By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering
The future of wayfinding goes beyond practicality. Using enhanced technologies, businesses can focus on fostering rapport with everyone navigating their facilities. Wayfinding should be an experience: one that efficiently manages staff and effectively engages visitors. People shouldn’t just know how to get to where they’re going—they should appreciate where they are.
Wayfinding should promote interaction
Your facilities exist for a reason. They house staff and assets, and serve as a framework for interaction—your business couldn’t exist without a tangible workplace. Facilities need to be easily navigable, welcoming, and accommodating. When these criteria are met, wayfinding becomes less about directing people and more about informing them.
The transition from directing to informing is an important distinction to make. There’s different connotations—passive and active. Someone worried about losing their way is intent on following the directions. They’re engaged in a passive interaction with your facilities. Conversely, someone who feels confident in navigation is learning about your building from your signage. They’re engaged in active interaction: absorbing knowledge and learning. The two activities equate to different experiences.
Read more: 9 Wayfinding Best Practices.
Make navigation a convenience
It’s impossible to reap the full benefits of facilities if people struggle to navigate them. Most people who have difficulty finding their way don’t complain, but are still frustrated and embarrassed when they’re lost. Being lost is an inconvenience, and it affects how they perceive both your facilities and your company. Inadequate wayfinding hurts your business in many ways:
- Confused visitors form a bad first impression
- Clients and customers leave frustrated or under-sold
- Employees waste time looking for people or places
- Amenities go under-utilized or unused when not easily found
Modern wayfinding technologies like mobile devices, smart signage, and kiosks open up a new frontier of possibilities. Wayfinding predictions include ways to focus on enhancing the human experience through innovative, user-centered applications.
Showcase real-time information
What better way to promote user experience than with smart signs that change automatically based on proximity? Future integrations will let businesses configure monitors and maps to show information based on who’s nearby. Examples that might ping from a user’s phone to a nearby smart sign include:
- Hot desk availability in a specific area
- Simple left, right, forward directions to a destination
- Outages, closures, or hazards disrupting a route
- Parking space availability
- Current menus or available products
Small signs with big messages
Some signs serve a specific purpose, such as displaying current occupancy information about a conference room or seating area. These purpose-specific signs can and will be more an experiential part of wayfinding in the near future. Don’t settle for generic signs when custom options let you:
- Match colors and fonts to company branding
- Use iconography to express a specific message
- Display dynamic messaging, such as next availability
- Recommend a nearby space if occupied
Let AI point the way
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already a major workplace disruptor. Voice assistants and machine-learning programs are changing facility management—now, AI is coming to wayfinding.
AI-enabled mobile applications can route employees to their next destination without them having to look it up or go back to their desk. Visitors can receive individualized directions to their destinations from apps using GPS location together with appointment data. The courtesies afforded by AI are a warm welcome for the nervous newcomer and a relief for employees moving from place to place throughout the day. They preempt the actual wayfinding experience to make it seamless.
Create personalized experiences
Wayfinding trends will soon advance beyond just providing adequate directions. Soon, they’ll help create memorable impressions. Businesses will have access to user data, allowing them to create tailored experiences across unique office spaces.
Send push-alerts or text messages that address guests by name and ask where they’d like to go when they enter the lobby. Leverage GPS assets to deliver responsive real-time instructions to people on-the-move throughout the facilities. Deploy AI to guide people to specific areas based on habitual data like past visits or recent searches.
Every business will soon see the value in creating a personal, immersive wayfinding experience. The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY is one of Time’s World’s Greatest Places because of its customized tour experiences. The museum uses questionnaire data together with radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristbands to guide visitors through digital exhibits, which automatically cater to visitors’ preferred comedians and sub-genres. It’s a personalized, one-of-a-kind experience from start to finish.
Experience is everything
What is the future of wayfinding if not a move toward experiential marketing? We’re all acquainted with the power of personalized experiences and their effect on key metrics like satisfaction, trust, and confidence. The opportunities for utilizing data-driven displays and mobile navigation in a physical workplace are as unique as your business. Businesses can leverage up-and-coming wayfinding capabilities to meet the experiential expectations of customers and employees.
Keep reading: Seven Features of Powerful Wayfinding Software.