Web Interpretive Signage
Look at this!! Attracting visitors' attention
Position, Position, Position
The first rule of attracting visitor attention is to ensure signs are placed where they will be seen. To do this, you will need to have some understanding of how visitors move through your attraction. Research in European, Australian and North American settings reveals that the majority of visitors turn left when they enter exhibition areas and progress through exhibits from left to right.

Regardless of which way they turn, however, it seems visitors are most likely to stop at signs and displays that are close to the centre of their line of vision. Thus, placing a sign perpendicular to a visitor's line of approach is a much better option than placing a sign parallel to visitor pathways.

One exception to this is when such a sign may interfere with their view of the exhibit or attraction. Indeed, in some places (eg. scenic lookouts) it may be intrusive to place a sign in the centre of the view, particularly if the vista is one that visitors might like to contemplate or photograph. In these situations, signs should be placed within easy viewing distance and the information clearly matched to the feature/s being described.
Example Photo  Example Photo 

You also need to think about the height of your signs. Several researchers have suggested that the best option is to have the centre of the sign at adult eye height, while others have argued that this placement ignores the fact that in many settings adults visit with children. Such a placement also excludes visitors in wheel chairs and shorter people. A better alternative may be to place the sign lower but angle it upwards.
Example Photo 

Other issues that should be considered are:
  • Has glare and reflection been minimised?
  • Does the position of the sun affect the legibility of your sign?
  • What lighting is available and how does this affect your signs/displays?
  • Does indoor lighting create shadows that affect the legibility of your signs?
  • Are your signs close enough to the object/s they describe?
  • Are there natural stopping points (eg. lookouts, rest areas) and visitor decision points (eg. a fork in the pathway) where signs can be placed?
  • Are paths and interpretive spaces big enough to accommodate the expected volume of visitors or will crowding make it difficult for people to concentrate on your interpretive content?

Useful tips:
It is difficult to read signs with bright sunlight behind them - check whether outdoor trails are best walked clockwise or anti-clockwise and whether this varies during the day.

Signs in bright light are easiest to read if they have light coloured lettering on dark backgrounds, while those in darker areas are most visible if they have dark lettering on light backgrounds.

Be careful printing text on transparent surfaces. If the indoor lighting creates shadows the text will be virtually impossible to read. Example Photo 

Central placement of signs and labels can significantly increase the amount of time visitors spend looking at displays and attractions.

Example Example Example Example Example Example Example Exercise

Click on the numbers in the map below to reveal photographs of trail signs. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each sign and provide suggestions for improvements if necessary. Some issues you might like to consider are:

  • Use of interpretive techniques
  • Positioning of signs
  • Accessibility

Placement of Signs

Elements that catch the eye
Placement alone will not attract visitors - content and appearance are also critical. Research indicates that the following characteristics of signs and displays attract attention:
  1. Extreme things (eg. displays/signs that have very large, loud or colourful elements); Example Photo 
  2. Movement (eg. displays/signs with interactive sliding panels/ flaps to lift/ buttons to press); Example Photo 
  3. Example Contrast (eg. elements/items that stand out from the background);
  4. Items and information which are unexpected or surprising; Example Photo 
  5. Things that are connected to visitors; and Example Photo 
  6. Elements that speak directly to visitors.
Below are photographs of a "discovery" trail used at the Port Arthur Historic Site. On entry, each visitor is given a playing card that is linked to a convict's story. Visitors use the card to follow 'their' convict through the exhibit and discover what happened to him.
Example Photo  Example Photo  Example Photo  Example Photo 

Exercise
Do you think this approach enhances visitor learning and involvement? Why/why not? How would you introduce a similar 'trail' through your attraction?

Catchy titles and other tricks

Meeting the needs of special groups
Museums, visitor centers and tourist attractions cater for a wide range of visitors. The challenge for interpreters is to design displays and signs that appeal to a broad spectrum of visitors and are easy for all groups to access and understand. Some groups that have special needs in relation to content, presentation and access are

copyright   |   privacy   |   disclaimer   |   Maintained by: webmaster@business.uq.edu.au
2006 The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
ABN 63 942 912 684, CRICOS Provider No:00025B
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Exercise
Note how the sign lines up with the feature being described and provides visitors with a mental image of what used to be there. Could a similar technique be used with any of your displays?
Close this window
Close window
Exercise
Comment on the placement of this sign. Are there any visitors who may have trouble reading it?
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Exercise
What are the strengths and weaknesses of using flaps and sliding panels? In this photograph the shape of the display mirrors the topic. Could a similar technique be used for any of your displays? Describe how you would do this.
Close this window
Close window
Exercise
What elements of this sign attract attention and why? Could a similar technique be used to interpret something in your exhibit?
Close this window
Close window
Exercise
This sign connects the topic to the everyday life of visitors. Design a sign about paper that would do the same.
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window
Close window
Close this window