Follow the Yellow Brick Road

05/11/2017
Dorothy, the Tin Woodman and friends had their path color-coded in gold when they set out to see the wizard. If only it was that easy in our court complexes across the country!
 
Modern mapping tools can help. No matter the stressful nature of coming to a courthouse, these tools—both digital and analog signage, directional design guidance and the software that runs in the background—can definitely get visitors speedily to their destinations.
 
Corbin Design of Traverse, Michigan, provides design and planning consulting services for directional signage systems within complex environments, explains president Shelley Steele. “Our goal on any project is to simplify a complex environment for first time or infrequent visitors,” she notes. Their designers first evaluate the circulation patterns and what parking, entrances, elevators, etc. are named in order to make the terminology more intuitive. Next, they apply color, icons and/or universal symbols to develop “a wayfinding logic” for the environment. This logic is then applied to the signage system design. 
 
The design needs to complement the environment and/or architecture while also being legible (right font, letter height, contrast, etc.) and be ADA compliant, she furthers. Once the sign type array is designed, they determine the appropriate locations and messaging for each sign that is programmed for the system. And while you may think that more is better, to the contrary she says: “Often we reduce the number of signs in the environment by combining the messaging as much as possible.”
 
While Corbin Design’s systems have not been of yet used in courthouses, they do have many university/college, health care and civic clients. Steele notes that the systems they design (they do not fabricate) are generally static versus digital but occasional digital directories are employed. 
 
Corbin’s civic projects are generally downtown and citywide wayfinding programs that direct users to governmental and tourism destinations/attractions. “We have developed wayfinding programs for 80 cities and towns throughout North America,” Steele points out.
 
Imparting communication
Government digital signage empowers institutions and agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to communicate with the public and employees more effectively, notes Sterling, Virginia-based company Mvix Digital Signage.
 
The firm points out that digital signage can significantly reduce the time and effort required to display engaging visual communications. They supply such digital display solutions to military bases, government offices, post offices, public parks, libraries, police and fire stations, chambers of commerce and, of course, courts.
 
Their solutions can share announcements, rules and regulations, display court dockets, show schedules, share emergency alerts and provide instructions on what to do, provide wayfinding maps and building directories and entertain visitors as they wait.
Mvix’s solutions are 100% digital, says Mike Kilian, senior director of Business Development. Several courts have leveraged their digital docket display system to display daily dockets alongside building directories, wayfinding maps and personalized messages.
 
Kilian explains that visitors to courts are often anxious or agitated and digital signage can reduce that anxiety by giving the public relevant information including dockets, informing visitors in advance of procedures at security checkpoints, controlling traffic, posting courthouse rules about decorum/noise, etc., scrolling news, providing instructions during an emergency, posting last minute room changes or even weather/traffic displays for their departure.
 
“Our role is to make the process for the citizen as easy as possible,” he says. “Going to court can be a stressful affair so when visitors are able to easily and quickly figure out where they need to be, there’s less frustration and anxiety.”
 
Trimming the budget
Streamlining, he furthers, also translates well to the budget. While streamlining reduces the bottom line of a for-profit company, return on investment also is a benefit for courts.
“ROI has many forms,” he underscores. Optimizing operations by keeping employees informed from a scheduling prospective reduces their workload. Keeping the public informed, engaged and knowing where to go will keep the court running more smoothly and thus save operational budgets.
 
Mvix offers consulting to courts on organizational streamlining. “Most are brand new to this initiative,” he says. “We provide that initial handholding, which includes content creation and ongoing technical support until they know how to effectively manage their digital signage network,” Kilian says. The company also provides content consultation in terms of wayfinding, narrowing down and tweaking what is important to map and what may be superfluous.
Mvix’s system is also cloud-based so authorized personnel can make changes from anywhere, from any device.
 
From among 600 competitors, Mvix won the 2017 DIGI Award for its software, which was cited for ease of use, streamlining user processes rather than adding work, Kilian explains. The award also recognized the ability for content automation, whereby a pre-built widget will sync up with the courtroom scheduling system to automatically update dockets.
 
Further, the software doubles as an emergency alert system. “Clients can deploy messages to multiple screens within 30 seconds,” Kilian notes. Whether it’s an amber alert, fire, lockdown, etc., it can take over all screens and provide immediate direction to staff and visitors.
“Our overall goal is to streamline employee workflow and make it the best experience the taxpaying citizen can have,” he says. “We are taking a holistic approach, and that is why we are getting on board with so many courthouses.”
 
Location, Location, Location
Mappedin search and navigation software is a multi-platform solution that is implemented on app, web, and kiosk platforms depending on their customers’ needs, says Larry Kron, senior director, Business Develop-ment & Partnerships. Mappedin primarily serves large-scale shopping centers (retail REITs), retail stores, college campuses, multi-use spaces (such as office buildings), casinos, etc. Currently, we’ve implemented our solution at City Hall in Strathcona, Alberta, and will be deploying our solution along with Olea Kiosks and Openeye Global for the City of South San Francisco’s City Hall, he describes, adding that the software is ideal for a variety of large indoor spaces. “Mappedin’s capabilities extend to any large indoor space that has a need for navigational efficiencies and where there’s an appetite to collect insights on visitor movement,” Kron says.
 
As others have pointed out, visiting a courthouse may be stressful. “Mappedin software on an Olea kiosk can help these people by taking away one less stressor, which is figuring out how to get where they need to go in the fastest way possible.”
 
When making recommendations to a client for their wayfinding project, Kron points out three benefits of Mappedin software that can be can be applied to app, web or kiosk platforms. First, he notes, is our search feature. “Our smart search pre-populates results based on data. As you start to type, we serve up recommendations based on previous searches. This enables users to easily find what they’re looking for.”
 
Then, navigation is discussed with court admin. “Our turn-by-turn directions will always take you the shortest route to your selected destination. This creates efficiencies for visitors, ensuring they get where they need to go quickly and accurately.”
 
Manageability, furthers Kron, is what sets Mappedin apart. The software’s user-friendly CMS allows property owners and managers to make changes to their map and have it updated in real-time. This means your maps are never out of date, and visitors will always be given an accurate wayfinding experience. “With large indoor spaces constantly changing, it’s crucial that our customers are able to make map changes quickly,” he concludes.
 
Behind the Scenes
Simplicity of the signage belies what is occurring in the background. Having sophisticated software running the signage is what gives it intelligence and saves manpower hours. Infax’s DocketCall solution is an electronic docket display solution that is ubiquitous for all sizes and types of courthouses. Its software seamlessly integrates with any case management system and provides digital up-to-date case information, says Kristen Zeck, marketing communications manager. Authorized staff located anywhere—within the court or even outside it—can operate the web-based interface to edit information, make room changes, manually enter records and other updates.
 
Have a variety of court types within the courthouse? DocketCall can filter case information to display in different areas within one facility.
To keep individual courtrooms up to date, CaseQ integrates with the court’s case management system to obtain the court’s docket for the day, then filters and organizes the cases by the courtrooms in which they are scheduled to be heard, and displays the courtroom-specific dockets on monitors outside the courtroom door. 
 
CaseQ’s user interface allows personnel to easily change the order of the day’s proceedings. Personnel can also update a party’s status to Present, In Custody, Interpreter Needed, or Appeared. With the addition of this tool, the court can keep waiting parties constantly informed of their order and hearing times, informs Zeck.
 
Infax has installed digital wayfinding systems in courthouses of all sizes. In the Regional Justice Center in Clark County, Nevada, more than 70 monitors are used to display the daily docket. The Williamson County Court System in Texas is using DocketCall, Engage and CourtBoard solutions to display court information on 20 monitors. Engage allows the Courts to display user-created content to help guide or inform courthouse patrons.
 
As far as assisting courts with implementation, Infax suggests the court needs to determine which areas of the courthouse could cause patrons to take a wrong turn, says Zeck. Examples of these areas are post-security lobbies and elevator lobbies, where patrons must choose from multiple hallways, floors or rooms. With the addition of signage in these areas, patrons can confidently guide themselves to their courthouse destinations instead of taking the trial-and-error approach to wayfinding.
 
If the courthouse is a larger facility with multiple floors or wings, the court should consider additional wayfinding signage. “One of the problems that large facilities face is that they have signage to start patrons in the right direction, but the signage isn’t sufficient to get them to their final destinations. This is when we suggest adding ‘breadcrumb’ monitors.” These monitors should be visible as the patrons enter a different wing or floor of the courthouse and provide further direction.
 
An example of this approach to wayfinding is the Infax system installed for the First Judicial District in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The system includes Engage, which allows the court to create its own digital content, and CaseQ, which displays courtroom-specific dockets. The court uses Engage monitors in the courthouse lobby to display patron information, directions, court directories and more. These monitors are the starting point for visitors. Once they are on the right floor, CaseQ monitors outside of each courtroom serve as the “breadcrumbs” to lead patrons to their final destinations, says Zeck.
 
Digital signage in courthouses was once considered a luxury, but we are finding that it’s becoming the norm, furthers Zeck. People have become so reliant on technologies like smart phones and tablets that they instinctively look to similar technologies for wayfinding help in unfamiliar environments. She points out that once courts have a digital signage system in place, they realize all the benefits that come with it. Patrons are able to answer their own questions and navigate the courthouse without help, and staff members are able to do their jobs without being interrupted.
 
In the end, with all the directional aid available today it is anticipated the path to the courtroom is becoming just as easy to navigate as the mythical yellow brick road that leads to the Land of Oz. CT
 

 

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