The Ultimate Guide to Pedestrian Wayfinding: Understand the Needs and Take Action in Your City


Have you ever got lost in the city or in a complex building? With the densification of urban areas good wayfinding systems are a major step to empower pedestrians. To boost the population’s walkability, best practices wayfinding solutions encourage and enable people to walk more often to more destinations.

This article brings together all the information you must know to meet the needs of all populations, the existing solutions and how to implement them in your city. You will then have all the keys to take action and help all the citizens to get their bearings, regardless of their disability, age and knowledge of the area.

Let’s empower all the pedestrians!

Why pedestrian wayfinding is important in a city?


Wayfinding systems for pedestrians are essential in cities as they give information about the environment and enable a smooth and coherent walk. They provide accurate, clear and quality information allowing to streamline the flow and make citizens as autonomous as possible.

According to SEGD, Wayfinding refers to “information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space”.

Wayfinding solutions give the right information at the right time and enable people to easily build a mental map of an area. They make the environment readable and navigable. Using wayfinding systems also help improving the user experience and pleasure for pedestrian visitors.

Wayfinding systems also encourage the walk. In cities walking is crucial as it helps reduce pollution and climate change. It also improves personal health. In addition, a pedestrian will be more likely to consume than a person by car, thus directly impacting the economy of a city. From a social point of view, walking promotes equality and strengthens social bonds between inhabitants. Finally, walking in the city makes it easier for people to use bicycles and public transport.

In other words, the information provided by wayfinding systems has a major impact on the economic, social and well-being of all.


What are pedestrian wayfinding needs?


The basic need in terms of pedestrian wayfinding is to be able to navigate in the public and private space to reach a destination. Go from point A to point B without encountering any difficulty in finding one’s way and without getting lost.

When a person moves on foot, all his senses are awake. A pedestrian wayfinding system delivers sensory cues. It can solicit sight thanks to visual signage, audition by the transmission of sound information, olfaction with the orientation by the smells etc.

A conventional pedestrian wayfinding system therefore meets the primary need for orientation and safety using sensory information.

We will now review the needs of users according to their situation. Please click on the situation that better suits you:


Residents of a city that doesn’t have any disbility need occasional help in case of uncertainty. Wayfinding solutions then fills a grey area for example when the person doesn’t know the neighborhood well or if roadworks change the usual walking route.

A resident doesn’t need to be guided step by step but rather have a glimpse of the global journey to reassure himself in the choice of the walking itinerary. He will rely on familiar landmarks to get his way round.

Non-resident persons without disability are little familiar with their environment and therefore need help to find their way round the city. Business travelers need to find their hotel and their place of work. Tourists need to know the location of touristic places to visit, to discover the city and to know where they are. They all need to be guided step by step for the duration of their stay.

In addition to the needs of sighted people, blind pedestrians have specific needs due to their disability.

First of all, they need to appeal to a different sense than sight to find their way. Blind people necessitate non-visual cues such as tactile or auditory cues.

Another need is to feel safe while walking. Without sight, the danger is more difficult to apprehend. Wayfinding systems make it possible to overcome the visual deficit by providing clues soliciting other senses.

A blind person also needs to be able to preview his itinerary step by step before departure. Knowing the key steps is essential to anticipate changes of directions, pedestrian crossings, number of bus stations etc.

The need for reassurance and comfort in moving is also essential. A person who does not see wants to know if the path he is taking is the right one.

Finally, the need for autonomy is also essential to take into account. A blind or visually impaired person wants to be able to move alone without having to seek the help of a third person.