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Sense Check: Why You Should Keep Digital Signage Simple

Four theories behind why we need to take digital signage content back to basics.

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If you’re in charge of sourcing digital signage for your organization knowing where to start can be tricky. You want to impress, after all it’s up there on a big screen for everyone to see, but you also want your message to be meaningful and useful. In advertising, perhaps one of the best gatekeepers of making a mark, the messaging may be bold, but the thought behind it is always that ‘less is more’.

The same goes for your digital signage displays. Here are four things to consider when making a digital signage display that’s effective without being overwhelming.

Glance time

Digital signage is undoubtedly a glance medium. Unless it’s positioned in a waiting room where the only thing to do is wait, or in an office where the screens are used as tracking and monitoring tools, you’ll be lucky to get four seconds of a customer’s attention.

This can be adapted to by ensuring that every one of those seconds counts. To create a simple but effective message, you need to think about form, order and timing.

Timing - how long is your ad shown for? It’s a thin line between ensuring your customer has seen the message and leaving them bored of the same display. Test showing a short reel of content, but repeated three or four times. Test sharing an offer code for 10 seconds, then 15, then 30 and see which one gets the most customers to use it. Every digital signage scenario is different so it’s important to find that sweet spot with customers and how long they want to view the message for. A focus group of just five customers viewing your digital signage content could give you great answers on the timing of your displays.

Form - this is the basis of your digital signage display composition. Many of the ScreenCloud Apps take care of this part for you. If you’re using one of our great social media dashboard partners or a weather display it’s likely we’ve thought and tested the UI for you. If you’re creating your own content, a presentation, image, video or so on, remember the medium you’re serving. Text should be large enough to read from a distance, colours should complement each other and composition should follow the natural eyeline. Find more tips on form here

Order - despite only having a few seconds of attention available, the order of your content will help establish a narrative. Playing four short messages, on a loop will help your viewer to piece together a story, creating logic. Related content and campaigns can be grouped and the order should work for the audience, with introductory slides or adverts where required.

Thinking about purchasing behavior

If you think that 53% of mobile web site visits are abandoned if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load you get to grips with just how little time you have. Within any purchasing  cycle, speed and delivery of message is key. 

In a study on attention spans (full PDF here) Microsoft advise:

“If overwhelmed by input or lacking the motivation to process it, their brain will stop taking it in. Exclude unnecessary information. Part of achieving clarity is eliminating distractors. Stick to the main message. If something doesn’t play a significant role, it’s not needed.”

This should be a key message in digital signage; if it doesn’t contribute, remove it. This will lead to a more engaged audience and messaging that resonates, rather than distracts from the key purpose. 

Less is more design

As we mentioned above, take a glance at the best billboard ads or print posters and you’ll see that less is more. If one of the greats like Nike only need one headline, three words and one image, does your digital signage content really need ten of each?

If it’s good enough for Nike. 

Our brains recognize and appreciate simplicity as we are able to instantly unpick the information and see its core message. It makes us feel clever. When you see a digital signage display with paragraphs of text or six different zones the effect is overwhelm. We’ll often turn our heads away, so as not to bombard our already overworked brains. 

Let people respond to patterns; three word sentences, groups of ideas, images that make sense to the situation the viewer is in at that time. Use large font and sans-serif styles. Digital signage, despite being an on-screen medium, has more in common with printed adverts and posters than with TV. When a viewer watches TV they’re in it for the long-haul, with digital signage you have just seconds to make an impact. 

High availability networks 

“High availability” comes from data communications but is becoming more relevant to the digital signage market. A high availability network is one where the data, or information, is always ‘on’ and where the visitor expects it to be always available. 

If we’re honest, this is one of our big bugbears - screens which sit blank or with error messages showing. We’re naturally attracted to look at screens. If there’s no content to look at, the opportunity is lost and it’s likely we won’t look back in the future, or we’ll have a more negative opinion as a result.

Keeping digital signage displays ‘always on’ and updated with fresh, relevant, simple content is not difficult. At ScreenCloud we offer the simplest software that makes use of apps, plus content you already have, that can be put up onto any screen in a few simple steps. Check out our tutorial here or setup a free trial and see for yourself at

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