In front of you, on your desk, is your shiny new signage style guide. Months of to-ing & fro-ing with designers, engineers, and colleagues, dozens of emails, dropbox requests, google docs shares and a myriad of phone calls have lead to the creation of this professional signage manual that will guide the way (pun intended) for your wayfinding signs from here into the well-sign-posted future.
Suddenly, you remember how many others are looking at the same polished document, and the sheer number of users - as well as the huge potential for the rule book to quickly get thrown out the window - becomes painfully obvious.
Enter: the online ordering system.
Online? For signs? How could there possibly be a digital solution for something that requires so many variables, maps, content, arrows, icons, different font sizes, rules…
We’re glad you asked. Here are the top 5 reasons that an online ordering system is EXACTLY what’s needed for the ongoing management of your signage strategy (as well as your sanity!).
1. It funnels all the information into one place.
An online portal means there is ONE method by which users can create signage requests. Rather than a flurry of emails, scans of hand drawn diagrams, or post it notes, it sets the standard for:
What information is mandatory for a submission.
What the user needs to think about before ordering.
What rules & limits apply to different sign types.
Here at Barrier Signs, we recently completed an online ordering system for Warringah Council in Sydney, NSW. Both the council & their service area covered a myriad of users & signage needs, from Rangers in their National Parks to staff members charged with directional signage in their metropolitan areas.
We built a stand-alone website to take all enquiries for all signs. Covering identification, information, directional, regulatory & wayfinding signs, we were able to create order forms with:
Mandatory fields (so the user could not progress until they were filled in)
Conditional Logic (think of this as algebra, where in the instance of x your options are y or z. For example, if a single large icon is selected, only one line of text can be inputted accordingly.)
Visual cues (in some instances, the image would change based on the options selected)
Rich Text formatting (users can nominate text to be bold, larger font, italics, etc. if the style guide permits)
File uploads (great for maps for wayfinding signs.)
2. It starts a digital paper-trail.
Another great feature is accountability. Utilising mandatory fields in this instance, we secure the user’s name, direct line and email address, so they receive a copy of their order and we can contact them if we need anything further. The email sent to the user can then be duplicated/printed/filed/copied as you would any other email, so it can fit in seamlessly with in-house documentation. Similarly, the email we receive accompanies the job ticket from the estimators right through to the graphic designers & engineers, removing the potential for miscommunication and human error that can occur when information has to manually transferred from one system to another.
3. It is user-friendly.
As you’re aware, every workplace is full of people with varying degrees of digital literacy. Consider the needs of your staff, and allow that to influence your key objectives when considering the ‘look and feel’ of the online system. This approach will help you remain goal-oriented when developing the system - either by yourself or with an agency - as all the cool gadgets that come with web development software can often get distracting!
The system we developed at Barrier Signs was largely a visual one, using actual graphics from the Warringah Council style guide to direct users to the sign they required. The specific sign then appears throughout, with labels and arrows denoting what part of the sign the user was interacting with at various stages of the form itself.
4. It can integrate with other familiar platforms.
Developing an online signage system is one thing, encouraging your staff to use it is another. Largely because of ‘software fatigue’ - after a while we all become weary of getting up to speed with another platform our business wants to implement.
Thankfully, it’s easy to integrate with more familiar programs so the user doesn’t feel like they’re starting from scratch. Take the example of the interface we built here at Barrier Signs: we married our order forms up with Dropbox, allowing us to store copies of all requests filed online in order of their request number. We then sent an invite to the signage manager at Warringah Council to share the folder so she can check all requests at her leisure. We can also integrate with Google Sheets, which allows us to harness the built in features of spreadsheets. Simple!
5. It can grow with your needs.
The overarching joy of using an online interface is fluidity: it can grow with your needs. You can build first drafts, get a focus group of your colleagues to test them and provide feedback, then implement changes that are user-focussed. If your style guide is updated, more sign types can easily be added in line with the existing format. Want to use your signage interface as an online portal for other business needs? Why not!
To refer to our Barrier Signs example once more, our friends at Warringah Council preferred our system so much they requested we cater to their temporary signage on top of their official style guide. These were an easy addition to make, and fit in seamlessly with the overall interface.
Think an online signage system might be just what you need? Great - but to get started, there’s one important factor to consider: Can you manage it yourself, or is it best to work with someone you trust?
There are a myriad of do-it-yourself drag-and-drop systems that are a mere Google search away. Lots of them are cheap, some are free, some are expensive but offer brilliant features, and almost all are backed by a great knowledge base & support service.
BUT all of them require TIME. You will need to dedicate time to understand:
how the interface works
how to best use all the hidden features & add-ons
understand the individual limitations and
compare different services to see which works best for you.
And that’s just to set up the service, before ongoing maintenance & implementing changes come into play.
The alternative is to work with someone you trust, one who can manage your requests & feedback, present options, test the system for faults and be there as a friendly support service into the future. (It also helps if they’re tech/software/signage nerds!)
At Barrier Signs, we have implemented the above to success, and are constantly looking for better ways to offer more. If you’d like to discuss how we might be able to help you, why not get in touch.
Hope we can chat soon!
Barrier Signs Pty. Ltd.
About the Author: Meredith is part of the Marketing Team at Barrier Signs. With a background in graphic design within marketing teams of both large & small enterprise, she is an avid reader of tech reviews, marketing blogs and is a little bit crazy about new flat design trends.