Health clinic wayfinding
cohealth, a community health organisation, had engaged an architect to update the interior of their health clinics. The objective of the renovation was to make sure the physical environment of the clinic improved accessibility and aligned with cohealth’s brand values by providing a welcoming and calming experience for clients. Wayfinding research formed a key ingredient in the process.
Nomat was approached to undertake research to understand how people used the existing physical spaces with a focus on wayfinding. The insights about the spaces would inform design work by architects for the upcoming renovation. Our goal was to provide a report that formed part of the brief for the architects to ensure the new interiors included effective wayfinding and addressed any existing issues. The work would then be applied across cohealth clinics around Melbourne.
A human centred design approach including wayfinding research
Nomat applied our human centred design process to execute the project. This involved spending time learning how different people used the existing space.
Interviews and discussions
We first conducted interviews and discussions to discover the different ways people used the space. This included talking to key stakeholders who use the space regularly, such as medical professionals and administrative staff. These interviews were central to uncovering insights into how the space was used. A range of pain points and challenges with wayfinding had already been observed and identified by staff through their experiences at work.
Observations of people using the space
Next, Nomat researchers spent time on-site at the health clinic undertaking direct observations of the physical space. This allowed us to understand how it was used by patients and to identify how existing wayfinding signage was being used. We observed the flow of people into the clinic, and seeing how people moved around the space from the reception desk to the waiting room. Observations led to an understanding of where opportunities existed to introduce new wayfinding signage. The observations of the space took into account how patients accessed the building from multiple street frontages and how they located services once they were inside the building. Observations were made around how communal spaces were used, how patients interacted with reception, and if they seemed to notice signage. We also observed how staff moved between administrative areas to treatment spaces.
Insights from wayfinding research
The research revealed a number of insights which were compiled into a report for the architects.
One key aspect that the research highlighted was that there are a number of assumed cultural norms and expected behavioural patterns for a health clinic that are not expressly communicated. For example, it was discovered that not all clients would approach the front desk to announce their arrival, instead some would sit in the waiting area. Others would bypass the waiting room altogether to visit the office of a health practitioner that they had already met and whom they trust. This insight underscored the importance of ensuring the front reception desk was a focal point for welcoming clients and included clear messaging that set expectations about what to do on arrival. This was an important finding to communicate to the architect as cohealth services are used by a diverse group of people including people from a range of different cultural backgrounds.
Another insight uncovered through interviews was that there was not a clear system or process for managing printed health information and posters on the waiting room walls. This discovery, while at first seemed somewhat minor, was identified as having a potentially big impact on the overall atmosphere and feeling in the waiting area. An opportunity to make the clinic feel welcoming and calm in the future could be a new process for managing health posters and printed communication.
The report also included a number of specific design recommendations related to the positioning and layout of wayfinding signage. This included how to optimise signage to clarify how to access the building from the neighbourhood, key signage needed to support clients locate spaces within the clinic itself, as well as the need for spaces where temporary messaging could be placed.
Outcome of the engagement
The work has been well received by the internal cohealth facilities team and the projects architects with the recommendations being incorporated into the final design. The interior architecture renovation project is currently underway which includes feedback from the wayfinding research.
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