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Wayfinding Scheme Maintenance

When specifying a new wayfinding system, it’s important to factor in the ongoing maintenance costs. Beyond ensuring the physical infrastructure is safe and kept in good order, you need to think about how frequently the information may need updating; the extent of likely changes; how critical the response time will be and budget. Feeding these into the design process will help ensure that the scheme is affordable over the long-term.
Composite image of different signs

As the saying goes the only constant in life is change. Despite best planning, sooner or later, your wayfinding system will need updating.  So, it’s important to think about the ongoing maintenance requirements right from the start, and factor these into the design brief and procurement. Questions to consider include:

  • How frequently are updates likely to be needed?
  • Will these changes affect all or just certain bits of information?
  • How quickly does the scheme need to respond?
  • What’s the initial capital budget? And budget for ongoing maintenance?
  • Who is going to be responsible for managing the changes?
  • How or who is going to implement any changes and maintain the infrastructure?

Frequency of Updates

How frequently the content needs updating will largely be dictated by the nature of the destination. If it’s a museum with a temporary exhibition programme, or shopping centre with retailers moving in and out, it could be a couple of times a year.  In theatres or venues, the information could remain valid over many years. Whereas in a hospital, where the same rooms are used for different clinics throughout the week, the information may need to flex on a daily basis.

Even in those places where changes happen on a regular basis, there will always be some information that remains constant e.g. the locations of toilets, lifts, stairs, exits, entries, car parks, loading bays etc. 

Design Response

The anticipated frequency, extent of changes and target response time will be key parameters to feed into the brief. These are important considerations for the design and selection of the communication media (i.e digital screens, printed signs, temporary banners or even customer service staff). 

Digital screens have the advantage that content can be updated on all signs simultaneously. Whereas for more analogue solutions, each sign, will need to be updated individually. However, this convenience has to be balanced against the higher upfront capital and ongoing maintenance costs of digital.

A modular design approach will help minimise the potential impact and ultimately the cost of updating a printed sign. Rather than needing to reprint all the content every time there is a change, a modular design will enable specific elements to be targeted and replaced.

Ongoing Maintenance

Ideally a routine maintenance programme should be put in place to ensure all sign structures are kept in good order and importantly in a safe condition. A decision needs to be made about who is going to be responsible for this. If it’s the client’s facilities team, the fabricator should provide a maintenance manual and/or appropriate training. If it’s the fabricator or another provider, a maintenance contract needs to be agreed.

Although the lifespan of the sign furniture/form may exceed 1 or even 2+ decades, digital screens, will need replacing every few years (due to failing components, screen burn or mechanical damage). As well as factoring this into the maintenance budget, there are also likely to be costs for licensing content management software, hosting and call outs to repair screens.

For print based information, as well as any routine maintenance contract there will be the cost of updating information.

Management Considerations

As well as the physical structure, someone within the client organisation will need to manage they information updates. Whether it’s to instruct an agency, or in the case of digital, potentially do it in house. In the latter instance, a member of staff will need to be identified and trained to use the software.

In summary, when specifying a new or refreshed wayfinding scheme, as well as the upfront capital investment and design, it’s equally important to consider the ongoing maintenance from both a cost and management perspective. The frequency and extent of likely updates, plus the size of the maintenance budget, are key considerations to feed into the design process. Otherwise, there is a risk that the scheme maybe over-specified or more importantly be too expensive to maintain to the standards you would like to.