Wayfinding in the Physical Recreation Centre

Project developed with Anna-Lena Theus and Sandra Gabriele, for the course HCIN 5100 – Fundamentals of HCI Design and Evaluation, Carleton University

Directory map of one of the buildings in the Physical Recreation Centre


As newcomers to both Ottawa and Carleton University, finding our way around the city and more specifically, on this campus has posed many challenges. We decided to do a usability study that focused on the users’ ability to navigate the Physical Recreation Centre because, on an initial visit to the Centre, we recognized immediately that navigating through the complex of buildings was a difficult and cumbersome process and worthy of examination.

As students of the HCI program, we are concerned with the way that humans interact with designed objects and environments, with a user-centered approach.


We designed this study so participants would have to search for 8 locations (for example, the spinning room) during their walkthrough. We provided them with print versions of the task list, campus map, directory map, and a schedule of all of the fitness classes.


We analysed the data collected by looking for common themes from our data, which included: written responses and researcher observations on participants’ comments and actions.



We found that wayfinding errors happened due to structural limitations, physical barriers, the lack of coordination of information, and deficiency or lack of visual aids. One of the error categories we identified is composed by misleading signs. A misleading sign would be a sign that does not clearly communicate its purpose.

Arrow in the sign above can be interpreted as go left and then up, or go left and then straight

We presented our results to the administration of the Physical Recreation Centre and have submitted a proposal to conduct a larger study with different user groups.

Laser printed sign could be interpreted as “Only use third door” or “Don’t use doors”