The role of mobile wayfinding apps on College Campuses

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What is Campus Wayfinding

Campus wayfinding is a system designed to help users navigate campus environments. It’s a solution for students, faculty, and visitors to find their way around a college campus with minimal confusion.

Core Elements of College Wayfinding

  1. Clear Signage: These signs help users identify their location and guide them to their destinations. They are used to provide directions and information.
  2. Interactive Maps: These digital maps are accessible via smartphones or kiosks and offer real-time navigation and information.
  3. Recognizable Landmarks: Distinctive features or structures on campus that help orient users and aid in route memory.

The Broader Scope of Wayfinding

Wayfinding also encompasses accessibility and ensures that the system is usable by all users.

Pro Tip: Utilize any available campus tours to familiarize yourself with the wayfinding system and the campus layout.

Integrating technology such as augmented reality can further improve wayfinding. These applications can provide additional information about buildings and events on campus, enhancing the user’s experience and knowledge.

How mobile wayfinding apps are helping colleges and universities solve navigation challenges and provide a more connected student experience.


Universities want to be as welcoming as possible to prospective students and parents, yet campuses are so widespread and lack clear signs to make finding locations easy.  Mobile wayfinding apps can identify key points-of-interest on a map and make them searchable via a directory.  From any location on campus, you can enter where you’re heading, and the app takes care of the rest!  It tells you where you are, and then automatically guides you right to it – just like GPS in a car.

Many blue dot mobile apps also offer a variety of location-based features.  Imagine having visibility into open study areas, alerts for events happening on campus, coupons for parent-friendly restaurants, and directions to nearest coffee shops.


Construction challenges will always be present as campuses continue to grow and remodel to keep up with modern technology.  With so many one-way streets and odd walking paths between buildings, navigating around construction just adds to the complexity of the college experience.  Digital wayfinding apps can provide instant updates to walking routes based on construction detours, giving students, visitors, and faculty an easier way to get to class, grab some lunch, or arrive to their meetings on-time.


Colleges frequently have guest speakers and events which bring an influx of guests to campus, including extra car traffic. Whether it’s an out-of-state team needing directions, or a fan that’s looking for the nearest concession stand or bookstore to get some pre-game swag, your wayfinding app will help you route incoming traffic to best parking spot based on the event’s location, as well as improve accessibility to other amenities and landmarks.

Department Changes

The location of administrative offices and departments get shuffled frequently, making tracking down faculty members more difficult when you need help. A mobile wayfinding app is at the core of keeping up with these changes because it allows you to manage information updates within a content management system, right alongside their x and y coordinates on a digital map.  You can even export the updated data and maps for internal use.  For example, you can circulate memos about the location of the Finance Department, along with the new office numbers of the faculty members.  Having a method to track and export updated information improves internal operations.

Uber and Amazon

How many one-time visitors pay a visit to your campus on a daily basis?  It used to be manageable, but now think about all those Amazon deliveries, nightly pizza orders, and Uber pick-ups.  A wayfinding app not only helps ensure packages are delivered to the right building/room/department on campus, but also that rideshare drivers shuttle people to the correct drop-off areas on campus.

Campus Services

When does the dining hall close on Sunday? What’s on the menu today? Where can I grab a late-night cup of coffee?  With Purple’s mobile app, you can combine important information about campus services into a single, searchable system and help student’s stay connected with college life’s important details!


Since mobile wayfinding apps are location-aware systems, they play a part in campus safety initiatives.  Student’s can enable location sharing with friends and family members so their location can be identified at any time.  In the same way they can report the location of suspicious activity to  and campus safety and law enforcement.

A mobile wayfinding app for your college or university is one big step towards a more connected educational experience.  By adding a real-time navigation experience to your mobile strategy you can:

  • Reduce anxiety for new students (and their parents) acclimating to college life
  • Reduce the time faculty and students spend giving directions to visitors
  • Save time for students and faculty by providing real-time information, maps, and routes
  • Improve operational processes required to manage campus growth and department changes
  • Add location-aware technology to campus safety programs

Enhancing Wayfinding in University Campuses

Improving wayfinding on a university campus helps students, staff, and visitors navigate efficiently. Here are actionable strategies to improve wayfinding:

Engaging the Community

  • Feedback Mechanisms: Establish channels for students and staff to provide feedback on wayfinding issues for continuous improvement.
  • Orientation Programs: Incorporate wayfinding education for new students and staff to help them familiarize themselves with the campus.

Environment and Aesthetics

  • Landmark Utilization: Identify and highlight unique campus landmarks in wayfinding material.
  • Aesthetic Integration: Design wayfinding elements that complement the campus’s architectural and landscape aesthetic.

Pro Tip: Test the wayfinding system from a newcomer’s perspective. Regularly walking the campus with the mindset of a first-time visitor can reveal insights into potential improvements.

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