Edmonton City Centre mall directory redesign

About a year ago, Oxford Properties  (operators of the biggest shopping centre in downtown Edmonton) approached us about updating their mall directory.

Their previous one-man designer shop was no longer able to provide Edmonton City Centre Mall with this service, so that left them stuck with a flattened (for the most part) print-ready PDF file that was extremely difficult for them to edit.

During our initial meeting it quickly became apparent that the only change the client wanted to do was to update the basic information (e.g. add/remove stores and phone numbers).

We kindly declined their request for several reasons:

  1. We don't like to work on other people's projects. We hold ourselves to certain standards of design quality, and—quite frankly—we didn't want to be associated, even remotely,  with the old directory.
  2. It would be a headache for us. Even if a client is willing to pay, it's not worth it if we're not going to enjoy working on their project. We saw that it would be easier to create a new directory from scratch than to try and update the clunky, old one with all of its outlined fonts and flattened graphics. It's not just about money!
  3. The most important reason though was this: we didn't believe in the existing product and knew that it could be greatly improved, both aesthetically and in terms of usability.

After a quick explanation of what was wrong and how it could be improved, the client was willing to give it a shot. Below is the old version of the directory:

Besides the chaotic positioning of many elements, the diagram had very little attention to detail and wasn't at all user-friendly. The font size was illegibly small, the coloring was inconsistent, and the position of elements (stairs, stores, bathrooms, etc.) was inaccurate.

Furthermore, things like escalator signs and parking lot signs were blending in too much with store logos and other directory elements that were also black in color.

Aside from the logo, which was created in Photoshop CS4, the new directory was built entirely in Adobe Illustrator CS4.

We used a more accurate version of the floor plan, which enabled us to fix many discrepancies in the positioning of various elements such as stores, entrances, pedways, and other supporting icons. Highlighting different categories by placing them on white background made it quicker for the users to find what they are looking for. Now they don't look like a part of the store/location name.

The new directory also took advantage of the 3D tools that are offered in the CS4 suite, so adding, removing, or even modifying store shapes and positioning became extremely easy - the working file is actually just a 2D floor plan. Compared to the old directory, this is much more cost-effective , because it makes editing the directory extremely easy.

Based on our research, we found that the new directories resulted in visitors spending less time looking for stores and more time actually shopping in them. On average, users spend between  5-7 seconds less using the mall directory , and as much as we would like them to admire our work for longer periods of time, this is definitely a good thing. Users also prefer the new look over the old one - some of them even take them home.

Mall directory in use, with the Food Court (lower level) in the background.

Permanent mall directories have also undergone a re-design.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect, and we personally believe that everything requires constant improvement and refinement. Based on all the feedback we have received over the last year since the new directories were introduced, we've recently updated the directory again, making it even more user friendly.

Immediately knowing which floor of the mall a store was located on was a little difficult when using our listing pane, especially for the elderly visitors of the mall. We solved this by using a different background colour instead of a different font colour (as we'd originally done) for each level of the mall. This greatly improved readability, which means that visitors are now able to locate whatever it is they are looking for even more quickly than before.

Another potential problem was that users couldn't tell what the floor plates meant or could not differentiate between them easily. This was due to the fact that floor names weren't very visible.

The new directory solves this by bringing the floor name to the right hand side of the floor plate, closer to the directory listing. The floor plate is also now marked by a large solid circle with the letter of that specific level, just like stores are on the listing pane.

Below is what the latest directory looks like. Click on the image below to view a higher resolution copy (465KB).