The Velvet Principle

Evaluating the Performance of Wayfinding Schemes

Maximising the Investment through Continual Improvement.

Published on Wednesday 16 January 2019

Previously we’ve explored the business case for investing in a wayfinding scheme. The obvious next question is how do you evaluate it post implementation?  When developing a new scheme there are a range of methodologies that are used to test and shape the design. But how can we assess its contribution to the performance of the business or destination as a whole?

As a first step there needs to be a baseline measure or target objective to act as the reference point.  But what kind of indicators can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a wayfinding solution and how do we measure them?

Studies have shown a link between difficulties in wayfinding with stress and dissatisfaction.  Including questions about the ease of wayfinding and effectiveness of wayfinding signs, as part of a regular customer satisfaction evaluation is a good place to start.

Similarly wayfinding signs and environmental graphics provide a permanent platform for communicating the character of the brand so could be factored into any targets and research to assess brand awareness and performance.

Beyond these there are a range of operational measures that can directly or indirectly be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a wayfinding scheme:

  1. The number of wayfinding/navigation queries directed at staff. If staff are frequently being asked the way to a particular location there is clearly a wayfinding opportunity. Monitoring the fall in queries following an intervention will provide a very tangible measure of performance.
  2. Lateness – e.g. hospital appointments or departure gates in airports. While there could be a range of non-wayfinding related contributors, a carefully considered intervention could reduce the problem and the impact demonstrated through the routine monitoring of operational targets.
  3. Productivity – while staff are busy responding to wayfinding queries or waiting for patients to show, they are not getting on with their day jobs.  Any solutions that reduce these issues will translate into improved productivity measures.
  4. Distribution of footfall – many shopping malls, visitor attractions, transport hubs etc. monitor footfall and so will have data about cold and hot spots. There could be any number of reasons for why traffic to a particular area is below expectations, but attention to the design and provision of wayfinding information can help to address these. Assuming all other things being equal, comparing footfall data before and after an intervention, will provide a direct measure of impact.
  5. Evacuation time – more critically the effectiveness of the wayfinding could have a material impact on the time period to evacuate a building.

Although it might be challenging to set wayfinding targets for a new building; for established ones there are likely to be a range of general performance targets and monitoring processes in place, with baseline data that can be used to evaluate the performance of a new scheme or tweaks to an existing one. 

Rather than considering the wayfinding as a one off investment, there's benefit to be had from treating it as a core service that needs to evolve to meet changing needs. After all the operational context and environment in which a building sits is unlikely to remain static. Setting targets and monitoring performance will identify opportunities for improvement, that in turn will feed into the overall operational and commercial performance of the business.


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