Whether you’re creating wayfinding for a stadium, school, department store or theme park, there are five core wayfinding principles that must be considered in order for visitors to navigate themselves along the customer journey. The value of an effective wayfinding system is not only determined by an enjoyable and positive visitor experience, but by how you maximise on the customer’s route and dwell time. Strategic route making and creating a wayfinding ‘story’ can ensure that visitors are informed of what products/attractions/facilities are available and potentially increase revenue.
1. CREATE AN IDENTITY AT EACH LOCATION
Give every location a unique perceptual identity, so that the navigator can associate their immediate surroundings with a location in the larger space. The visitor’s ability to recover position and orientation is the core wayfinding principle.
Ideally, a space should be just distinct enough for this principle to hold, but no more. Neon lights should not be necessary. Often this can be as subtle as a colour theme, a texture, a finish or lighting style.
2. USE LANDMARKS TO PROVIDE ORIENTATION CUES
Landmarks as an orientation cue. If the navigator knows where a landmark is in relation to their position, they can say something about where they are. A desirable property of a landmark for this use is visibility: the ability to be seen from a large surrounding area.
A system of landmarks helps to organise and define an information space. However, they should be used sparingly; placing too many landmarks in the space belies their usefulness as memorable and unique locations. Monoliths and signage totems are ideal for this purpose and create a visible point of reference which visitors recognise as an information mechanism from a distance.
3. CREATE WELL-STRUCTURED PATHS
Paths should possess a set of characteristics to be well-structured. A well-structured path maintains a navigator’s orientation with respect to both the next landmark along the path and the distance to the eventual destination.
The beginning and end of the path form an introduction and conclusion, and progress is marked by moving from one concept or message to the next. Sometimes this can be a simple as telling the visitor how far it is to their destination so that they can measure their progress as they get closer and confirm they are on the right path such as piste markers.
4. CREATE REGIONS OF DIFFERING VISUAL CHARACTER
Subdivide the space into regions with a distinct set of visual attributes to assist in wayfinding. Regions may not have sharply defined boundaries, or their extent may be in some part subjective; a minimal requirement is that there is a generally agreed space said to be within the region, and a surrounding area said to be outside it.
Regions allow the navigator to distinguish one part of the space from another and to know when he has moved across the boundary between two regions. These boundaries can serve as demarcations along a well-structured path through several regions or zones.
5. DON’T GIVE THE USER TOO MANY NAVIGATIONAL CHOICES
If there is a story to tell, design the space so that it is coherent for every route the navigator might take.
This principle is best used when there is a story you want every navigator to see. This basic story should be communicated by every path the navigator can take through the space. Opportunities for detours, side-tours, and exploration can branch off of this main path, eventually returning to resume the main story. This ensures that the visitor makes maximum use of, and understands their position in the space.
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