Businesses and organisations can use digital signage in all kinds of powerful ways, from getting attention from passersby to creating more engaging in-venue experiences.
Of course, to make digital signage truly work for your business, you need to know a few digital signage best practices.
So in this guide, we’ll cover the 3 most important facets of digital signage for businesses: design, scheduling, and intelligent content. Let’s do it!
The first stage of any digital signage deployment is thinking about the design of your content. More than almost any other medium, digital signage can’t do its job unless you’ve thought about each facet of design, from backgrounds to font to colour scheme.
Beyond that, you should adhere to a few fundamentals of design to ensure that you’re making your digital signage as effective as possible!
Prioritisation and Preference
Look at your messaging and consider a hierarchy that highlights your messages in order of importance. This will help you decide which message receives more overall display time and gets a more prominent location on screen.
Place content that has the greatest value to your audience in the middle of the screen, and make it the biggest and boldest that you can.
Prioritisation is especially important when it comes to cost and use of resources – you may only have a limited amount of time or budget, so focus on the messaging that matters first!
Layout and Composition
These are the most important rules for your content layout:
- Like a picture, the digital screen should lead the eye to the area you want your audience to look at.
- If you have too much visual noise going on in different areas, your audience will struggle to focus on the most important element of the content.
- Start with the important message/imagery first, and then allow your audience to navigate around to other details in order of importance.
Divide your template/screen into nine segments and use the linear divisions to place the
most important content around. This is a great way of ensuring your content can breathe and
not fight for space.
Boundaries and Borders
Use the borders as a frame and frame only. Keep imagery away from the edges, as the trick is to lead the eye into the centre of the screen.
With pictures, try and point them facing into the screen rather than away. This will also help lead the eye to the centre.
Avoid cluttering your screen with too much content, as this will make it very difficult for your audience to process the information. Depending on your screen size and viewing distance, here is a general rule of thumb for text size:
- Headline - Font size of 40pt
- Supporting text - No less than 24pt
- Call to action - Font size 32pt
- Imagery - Space your planned text with imagery and use the hierarchy to establish the layout.
Believe it or not, the text you choose can make or break your digital display. It mostly comes down to two factors: the number of words and the font(s).
Number of Words
Ensure that there are no more than 30 to 40 words per screen at any one time. Too many words will cause the viewer to become bored, unless the information is contained within a table like a timetable or tariff card.
Choice of Font
Avoid light, seriffed, and italicised letters – go for a non serif font instead. This makes it easier to read, particularly at a distance. Arial and Verdana are good examples of fonts that can broadcast your message with clarity.
Best Size for Distance Viewing
Here is a quick guide to font size in relation to viewing distance (i.e the distance the viewer is from the screen).
- At 1.8m (6 feet), use 30 pt.
- At 3m (10 feet), use 48 pt.
- At 4m (16 feet), use 72 pt.
Of course, the above guide is just that: a guide!
Remember that screen size will have a big impact on the amount of content you show and the font size as well as making it pleasing to the eye.
Too many fonts within one message will distract the viewer and make it difficult and undesirable to read. Keep the number of fonts used to two maximum.
Touch screen content should be made accessible for people of all heights, with special consideration given to wheelchair users ensuring everyone can reach the interactive touch icons.
Most of us are used to reading the western alphabet from left to right. For the best layout, text should be arranged from the left to make it easier to process.
Of course, this does have its aesthetic limitations when we want to highlight a specific product or service and decide to centre the text.
Centring text can work extremely well but should be limited to short line lengths and a minimum line count as to not bore the audience with too much information. Keep it short and to the point.
There are certain criteria or standards when it comes to the correct type of artwork used in digital signage. Here are the basics:
Resolution refers to the amount of detail an image can hold and is expressed in DPI (dots per inch). Images should be no smaller than 72 dpi.
The aspect ratio refers to a screen’s length and width. The two common aspect ratios are landscape (16:9) and portrait (9:16).
A screen specified as an HD or 4K display may share the same physical dimension, taken
from the bottom left to top right corner (i.e. 32”, 43”, 50”, etc.). However, the amount of detail each screen can display is very different, depending on the resolution.
A standard high definition (HD) display in landscape with a 16:9 ratio will have a resolution
of 1920 x 1080 pixels. A 4K or ultra high definition (UHD) display with the same physical dimensions will be 3840 x 2160 pixels.
What all this means is that you must size your images and videos to the correct screen size and pixel count per screen. Your pictures and videos should be of the highest possible
quality to give them the best professional look. Ideally, you should try and get a professional photographer or designer to create custom images and videos for your display
If the budget is tight, you can turn to one of the many online stock image libraries out there, such as Depositphotos, or for free images, check out sites like Pexels and Unsplash.
Scheduling your content involves the amount of time each piece of content will be shown on the screen.
This is all about the timing – keep in mind everything from where the screen will be displayed to what time of day each message will be aired. Scheduling can make or break the success of your digital signage strategy, so pay attention to these factors!
Footfall and location have a huge impact on the timing and scheduling of your content. For instance, a captive audience (e.g. pubs/bars, waiting rooms, cinemas, music venues) will have a longer waiting time than that of passing or moving traffic.
Put yourself in front of your own content and calculate how long you look at it before losing interest. How well does it fit the setting for your display? This is a great first step in understanding your customers' viewing habits.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to remember:
Static messages: No less than 10 seconds for static messages and no more than 40 seconds.
Dynamic messages/video: No less than 25 seconds and no more than 2 minutes.
Keep the above in mind, especially when the time comes to change the content (i.e. a breakfast menu to lunch menu to afternoon menu to evening menu).
Short Wait Times
When you have pavement traffic, traffic held at traffic lights, or slow-moving traffic looking at a digital window display, focus on content that communicates the key points of your message quickly.
In these short wait time situations, promotional adverts and messages should be around 12 to 15 seconds in duration. Anything over 20 to 25 seconds and your audience may well lose interest or not have time to see the whole message before moving on.
Any repeating information should be scheduled no less than 1.5 to 2 minutes apart, unless it is practical information like flight times, timetables, opening times, box office, etc.
When to Change Content
No content or messaging lasts forever, if for no other reason than ad fatigue. With that in mind, be prepared to change or phase any that’s coming to the end of life (i.e. time sensitive promotions) over a period of 1 to 2 months.
This is to ensure your target audience won’t see the same message more than 12 times within that period.
One really good trick when it comes to scheduling and rescheduling your content is to split your screen in half with separate content, a practice known as screen-splitting.
Digital signage lends itself very well to businesses looking to attract new audiences to their
product and services. For instance, you may want to consider running content featuring a product video on the left-hand side of the screen and prices shown on the right hand side. Or perhaps a countdown to box office ticket availability for a particular theatre or film showing.
By connecting with a third-party application, you can even show a live web feed that interacts with the app to display waiting times on parking spaces or other dynamic content!
3) Intelligent Content
The last of our 3 digital signage best practices is creating the highest quality digital signage content you can, keeping in mind the earlier factors of design and scheduling.
Once you’ve determined elements like design, wait time, viewing distance, and scheduling, you can focus all your attention on creating captivating content. Take advantage of some of the following ‘intelligent content’ ideas to really dazzle your audience!
Time of day and seasonal timings
Think about your audience demographic at each time of day (and each season throughout the year). Who is around and when?
For example, if you operate a QSR, you could offer a breakfast menu on your digital sign for early risers and then change to a lunchtime menu for people with limited time. Or perhaps it’s worth advertising a grab-and-go meal deal around peak hours?
A personal touch
You have your own story, so why not use this to attract audiences with a personal message?
You and your business are likely part of a culture within your local community, so appeal to them with messages that convey your story or heritage. Try to avoid standard generic messages, as these tend to get absorbed into the everyday and won’t stand out from the crowd.
Movement attracts attention, so try and introduce animation into your content where it makes sense. This can be something as simple as a ‘pulse’ animation around your logo, or a section of content that is running a limited time special offer.
Why not adopt the screen-splitting technique and show your product in detail? For instance,
you could have coffee beans falling in a continuous slow-motion effect alongside your hot drink variants.
If you have multiple screens together or individually placed around a venue, why not show the same content across all screens for a limited time period? For example, you could offer free delivery on all takeaway orders, and show an animated van driving across all your screens from right to left to reinforce the idea that you offer free delivery!
In this case, the van could move across the screens for 12 seconds, then revert back to the previous content shown on each screen. Multiple screens are a fantastic option for capturing people’s attention in a way that a single screen could not.
We all have short attention spans, so content needs to be dynamic and snappy if you want customers to engage with it or remember it.
However, this is not always possible, particularly when you have a lot of detailed information you want to share – or in cases where the wait time is quite short. That’s where a QR code comes in handy.
Placing a QR code alongside your product promotion will help audiences take the information away with them. This is a great solution that works with almost any stage of the buying process!
Well, there you have it – by implementing the 3 best practices of design, scheduling, and intelligent content, you’re sure to elevate the effectiveness of any digital display!
Getting to know when and how to use these digital signage best practices may seem challenging, especially if you’re new to digital signage. But hopefully, this guide has helped you start moving in the right direction with your content!
For more support and expert advice on how to engage your target audience with digital displays, get in touch with us at James Hogg Display and speak to one of our team!