Offering Better Wayfinding in Hospitals


Hospitals in Toronto are architecturally complex because the layout is constantly changing due to ongoing retrofitting efforts. Adaptation to architectural changes takes time, therefore, confusion may occur during this period of adjustment. Additionally, the complex array of services provided in various locations make it difficult for visitors to access them conveniently and quickly.



We compiled a set of recommendation based on our research findings. We anticipate that the implementation of these recommendations will improve the wayfinding experience and lower the level of anxiety for visitors in healthcare facilities as well as help increase effectiveness and efficiencies of routine operations in the hospital.



To acquire a general knowledge of the subject our team surveyed published literature on the subject of Wayfinding in hospitals. While there has been a lot of research conducted on the challenges of patients in the hospital we noticed that none of the research focused particularly on the tools available to front-desk staff and volunteers at the hospital. Keeping this in mind me came up with three research questions to help guide our research. We conducted overt unstructured observations and semi-structured in-person interviews at two Toronto hospitals to gather the necessary information to answer our research questions and provide recommendations informed by our user-centered research.


Toronto hospitals


Research findings report

My Role

UX researcher and designer


Angela-Xizhen Cao

Dandi Feng

Kate Kazlovich

Christina Park


Literature Review and Research Questions

We surveyed published literature on the subject of Wayfinding in hospitals and identified a gap in information available on the wayfinding tools employed by hospital staff. We came up with the following questions to guide our human-centred design research.

What are the possible usability and accessibility factors affecting in-hospital navigation and wayfinding?

What are hospital volunteers and information clerks’ attitudes towards the current resources available for in-hospital navigation?

How can effectiveness and efficiency of in-hospital navigation and wayfinding services provided by volunteers and information clerks be improved?



Sample Selection

A Persona Profile – Hospital Volunteer

Participants Recruited:

We recruited two groups of participants that would be the most helpful in answering the research questions we posed:


Information clerks whose responsibilities and duties are primarily centered around interaction with visitors.

Hospital volunteers
involved in providing navigation services.



We build personas based on our research questions to help guide our research. Below is one of the persona profiles which helped our research team in shaping the research tools, including the screener questionnaire and interview questions.

Hospital Selected for Research

Acute Care Hospital

Observed: 5 volunteers
Interviewed:  6 volunteers

Trauma Centre Hospital

Observed: 4 information clerks; 1 volunteer
Interviewed: 4 volunteers

Overt Unstructured Observation
Focus areas:
  • Flow and types of visitors at the information desk;

  • Architectural infrastructure and layout of the hospital;

  • Tools available to the information clerks and volunteers;

  • Efficiency and frequency of tool usage;

  • Unanticipated factors affecting information services.​

Semi-structured in-person interview
Focus areas:
  • Background info about nature of the work;

  • Factors affecting wayfinding and in-hospital navigation;

  • Usability and user attitudes towards navigation tools available;

  • User perspectives, opinions, suggestions.



Using the data collected through observation and interviews we performed a theme analysis and a frequency count to identify the most and least effective tools currently in use by the hospital staff for wayfinding purposes.





Implement standardized
appointment sheet:


To reduce stress and confusion experienced by the hospital visitors before their appointments, create a single document that contains all the information that a patient needs to know before their hospital visit.


Offer better care with human interaction:

Our research revealed that hospital visitors prefer face-to-face interaction to digital wayfinding tools. To create a better experience for the visitors, appoint volunteers or trained staff to direct the visitors to their destinations.


Provide computer access to volunteers:


Front desk computers should allow hospital volunteers to access basic information (i.e., locations of clinics), while keeping confidential patent information secure.


Research Findings Summary Video