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How to Keep Signage Up-to-date With Scheduled Content

Out-of-date signage may be worse than no signage at all. Here’s how to make sure your holiday and event reminders are on your screens when they’re needed—then back to regular programming afterwards automatically.

December  2023

ScreenCloud Post

Have you ever seen ads for “new” products released months ago? Or notices about “upcoming” events that are now long past? They’re not only a waste of resources, filling up space that could be better used by more up-to-date content. They’re also a waste of your time and attention. One out-of-date notice at a time, and viewers learn to pay little heed to what’s being announced.

The right message at the wrong time could be worse than no message at all.

Keeping traditional signage up-to-date is an exercise in fighting entropy. No sooner have you printed and hung up one announcement than you need to start planning the next one.

Digital signage is just as susceptible to outdated content, and if anything old ads and notices are even more obvious on screens since we expect tech to be current and up-to-date. That’s why you need to put your signage’s smarts to work for you. With scheduled and trigger-based content, your signage can always be up-to-date, even if you forget to update your messaging after the holidays. Here’s how.

How to build business TV channels

Happy New Years celebration digital signage

Start with content. What do you want to showcase on your digital signage?

On normal work days, signage might show dashboards of business stats to keep employees focused. A smart menu board in a restaurant with specials highlighted for customers. Live-steamed Zoom calls for company-wide updates. Flight times, weather, and a news ticker for lobby signage.

Some content, like menus, are best shown full-screen. Others, like work stats, might be best shown alongside other content to make the most of large screens and video walls.

Depending on your company, you might want to have that content shown on a single screen, or automatically updated on hundreds of screens at every company branch and campus across the globe.

In ScreenCloud’s digital signage app, Channels are where content and schedules come together.

Apps organized into a scheduled playlist in ScreenCloud digital signage

Start with Apps. ScreenCloud includes built-in apps like Canvas to quickly design digital signage screens and Playgrounds to code custom dashboards. Pair those with integrations from popular business software including Google Calendar, Slack, Microsoft Excel and PowerBI, Zendesk, and more, plus support for embeds and extracted graphs and other data with ScreenCloud Dashboards.

Then, combine those apps into Playlists, ScreenCloud’s equivalent to a PowerPoint presentation. Say you want to show an inspirational quote, then a dashboard of stats, then recently highlighted Slack messages, followed by a list of upcoming events from your office calendar, and you’ve built out those individual slides in their respective ScreenCloud apps. Now, create a new playlist, click Add Content, and bring in each of those apps.

Playlists show each content slide full-screen. Each new app or slide will show for 1 minute by default. Click the timer on each content slide to set how long it should be displayed—or, in the right sidebar, tweak each content type’s default duration.

Both apps and playlists can be published directly to screens. That’s enough to power your first digital signage.

Arrange apps and content into any layout with ScreenCloud's digital signage channels

Channels up the bar and turn your signage into a business TV channel. Dashboard front-and-center, upcoming events in a segmented zone on the right, a news ticker on the bottom with the latest Microsoft Teams updates. Three apps, side-by-side. Portrait slides, for custom display orientation and resolutions that match your video walls. Any signage layout you can dream up, you can build with Channels. And you can schedule those channels to show up when and where they’re needed.

Start by creating a new channel. Choose between portrait and landscape, to match the orientation of your screens. If your screens are uniquely shaped, click the Change button on the right sidebar and set custom dimensions.

Then click Edit Layout to select how to arrange your content. Choose from a variety of pre-built layouts with popular signage styles, or design a custom layout in CSS to arrange content any way you want. 

Schedule which apps and content show be displayed in each digital signage zone

Finally, fill out the channel layout with content. Click a section in your layout, add the apps and content you want to showcase there, and repeat for each of the other fill zones. You can add individual apps or media that you’ve uploaded to ScreenCloud. Or, you can add playlists to a channel for a quick way to import a set of apps together. By default, individual apps and content will play for 1 minute each, while playlists will follow the play length previously set for each item in the list.

With apps set up and channels built out, everything’s ready to push content to signage. From ScreenCloud’s Screens tab, you can push an individual app, a playlist, or a full channel to a single screen or to a screen group to update a set of signs at once. That way, you could build out new menu signs, then push them out to all the restaurants in your chain with a click. Or, if one location has unique signage requirements today, you could pull together a custom channel and push it to that single location’s screens for now—and later update it back to match the rest of your company’s signage.

And, as an extra bonus, you can share a link to your channels for an easy way for your team to stay up-to-date with your company announcements a tab away on their browser or phone. Click the Share button—the people icon in ScreenCloud's top toolbar—and enable the Share with Others link on the bottom of the dialog. Copy that link, and anyone you share it with can now see a live preview of what's showing on your ScreenCloud signage.

How to build a digital signage schedule

It might be nice to show your team train arrival times and the local weather at the end of the work day, to help them plan their departure. That same info isn’t very useful first thing in the morning when they arrive at the office.

Same for restaurants with varied breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu screens. Or retail locations with seasonal promotions. Or company-wide announcements about team outings, health insurance notices, and other time-sensitive notices.

Schedules matter almost as much as your content. With apps customized for signage and organized into channels in ScreenCloud, it’s worth putting a bit more time into scheduling that content to show when it’s needed most.

ScreenCloud only supports scheduling content with Channels. You can set any individual app, content, or playlist to play on any screen. But if you want to have a Zoom livestream only show up on Friday afternoons during your weekly all-hands meeting, you’ll need to set that schedule in a Channel.

Set when and how long each app and piece of content should be displayed on digital signage

Every piece of content in a Channel includes a schedule that, by default, sets it to run all day, every day. Click that Everyday button, and you can set the content to only show on certain days of the week and certain times of the day. Set reminders your team should see before they leave the office to run around noon and 5PM, say.

Or, set content for a specific date—say, to have your holiday announcements show up on December 23rd before everyone leaves for Christmas. Click Specific date only, set the start and end dates, and set play times as well if you want to display that item for part of the day. 

Dates do include years, so if you would like to have the same holiday message show up every year, you could pre-schedule it a few years in advance (or, if you want to make sure your New Year’s announcement always has the correct year, you might want to set a reminder for yourself to make a new celebratory message each winter).

Once you take the time to set the schedule for each bit of content, you can sit back and trust that your signage will show the right message at the right time, every time.

Temporally cast content to digital signage

Push content to digital signage temporally by casting in ScreenCloud

Schedules don’t have to be set in stone, though. You can show new content on signage, then get back to normal programming automatically when the time’s up, using ScreenCloud’s Cast tool. It’s perfect for putting up temporary notices—think emergency weather notifications or last-minute sales—without having to worry about forgetting to take them down.

To cast content to digital signage, open the Screens pane and select either individual screens or an entire location. Click the Cast button—similar to the RSS icon—in the top menu. Select the app, playlist, or channel to show on your signage. Then in the lower bottom of the pane, choose to cast for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or a custom duration of up to one day.

Confirm, and your selected screens will switch to the new content. Once the time’s up, they’ll switch back to their preset channels or playlists that were playing before the cast.

How to automatically change digital signage from calendar events

Zapier automations can update digital signage whenever new events start

Then, you can get more creative and build signage that automatically updates on its own—no scheduling required.

The easiest way to do that is with ScreenCloud’s Playgrounds tool: A hosted CSS, HTML, and JavaScript environment to code custom signage with the same tech you’d use to build a webpage. Playgrounds includes webhook support, to push JSON data to ScreenCloud and dynamically update your signage.

That gives you a way to build a single slide that’s always up-to-date. Want to have a welcome sign that says today’s day of the week? You could code that in JavaScript in Playgrounds, or could set up a Zapier or Microsoft Power Automate automation to push the day of the week to your sign every morning.

You could use a similar workflow to build custom holiday signage. Start with a Zapier or Microsoft Power Automate workflow that watches your office calendar for events. Whenever there’s a holiday, have it copy the event name and send it to your webhook-powered Playgrounds signage.

Automatically update digital signage with a button press or keyboard shortcut with GraphQL

You could also use ScreenCloud’s GraphQL API to automatically cast content to your signage. Instead of scheduling content in channels, you could use GraphQL to cast an app to your signage automatically. Pair that with Zapier, and when it’s a holiday, the Zap could use ScreenCloud’s GraphQL API to cast your holiday message to your team. You could also build a custom stream deck integration or keyboard shortcut to control signage, to press a single button and cast emergency messaging to all of your signs, if needed.

Check our Playgrounds + Webhooks guide to start building dynamic signage, and our GraphQL guide to start using ScreenCloud’s GraphQL API to automate your signage.

Keeping your digital signage current, ahead of time

“Time isn’t the main thing,” said jazz legend Miles Davis. “It’s the only thing.”

That applies to signage as much as to music. Your team will hopefully remember your holiday and insurance renewal reminders. They’ll learn over time to glance at signage throughout the day to see sales and traffic stats. Your signage will become a bit of augmented reality, a work heads-up display for your team.

But all of that trust can evaporate with out-of-date notices. If your Happy New Year sign is up in February, it’s hard to trust that the stats and dashboards on your signage are accurate.

That’s why you can’t afford to let your screens get out-of-date. With a bit of advanced work to build custom channels and schedule content, and a bit of automation to switch back to regular programming after holidays and events, you can trust that your digital signage always shows current slides—even if you forget to update things on January 2. With app integrations, you can build a unified notifications ticker or custom calendar signage that always shows the latest data–no extra work required.

Already using ScreenCloud? Take a few minutes to tweak your channels’ schedule and build automated triggers to update signage. Or, upgrade your existing signage with a free 14-day ScreenCloud trial to simplify your signage work with scheduled content.

Image Credit: Header photo by Eliza Diamond via Unsplash

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