What’s Involved in Deploying Interactive Digital Wayfinding
Learn the components needed and the options available.
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To provide “wayfinding” — maps and directions —for visitors, employees and others, many organizations are turning to digital signage as a more efficacious solution than the traditional printed signage, which can prove to be expensive and time-consuming.
Here’s a look at the types of wayfinding that organizations can provide using digital signage, an overview of what’s involved in setting up wayfinding digital signage (including the maps and routes) and the main components for a digital signage network that can providing wayfinding services.
A World of Wayfinding Options
Wayfinding on digital signage can range from the general (highlighting major destinations) to the personalized(showing a GPS-like view plus step-by-step directions). Similarly, the wayfinding information may be displayed in several different ways. What your organization chooses depends on not just budget, but the complexity of your physical environment, and whether you feel that visitors will need full, personalized information or can navigate given a modicum of digital signposts.
To best understand the options available, you need to understand the wayfinding map types and features, the type of information they contain and how it’s presented:
- Static, or merely displaying a map and associated information. Here, there’s no way for a given person to request a route or other specific additional information, and the map/route information doesn’t change. However, color, graphics, feeds, animation and other techniques can make even a static digital display more eye-catching, engaging and informative than a printed sign.
- 2.5D/3D exploded views (“2.5 dimensions,” using angled views and shaded renderings). These provide realistic informative views for locations with multiple stories or levels. (The alternative is to present side-by-side-by-side views of each level.)
- Dynamic non-interactive , which is providing information that may change based on CMS or database updates or other triggers, such as locations/directions for scheduled events; for example, “GRADUATION THIS WAY” or evacuation directions. However you are not providing a way for individuals to query a display.
- Interactive, which allows users to select, drill down and zoom to select their destination and get paths and directions. The interaction typically uses a touch-enabled display, although older systems may still have physical buttons and even a mouse or trackball. For example, a touch-interactive display lets someone select an event, or query a departmental directory, and then touch a “Directions” icon which in turn can display a routing map and/or step-by-step directions. The maps and directions, similarly, can simply highlight “you are here” and “here’s the destination you specified,” or, like the GPS app or device you probably use in your car, provide point-to-point directional path drawings and step-by-step directions. Just like static maps done digitally can be more visually eye-catching than standard printed signage,Similarly, dynamic wayfinding lets the organization associate an event with an animated icon on the map, and 3D mapping can provide a more realistic representation of the space.
In addition to the displayed wayfinding information, some organizations supplement this with “directions to go,” either with hardcopy from a nearby printer or by enabling the user to access it via email, texting or QR codes.
Setting up Wayfinding, Step by Step
Once you’ve decided to do wayfinding using digital signage, you have to implement it. The main steps involved in creating and deploying wayfinding digital signage, according to Doug Chase, product manager, Four Winds Interactive LLC, are:
1. Identify your goals, including what other information you want wayfinding to provide or link to.
2. Decide whether you want interactive or non-interactive signage.
3. Do the maps.
4. Figure out what other information or promotional content you want to use.
5. Decide where to position wayfinding displays. Likely locations include high-traffic areas, like entrances and exits; doors and reception areas; and at major branch points like lobbies, elevator/stair/escalator areas.
6. Maintain the databases.
“Remember that even if the physical structure doesn’t change, you want a database that you can update as people move, uses change and so on, since wayfinding may be tied to names rather than locations,” notes Sean Matthews, President of Visix, Inc.
The Components of a Wayfinding System
As the name implies, a wayfinding digital signage deployment includes, and assumes, a digital signage system, whether it’s one or more standalone displays, or multiple displays connected by a network. The basic parts of any digital signage system are:
- one or more displays
- a digital signage content management system (CMS)
- media player(s) to show the content on the display(s)
- and, except for stand-alone sign/player devices, a network, either wired or wireless, to link the CMS, player(s), and displays into a unified whole.
What’s different or additional about providing wayfinding?
If you want to provide touch-interactive wayfinding, the displays. Touch displays, or adding an aftermarket touch overlay to an existing display, typically doubles the overall cost of the display.“There are some nice touchscreen displays, but for larger form factors, like 50 to 60 inches, you almost always have to go to aftermarket add-ons,” notes Visix’s Matthews.Plus add the cost of the wayfinding software, and the time and effort for you, perhaps also with outside services, to create the maps and define the wayfinding.
Many wayfinding packages come from vendors already in one or more aspects of digital signage, particularly the content management piece. Visix, for example, offers its VisixWayPoint software; 22 Miles offers its Interactive Wayfinding Digital Signage; and Four Winds’ content management includes wayfinding features.
So if you’re already doing digital signage, consider adding wayfinding to its services — and if you aren’t, wayfinding may be the application that lets you kick start a project.
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