Digital directories provide the invaluable service of helping visitors and guests locate stores, businesses, office locations, or specific individuals. In fact, they have become so commonplace that consumers often have the expectation that they will be available practically on-demand, whether they are visiting airports, malls, or hospital campuses.
Besides lists of location data and maps, digital directories can also provide local area information, including weather, transportation options, and digital advertisements. The most advanced directories include wayfinding as well, offering directional assistance in the form of lighted paths and even transfer of map data to mobile phones via SMS.
A digital directory an electronic catalog or list of information that displays the location of people or places. It can be interactive, touchscreen, or static, but the basic purpose of a digital directory is to help an end-user find something or someone.
One of the most common environments in which to find a digital directory are shopping malls. Here they are used to provide information on where to find each and every store, restaurant, or service in the mall’s vicinity. Another popular type of digital directory are the interactive wayfinding kiosks found in office building lobbies. These give visitors not only the location of specific departments, businesses, and individuals, but are able to guide guests via specific directions as well.
The three most common environments for digital directories are large, commercial office buildings, shopping malls, and airports. They can be found in many other locations as well, from hospital campuses to government buildings, and new and unique ways to utilize digital directories are constantly being developed and deployed. Digital directories can be helpful in any location that houses multiple places of business, departments, or people.
Offices often employ digital directories to carry out a range of different functions. Single-business locations with many employees may use them primarily to help visitors locate specific individuals. Some very large companies with multiple buildings even find it helpful to develop directories so that their own employees can find each other more easily. Multi-tenant office buildings use digital directories to help guests find the business they are visiting, or to assist vendors in navigating a new environment without wasting precious time. Finally, they can be very useful in automating visitor self-check-in, saving receptionists time and creating a more secure building where visitors whereabouts can be more easily tracked.
Malls use digital directories to help guests find stores, restaurants, or services. Since malls typically house a vast array of different places, it is important to help individuals easily find what they’re looking for, a task made much easier with a digital directory. The directory shows all stores located within the mall’s vicinity, making it simpler and less frustrating to navigate. Additionally, since they tend to be placed in prominent areas and used heavily, mall directories are often used to display digital advertisements as well.
Airports employ digital directories as a means of locating departure and arrival gates, baggage claim and flight check-in. Because airports around the world have been upgrading their environments to increase profits, many now contain a wide range of businesses, from high-end retail and restaurants to services such as massage therapy. Since most airports see heavy foot traffic on a near-constant basis, making an airport layout readily available is incredibly important to ensure that all passengers get to their flight on time.
Bus stops utilize digital directories most often to display arrival and departure times to travelers. They can also display local area information, maps, and digital advertisements. They can be interactive, or static, depending on the use case, and may include additional components or software for ticket payment and dispensing.
Hotels utilize digital directories to display locations of conference rooms, restaurants, and services. Giving guests the opportunity to find their own way takes some of the burden off of hotel staff, which in turn allows that staff to spend time on more complex guest interactions and queries. Digital directories also give guests the freedom to help themselves, saving them time waiting in line for assistance from a staff member.
The cost of a digital directory varies greatly depending on the display size, integrations, and components chosen, as well as the desired functionality, but in general, an entry-level directory will start at around $1495 when it is designed around a non-touch directory, rather than a touchscreen display. Non-touch displays are less expensive than touchscreen displays, but still excellent for providing the basic functionality of a digital directory. The downside is that they tend to be a bit more limited in their functionality when compared to larger sized displays enclosed in a kiosk. Medium-to-large sized directories are more expensive -- starting at around $2495 -- but offer more flexibility. For reference, those located in malls and airports would be considered medium or large directories, while those intended to handle hotel check-in would be considered small.
When it comes to digital directory software, there are several factors to consider. First and most importantly is your budget. Software can add significant cost to digital directories, so it is important to understand exactly what your goal is and how you intend to approach it. Major factors to consider are the complexity of the software, how many instances you will require, whether you will need interactive functionality, the user interface/visual aesthetics, and how the kiosk software will be updated and maintained.
Software complexity refers to how difficult it is to install and maintain without any outside assistance. Some software is very simple and intuitive, while other programs are more complicated, so it is important to understand the limitations of your business in terms of IT resources/knowledge before installing something that may require additional outside help.
Owning or deploying multiple instances of software can also add complications (and cost), so it is important to identify whether or not you will need to run a number of instances, or if one will suffice. Interactive functionality of directory software also varies, so it is important to know which user interface is best for your application. Simpler programs may only display a static list of people or places, while software intended for touchscreen or interactive directories will generally cost more.
Aesthetics should also factor into directory software choice; some environments may necessitate a more streamlined user interface, while others may be better suited to something more complex, with additional functionality.
Finally, digital directory maintenance can be complicated, so it is important to consider whether or not to purchase a post-deployment service plan. The more complicated the software, the greater the chance a service plan may make sense for your company.
Ultimately, all of the above factors should be weighed carefully so as to select the right mix of functionality with regard to overall cost.