Locating a specific room at the University of South Wales (USW) is a challenge. Students can often be found lost and bewildered, wandering corridors in the vain hope of alighting upon their intended destination. Staff, new and old, struggle too, missing meetings or turning up late – frustrated, flustered and flummoxed. Wayfinding in a large, multi-site, geographically disparate institution has inherent challenges. When the geography is combined with the challenges posed by topography (campuses on steep hills), toponymy (multiple room naming conventions) and architecture, finding rooms becomes difficult.*
FindARoom is a responsive, web-based placeshowing system that delivers an elegant, visual solution to this problem. By providing users with floorplans, building illustrations and campus maps, FindARoom helps users to locate the room they’re looking for.
Built using Ruby on Rails, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and Raphaël JS, FindARoom provides a responsive solution that looks great on smartphones, tablets and computers. Restful URLs allow for easy linking and integration with other university systems and websites, such as, time-tabling systems, staff directories and smartphone apps.
Beta released in early Summer 2014, FindARoom has already had an excellent response from students:
“It’s awesome! Way better than spending the first few weeks each year searching out rooms on A4 photocopies.”
“This is amazing! Freshers got it easy now!!”
“Can see this being so useful at the beginning of the year.”
“Fantastic for staff as well as students – a great help.”
USW staff and students are not the only ones to praise FindARoom. In October 2014 FindARoom will feature in volume II of the Atlas of Design. Produced biennially by the North American Cartographic Society, the Atlas of Design is “dedicated to showing off some of the world’s most beautiful and intriguing cartographic design”. A subsequent article by the editors of the Atlas of Design website discusses FindARoom in depth: A Look Inside – Barry Richards’ Find A Room
When Wired Magazine’s Map Lab blog featured the Atlas of Design, an accompanying gallery of the ten best maps from the book included a screenshot of FindARoom.
The cartography blog Maphugger also named FindARoom in its ‘5 Favorite Maps of 2014‘.
However, while FindARoom will make life easier for staff and students at USW, tardy staff and students will still have a problem, as “I couldn’t find the room” will no longer be a valid excuse for turning up late.
* An in-depth exploration of the challenges of wayfinding at USW can be viewed in the presentation I gave at the Gregynog Colloquium 2014: “Adventures in Interior Cartography. Or… Where the #$%! is GT601?” (slides only, audio and slides).