9 Wayfinding Best Practices
By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering
Wayfinding is a must-have feature for any company whose offices reside on expansive campuses or span multiple floors or buildings. Visitors and new employees need some way to find their intended destination, without getting lost or taking detours that waste time. It starts with proper wayfinding signage. Written signage or scrolling digital boards aren’t enough. Follow these wayfinding best practices:
Baseline wayfinding best practices
Effective wayfinding signage is based on core components of signage design and placement:
- Consistent branding: Wayfinding signage should be immediately recognizable. Consistency across all wayfinding markers and guideposts helps visitors quickly spot and understand these markers. Before you hang signage, develop rules that govern sign design and stick to it the same way you would your company’s branding.
- Keep it simple: Overly complicated wayfinding signage is confusing. Guests should be able to spot signage and process information in seconds, which means keeping it clear and to-the-point. Often, this only takes a couple of words and/or pictures. The symbol for a woman, the word “Restrooms,” and an arrow pointing left are a lot easier to understand than a sign that says “Women’s Restrooms, Third Door on the Left.”
- Color-code: Colors—along with words, symbols, and shapes—are important variables in delineating signage. Keep color-coding consistent and purposeful, such as using green to refer to the third floor or orange to signify a particular department like Accounting. Provide a color key for easy reference.
- Use visuals: Symbols and shapes can quickly say what words are too cumbersome to communicate. They’re also a great way to simplify signage and wayfinding design. We’re all familiar with universal symbols for restrooms, as well as signs for things like stairs or elevators. Alongside easily recognizable symbols, colorful shapes will imply specific destinations or amenities. Be sure to keep your shapes consistent and easily distinguishable.
- Consider placement: Wayfinding signage is only as effective as its placement. No one will see signs if they’re tucked away out of the normal sightline. Make overhead signs prominent, hang wall placards at eye-level, and display all signage at junctions where visitors need direction. If your wayfinding signage isn’t instantly recognizable, it needs adjustment.
- Map the path: Keep in mind that all wayfinding signage should be connected—meaning every sign should lead to the next one, no matter the destination. You’re mapping out a path for people to follow to every discernable destination in your facilities. If there are gaps in the path—too much distance between signs, poor display of signage, lack of context—visitors will lose the trail. If they do, additional signage will help them pick it back up.
Sound design guidelines, recognized communication principles, and proven placement strategies are the fundamental cornerstones to effective wayfinding signage.
Best practices for the digital age
If your business is exploring wayfinding signage in the digital age, there are some additional variables to consider beyond the physical. Check out some digital considerations:
- Augment: Digital opens up a world of layered communication for wayfinding signage. For example, putting a QR code on larger pieces of signage enables visitors to scan them for additional information, such as a facility map, information about the area they’re in, or specific directions to their destination.
- Centralize: For physical signage with digital displays, central management is a crucial consideration. Uniform governance is important when changing displays, updating information, or expanding signage capabilities. Tie everything into one central management approach using a facilities management platform or other technology.
- Supplement: Supplementing physical signage with digital tools is a great way to expand the power of wayfinding. For example, creating an app that includes point-to-point directions or a directory of spaces and people will add even more context to the physical signage a person is following.
Leveraging digital technology into well-orchestrated wayfinding signage will make it easier for visitors to interact with your facilities and more quickly get to their intended destination.
Read more on wayfinding software.
Plan your wayfinding before implementing it
If you’re revamping wayfinding signage or adding it for the first time, take the time to plan. Use floor plans to delineate where signage should be displayed and what types of signage will go where. Then, create the design hierarchy of your physical signage and develop a standardized template. From there, consider digital components and ensure they support your physical plan.
When all planning is solidified, have your signage fabricated and installed appropriately. Remember to test your wayfinding. Get feedback from visitors about how it works and update accordingly to close gaps in your current approach. Taking the time to do wayfinding right will be a boon to your facilities and a welcome accommodation for visitors.
Keep reading: what are wayfinding kiosks and digital signage?