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Wayfinding and directions

This page draws together pointers about finding your way around this university, and creating instructions for visitors.

Contents (click to jump to a section)

Directions to the university, and to places and rooms within it

Logically, such directions have 4 parts, but it will be more convenient for a visitor if you combine them.
  1. How to get to Glasgow. A page for this, which includes sideways pointers to alternative accounts.
  2. How to get to the university within Glasgow. A section on this within another page.
  3. How to find the right building within the university. There are online maps to help with this.
  4. How to find the right room within the building. Some text examples here and here; and a diagrammatic example here. Little online help for this.

Wayfinding studies

A series of studies have been carried out as final year undergraduate projects in the Psychology department.

Nina Webster 1998: "Wayfinding in Glasgow University". Summary

Michelle Greally 1999 "Learning to find one's way: In search of improved campus tours"
Summary: Newcomers are offered a campus tour: usually 15-45 minutes walk round campus with a guide pointing out some of the more important buildings. These tours could be done in different ways: e.g. stops to rehearse knowledge, "treasure hunt" formats to engage active problem-solving, which is generally thought to promote more learning than simple passive listening. Tours do produce knowledge: apparently they produce in less than an hour a similar amount to that which first year students have after some months. However no measurable differences were found between different types of tour. It is unclear whether this is because there are no important differences, or that our measurement method was too crude.

Charlene Boyle 1999: "The role of maps: Considerations of 2D versus 3D maps, knowledge formation and landmarks". It leads to our current recommendations about redesigning a map for the campus (see below).

Susan MacLean 2000. Using sketch maps produced by recall as a measure had failed to show a difference in the knowledge produced by quite different tour styles, leading to a search for more sensitive measures of campus knowledge. This study comjpared seven different tests on 21 experienced campus users and on 5 newcomers before and after a tour.

Relying on maps

Willie Coupar, in a Newsletter piece, says that "Very few of today's youth can relate maps to ground and therefore campus maps as directional aids are next to useless."

In our studies, only one subject refused to use a map. While many problems have been observed, in all other cases (including whole classes of school children) they have attempted and eventually succeeded in using them. It seems more reasonable, then, to conclude that would be unwise to rely entirely on maps, but that the effort to improve the campus map and to test its usefulness is worthwhile.

Redesigning a campus map

We would now recommend a redesign of the campus map to take into account the following features:
  1. Use 2-D not the 3-D type: although both the literature and Glasgow campus people usually choose the 3-D type, they succeed in finding new buildings better with a 2-D type.
  2. Ensure all the useful information is there: not just roads but footpaths; not just buildings' walls, but entrances (and which ones are unlocked, where the Janitors can be found, ...).
  3. There are just 3 main landmarks used: the Gilbert Scott building, the Library, and the Boyd Orr. We should develop and test a final optimal version of the map: 2-D in style but with in addition some kind of picture of the 3 main landmarks.
  4. Put north at the top of the map (as in all normal maps, but not the old campus map).
  5. Improve the map key. The requirements for this include: users may need to start from or find either the building name (e.g. Adam Smith Building) or a department name (e.g. Sociology) to a map location. They need not only to go from a name to a map location,but also when using the map from a location to a name (e.g. what is this building next to where I am on the map?). So:

The overall redesign problem

Each wayfinding task has two independent parts, to be supported separately:

The media aids we need to design to support wayfinding include:

  • A newsletter piece by me on this.

    Some pointers to maps

    The above pages have numerous pointers to maps. Some locations to look are:

    Some pointers to maps of/at other universities


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