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Digital Signage: Best practices for content creation


Images courtesy Insteo

By Jim Nista
When it comes to creating digital signage content, the client’s goals must be the first priority, not the technology. Design also matters, as it is important not to overwhelm passersby. And in addition to developing content in the first place, it will need to be kept fresh over the longer term.

Steps to a successful project
Goals trump content and technology. The first question should be, “What does the client want to achieve with digital signage?” Some of the common answers include reducing perceived wait times (e.g. for customers in line at a bank or store counter), keeping viewers engaged, improving knowledge through education, selling more products or simply achieving a ‘coolness’ factor.

The real question, then, is what the client wants viewers to experience. Without knowing these goals, there is no way to know which size or type of screens to use, how and where to install them, where to source content and which content management software (CMS) to use.

Based on a project’s goals, the right mix of content—e.g. video, graphics, news, social media, interactivity, mobile integration—will start to become clear. And depending on the specific nature of that content, it may be (a) developed in-house or (b) sourced from outside professionals.

Technology, of course, will need to match the content. There is no point purchasing a touch screen for a digital menu board that will be displayed behind a fast-food counter! At this phase of the project, it is possible to begin specifying hardware, software and plans for ongoing content updates.

Choosing the right software will depend on how the content will need to be supported. In some cases, digital signage is used simply for a slide show. More frequently, the content will need to be editable. And with touch screens and other interactive displays, the software must be more complex in its design and capabilities.


A digital sign only have five seconds to catch a viewer’s attention.

Similarly, strategies and requirements for content updates will vary. They may be rolled out daily (perhaps by the client), weekly or monthly. The process can also be automated 
to make it easier for everyone involved.

Design factors
One of the simplest factors to keep in mind for digital signage content is the 3-m (10-ft) rule. This is the average viewing distance to take into consideration when determining the size of graphics and text for maximum visibility.

Another is the five-second rule. This is the maximum period a digital sign will have to capture the attention of the viewer.

Further, the content that will be viewed during this short period needs to be prioritized in order of importance, as the audience will only remember up to three elements of the content. It is therefore important to ‘lead the eye’ through the design and layout.

Smooth, purposeful animation is one of 
the best ways to lead viewers’ eyes to what 
the client wants them to see. A clean overall design, balancing form with function, will also maximize the opportunity for reaching and engaging viewers, regardless of the specific project.

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