From wayfinding to thingfinding
Wayfinding systems in the built environment currently exist as standalone navigational systems that do not facilitate thingfinding.
Thingfinding is a self-made term I use to describe a process that wayfinding is incidental to. It takes into consideration the fact that when people engage in wayfinding they are not simply looking to find a destination, but rather something that exists within a destination. This something could be a product, a service, an experience or a state of mind.
Thingfinding is a process initiated by a need that arises or a desire for something. It begins by identification of a location where this thing can be found, for example by using a search engine or the Yellow Pages. The process continues by finding the way to the thing and concludes when the thing is found.
Examining some of the methods used to establish an understanding of what information is required by people when traveling through a physical environment, it becomes apparent that wayfinding systems are limited in their ability to respond effectively to the personalised information desires of people using an environment.
A departure from the current wayfinding-centric information system approach is suggested, towards a combined thingfinding approach in order to provide people with personalised location based information.
To conclude, I will provide an overview of Location Based Services that are currently being used by people and discuss the ways in which technology and location aware mobile devices are facilitating a more streamlined thingfinding process, enabling people to tap into more personalised information provision where and when it is needed.
Jonathan Rez is a Senior Wayfinding Strategist at FW Design. With cross-disciplinary design background, he has worked across physical and online environments. He is also a casual lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Australia where he wrote the course Visual Identity in the Built Environment.
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