for guests. For example, live data feeds can be integrated to display news, local traffic, and flight arrival/departure information all on the screen. This data can be updated automatically, providing guests with the most up-to-date information possible, while freeing staff from updating the content, saving time and operational expenses.

Platform Considerations

Yet another consideration is whether a facility currently has a digital signage network deployed and if its existing platform can also support interactive signage. Some facilities install a digital signage network and then decide to add interactive screens at a later date. If the facilities didn’t take that into account when selecting a digital signage content-management platform, then they could end up with two independent platforms that don’t work together. A hotel can minimize the cost of offering digital wayfinding, while minimizing the time and effort involved with learning and supporting two systems, by using only one provider. How important is it to extend wayfinding in a facility to mobile phones and other electronics? These are all important factors to keep in mind when selecting a digital wayfinding solution.

There are several types of wayfinding applications, from basic “you are here” maps to three-dimensional renderings of a facility. What they all have in common is they provide guests to convention centers, hospitals, and other buildings with a simple navigation experience, getting them exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there. Maps are just the beginning. Digital signage solutions are capable of so much more, providing a truly personalized, immersive experience for visitors. By keeping in mind a few considerations and asking a few questions about what they wish to achieve, any facility can easily find a solution that meets its needs and the needs of its guests.

Maria Porco is vice president of business development for X2O Media, a full-service provider of software, network management services, and content services for professional digital signage and corporate communications applications. She can be reached at

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