Digital solutions are everywhere today – and there’s no question why it’s so popular. By using digital means, we can accomplish things that would never have been thought possible until recently. The world of wayfinding is no exception to this, but it’s nonetheless too easy to be distracted by the shiny novelty of digital tools. There are undeniable benefits to them, but there remain certain advantages to traditional wayfinding tools that can’t be surpassed. Let’s explore why the traditional still has an important place in an increasingly digital world.

Digital Benefits

It’s probably worth going over why digital tools can be so helpful in a wayfinding environment. Take smartphone map apps for example – they’ve become a widely popular method of navigation and are a clear example of digital wayfinding. A significant strength this and other digital methods have is that they can be easily customised to the user’s benefit. This customisation streamlines navigation towards a specific goal significantly. Further, digital means offer a degree of interactivity that’s difficult to reproduce by traditional means. You might see this in practice through interactable floor plans in buildings and cities, which offer a familiar way for visitors to get their bearings in a new environment.

Traditional Benefits

So with the clear advantages that digital systems offer wayfinding, how can traditional means continue to stack up? While they might not be as customisable or interactable, large signage and maps can be used by multiple people at once without losing their effectiveness. The same goes for buildings and landmarks – while not necessarily designed for wayfinding, they have been a useful method of navigation for thousands of years. The static nature of traditional means also means that they’re a lot quicker to use. It’s a lot faster to look at a monolith with a map on it, than to activate your GPS and type the location you want into the search bar.

Synergising the two

Rather than only using one or the other, however, it’s better to use the best of both digital and traditional for the most successful strategy. It’s clear that they both have their distinct advantages, and that combining the two offers the best opportunity for seamless navigation. When designing Legible London, the citywide wayfinding system in London, Applied and their CEO Tim Fendley even took inspiration from digital tools in designing traditional ones. Their monoliths went through a prototyping process reminiscent of computer software, and used it to make their project as user friendly as possible. Ultimately, people just want to find their way quickly and the best way to do that is to allow them to choose whichever option is the best for them.

Key to recognising whether to use either traditional or digital tools in a given circumstance is understanding the underlying psychology behind design.

If you need a wayfinding strategy that can successfully use the best of both worlds and tailor it to the needs of a location’s visitors, then contact us today.