Wayfinding can be seen by some people as simply being about getting from A to B quickly, but for those involved with wayfinding design and planning, it soon becomes clear that wayfinding is a more complex and dynamic practice. Indeed, the Newport Wetlands are a great example of the way in which wayfinding can be developed to create a very positive and great UX user experience for visitors.
Interpretive Signage is an important area within wayfinding for anyone managing a space through which large numbers of people move. These types of signs provide information that helps the user to gain an understanding and appreciation for the location and to ultimately have an experience that they will remember positively. Attractions such as bay trails and Wetlands tend to be locations that require good wayfinding (to guide users successfully around the location), in addition to locations that involve education as a key part of the experience. The design of interpretive signage is, in its own right, a key area and is a skilled practice in that guiding users along a route, whilst providing interesting information that develops a narrative and engages users, is difficult to do successfully. Newports Wetlands signage is designed to do just this and it does it well!
You may notice, in the previous two images, that the materials are made of wood. In wayfinding design, using sustainable and eco friendly materials can be important, especially in a location where the environment is central to the attraction. In the two images below are a few more examples of how the Newport trail makes best practice use of locally sourced materials.
Desire paths (or desire lines) are an interesting phenomena in wayfinding and refer to paths that have been created by erosion caused by human feet or by animals. The path above, one can argue, is not truly a desire path as it appears to have been cut out intentionally. The path above nonetheless is an excellent example in wayfinding design of how certain routes often do not need any signage. Many paths, in other words, act to be suggestive of the path to take. Making use of such paths using the natural features can be a powerful way to guide users. True desire paths, I should perhaps mention, normally occur because users want to take short cuts and these paths thus get carved out over time as more people (or animals) use that route.
Moving and navigating around certain locations is as much about the experience of the place as it is about attempting to get somewhere quickly. In an airport one might be rushing for a specific terminal in order to board a flight. Alternatively though, in a location such on the Cardiff Bay Trail or the Newport Wetlands, time is often more open with time available for exploration. In this sense, the sign below shows an example of wayfinding signage that can sometimes be about guiding people to living objects for experiencing a route and location, rather for getting to a specific location in a time limited manner.
In locations where users may have to walk for long periods of time, including information on the distance to the location/s can be a great idea. You may well have seen in airports the inclusion, for example, of the number of metres to a specific terminal. On a bay trail or Wetlands area, giving clue to the distance is important for two reasons.
Including distance parameters on signage, in certain locations, can be a great way to improve the experience.
As noted in previous posts as on animal wayfinding, animals do not necessary adhere and even understand the wayfinding systems that we have designed. Wayfinding signage means nothing to animals, for example. The image below of a a group of ducks highlights this lack of connection with how we wayfind. The path that guides us humans, is nothing but an open area for the wildfowl.