Why do you need a consultant at all?
If you are planning a new wayfinding system, then you might be wondering if you need the use of a consultant. The simple answer is that, whether you are planning a new signs system for an airport terminal, bus station, or a local attraction, or changing the design of space to try and naturally guide visitors in specific directions, there are certain things that can easily be missed.
So many new wayfinding systems which are implemented fail for such basic reasons that it is worthwhile to seek consultancy from the start? It is important to also remember than wayfinding covers many areas and is NOT just about signage.
In trying to bring together a well-designed space, in terms of how it can be navigated by users, problems occur because the range of individual experts, skills and resources you need in developing a system, are very often not integrated correctly, and this is where a wayfinding consultant can help to fill in the gaps. Trying to avoid mistakes in the overall design and implementation which can otherwise exist, is best planned in the early stages.
We can help advise and consult as part of the team representing your own specific interests.
Who we’ve worked with
The Benefits of using a Wayfinding Consultant
Wayfinding crosses many areas of expertise including customer service, architecture, planning, security etc. Evaluating a location for wayfinding can thus be a challenging task. Being over-familiar with the location you are based in and work-in, often means that it is difficult for you to step back and to identify many of the wayfinding problems that exist, from an independent point of view.
- Wayfinding audits and wayfinding consultants
- Advice on legalities and regulations
- Help with planning and implementing a strategy
The difficulty you can face, if you hire architects, signage makers or other service providers as you develop a wayfinding system, is that they are rarely experts in the overall system. Wayfinding needs a ‘Systems Approach’, meaning that no one system can be truly designed without other parts of the extended system also being considered.
One good example is the wayfinding system in an airport. Having an efficient way to help users navigate through an airport, as an example, is a fantastic start. If travellers though are already frustrated, irritated and stressed, even before they reach the terminal because the signage into the airport was poor and the parking areas were hard to find, then the system as a whole is failing.
We evaluate all parts of the system and focus not only on pure i) navigation but also ii) the user experience and iii) the financial needs of your business (i.e. to factor in consideration for steering behaviour).
Over time, we have developed a number of very detailed check-lists, which we work with, and these include considerations for all user types including to evaluate, for example, tactile signage for blind and visually impaired users, wheelchair access and so on. We provide a full detailed report and we include photographic evidence in the reports, to communicate any issues.
We are also in the process of developing software for ‘Wayfinding Management’. This software can help those interested, to monitor all signage checks (to manage the maintenance of signage) and helps in documenting every piece of signage and wayfinding utilities in large spaces. As part of the service, for large spaces which are being evaluated, we often include interviews with a cross-section of the users and staff. The best feedback can often come from those who use the facilities on a regular basis.
Dr Paul Symonds
Paul is the Director of Travelwayfinding.com and has been involved with tourism and marketing for over 12 years. Paul is experienced in qualitative research methods and interviews and has a PhD in Wayfinding from Cardiff Metropolitan University and has extensive travel experience, having lived in the USA, Korea, Spain, Italy and Australia.
The project may involve liaising with:
- Sign-makers – whilst experts in their own area and often able to create some excellent signage, they tend, generally speaking, not to be experts in the use of space and in considering the wide number of issues which affect the end users.
- Architects – in designing for aesthetics and functionality, often account for a large percentage of failures in enabling a location to be efficient for navigational purposes. The very best and most efficient signage system cannot work in some locations, because a building is simply too badly designed. This was what happened in the UK with one particular shopping mall having to be closed down within a couple of years because users gave up on using it, because of confusion with the inside space. Even a brand new signage system was not enough to save the confusingly designed building which has now been knocked down.
- Stakeholders – the stakeholder of the space which the system is designed for (yourself) also tend to need guidance. Being over-familiar with one’s own environment means that the obvious can sometimes be overlooked. Bringing in a consultant can mean the chance to gain valuable insight into the wayfinding needs which need to be factored into the design. In this area, as consultants, we tend also to recommend consulting and gathering feedback from the end users.