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Title: Spatial design and reassurance for unfamiliar users when wayfinding in buildings
Author: Chang, Ching-Lan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2689 7960
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2010
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Wayfinding tasks comprise decision points and interconnecting paths leading to a destination. Path choice at decision points is critical to the successful completion of wayfinding tasks. Research has found that signage is not the only influence on path choice and that influences vary depending on familiarity with an environment. People familiar with their surroundings have a cognitive map - a prior understanding of the environment - against which they can compare the environment as they experience it in order to orientate themselves. People unfamiliar with their surroundings, and therefore lacking a cognitive map of them, are found instead to rely upon wayfinding strategies to inform their path choice decisions. This study investigates how aspects of the spatial design of buildings may assist unfamiliar users in finding the destination they are seeking within the building. Observations of people wayfinding in an unfamiliar building suggested that four aspects of spatial design affected route choices made at decision points. Four wayfinding strategies describe the behaviour observed: I) Maintain a Straight Bearing through the building; 2) Avoid a Change of Level; 3) Walk Towards a Brighter Space; 4) Choose the Wider Corridor. Evidence supporting three of these was found in the literature. For the fourth - Choose the Wider Corridor - only limited evidence was available from the literature and hence further work was carried out to test the predictability of its influence on wayfinding behaviour. An online experiment was conducted to investigate to what degree corridor width influences path choice and the interaction between the Choose the Wider Corridor and Maintain a Straight Bearing wayfinding strategies. A means of categorisation, comprising two wayfinding principles, was devised for information in the environment and means of undertaking wayfinding tasks: Reassurance Principle - wayfinding strategies reassuring the wayfinder that they are taking the correct route and Tools Principle - signage, maps, landmarks and other sources of information in and representing the environment, available to aid wayfinding decisions. This thesis looks at strategies for wayfinding reassurance. It is proposed that unfamiliar users would find buildings more intuitive to wayfind within if they were designed with routes to likely public destinations that conform to the four wayfinding strategies. An applied test was conducted to confirm whether wayfinding ease could be predicted by analysing the routes within that building against the behaviours described by the wayfinding strategies. It was found that ratings of difficulty given by test participants matched predicted ratings based upon an analysis of the building'S conformance to the wayfinding strategies. It is suggested that if this analysis was conducted at the design stage it could limit potential wayfinding difficulties. Some possible designs as means of achieving this in new buildings and refurbishments are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available