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Making Wayfinder Apps 101

Your wayfinding crash course

Last Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Have you ever been in a new building for an appointment and simply cannot find your way to the right office? Or maybe you're at the mall and you can't find a kiosk to locate where you are in relation to your final stop. These both illustrate the frustrating problems that can be associated with wayfinding or finding your way in a physical space.  But what if there was an app for that?

That's where wayfinding apps come in! Wayfinding apps use the power of GPS and other location-based services to help users navigate their way around a physical space. They can provide turn-by-turn directions, point out nearby landmarks and amenities, and even help you find the shortest route to your destination.

If you're looking to create a wayfinding app of your own, there are a few things you'll need to keep in mind. In this article, we'll give you an overview of what wayfinding apps are and some tips on how to create one that will be sure to please your users.

What is a wayfinding app?

A wayfinding app is a specially designed application that uses GPS or other location-based services to help users navigate their way around a physical space. Wayfinding apps can be used in a variety of settings, such as office buildings, malls, and even college campuses.

Some wayfinding apps also offer features such as turn-by-turn directions, points of interest, and the ability to find the shortest route to your destination. Others may simply provide a map of the area that you can use to navigate your way around.

No matter what features you choose to include, it's important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of a wayfinding app is to help users navigate their way through a physical space with ease.

How to create a wayfinding app

Creating a wayfinding app can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. With the right planning and execution, you can create an app that will be sure to please your users. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Define your goals and target audience

The first step in creating any app is to define your goals and target audience. What do you want your app to accomplish? Who will be using it?

Answering these questions will help you determine what features to include and what type of design will be most appropriate.

Choose the right development tools

Once you've defined your goals and target audience, it's time to choose the right development tools for your app. There are a number of different mobile platforms to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. In addition to platforms designed for wayfinding, you could develop the app from scratch.

Some things you'll want to consider when choosing a development platform include:

  • The cost of development
  • The skills of your team
  • The needs of your target audience 

Design a user-friendly interface

The next step is to design a user-friendly interface for your app. Keep in mind that the goal is to help users navigate their way around a physical space, so your interface should be easy to use and understand.

Some things you'll want to consider when designing your interface include:

  • The layout of the app
  • The navigational tools you'll need
  • The types of information you'll need to display 

Test continuously

Once you've designed your app, it's important to test it thoroughly before releasing it to the public. Make sure to test all of the features and functionality to ensure that everything works as intended. It's also a good idea to get feedback from potential users to see if they have any suggestions for improvement.

Place the app where patrons can use it

Once your app is ready for launch, it's important to place your app in a spot that will allow users to see it so they can use it throughout your space. This is a critical step in the development process that is often overlooked. We will discuss this more later but there are several helpful tools for getting users to use the app in your space. 

By following these tips, you can create a wayfinding app that will help your users navigate their way around your physical space with ease. If you have any questions, feel free to read more about wayfinding apps here.

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How to execute a wayfinder app strategy

Here we will dive into more detail from the tips listed above. This will include some of the best practices for each step of creating a wayfinding app.

Define your goals and target audience

We talked about how important it is to complete these steps before creating a wayfinder app, but what does that look like in practice? 

When you’re thinking about your goals, it’s important to be as specific as possible. This will help you determine what features to include in your app and what type of design will work best.

Some questions you might want to consider when defining your goals include:

  • What do you want your app to do?
  • What type of information do you want to display?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What type of devices will they be using?

You should incorporate all of the answers to these questions in your design for your app if you want it to be effective at wayfinding. The most important step as you design your app is to put yourself in a visitor's shoes. As someone unfamiliar with the building, how can you make your way around? Is it a calm experience for you to find your way, or is it easy to get lost in the shuffle? Once you understand who it is you are building for, you can understand what you need to build to effectively solve their problems.

Choose the right development tools

The next step is to choose the right development tools for your app. As we discussed above these are the things you'll want to consider when choosing a development platform: 

  • The cost of development
  • The skills of your team
  • The needs of your target audience

If you're on a tight budget, you may want to consider using one of the many free or low-cost platforms available. If you have a team with the necessary skills, you may want to develop the app from scratch. There is generally a tradeoff between the cost and effiency of the builders and the customization and features of developing from scratch. We'll talk a little bit about your options and why you might not have to worry about that.

What are some examples of wayfinder app builders?

If you want to go with a cheaper option but your worried about the functionality, here is a list of some of the best wayfinding software out there:

  • Mapbox
  • STQRY
  • Lumavate

Let's take a look at these options to see which is best for your needs.

Mapbox is a tech company that specializes in providing maps for clients like Snapchat. The map data provided is detailed  and accurate, making it a good choice for wayfinding in a larger area like a city where you would need to be moving from place to place.

STQRY is an app development platform that makes it easy to create location-based apps without code. MyTour is a good choice if you want to create an app quickly and don't have the budget for a custom-developed solution.

Lumavate is a digital experience platform with wider use cases than just wayfinding. The platform makes it easy to create and manage content for apps that you can access through a QR code scan from anywhere. When you combine Lumavate's powerful digital experience technology with our wayfinder template you can create a powerful wayfinder app with blistering speed. If you are interested in the wayfinder template you can start today for free!

Developing from scratch

If you have the budget and skillset available, you can develop your app from scratch. This gives you the most control over the design and features of your app but will generally be more expensive than using a builder.

To find the right development team for your project, you'll want to consider the size of your project and your budget. If you have a small project, you may be able to find a freelancer or small studio to work with. For larger projects, you'll want to look for an agency with experience in app development.

The benefits of developing from scratch are that you have complete control over the design and features of your app. If you want to include a custom feature or integrate with another system, you can do so with a custom-developed solution.

The downside of developing from scratch is that it generally takes longer and costs more than using a builder. You'll also need to be sure that you have the right team in place to develop a high-quality app.

When deciding whether to develop from scratch or use a builder, you'll want to consider your budget, timeline, and needs. If you have a small project with a tight budget, using a builder may be the best choice. If you have a large project with a longer timeline, developing from scratch may be the best option.

Design a user friendly interface

Once you've decided on the platform you want to use, it's time to start thinking about the design of your app. The user interface (UI) is how users interact with your app, and it's important to get it right.

When designing the UI for your wayfinding app, you'll want to consider the following:

  • The user's needs: What does the user need to do with your app?
  • The user's location: Where will the user be using your app?
  • The user's device: What type of device will the user be using?

By considering the needs of your users, you can design a UI that is simple and easy to use. When designing for wayfinding, you'll want to make sure that the UI is clear and concise so that users can quickly find the information they need. Make sure its just what the users need so they aren't confused.

Testing your app continuously

Once you've designed the UI for your app, it's important to test it to make sure it works as expected. Testing can be done manually or using automated testing tools.

When testing your app, you'll want to consider the following:

  • Functionality: Does the app do what it's supposed to do?
  • Usability: Is the app easy to use?
  • Performance: Does the app perform well on the devices it will be used on?

It wouldn't be a helpful tip if we just told you to test your app before you launch it so it's operational. It would be pretty obvious advice. Instead, we need to talk about how you are going to collect your data and how you can use analytics to design an app that your customers are thrilled about. 

If you use a builder like Lumavate, you will be able to collect all the information that you need to track the usage of your app. If you go with another builder you can also use analytics tools to see how people are using your app and what features they like the most. This information will be invaluable as you continue to develop and design new features for your app.

By continuously testing your app and collecting data, you can be sure that your app is always performing at its best.

Put it where customers can use it

Now that you've designed and developed your wayfinding app, it's time to put it in the hands of your customers. There are plenty of ways that you could do this, but here is a list of some of the different activations you can use if you partner with Lumavate.

  • URL
  • Text
  • QR Code

Building an app that users can access anywhere without having to download, gives you the ability to present your customers with the app right when they need it, so you don't have to take up space on their phones when they don't.

Now that you know the basics of making a wayfinding app, you're ready to get started! If you need help getting started, our team of experts can help you every step of the way. Contact us today to get started with our wayfinder template.

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