11 Ways to Fail at Digital Signage

Many different types of organizations of all sizes are now using digital signs to engage and inform their employees and visitors. Some are using it to great effect, while others don’t see any appreciable improvement in communications. There are many ways to succeed and some very clear ways to fail at digital signage:

1. Visually Confusing
If it takes too long for a person to read your message, then you’re doing something wrong. You have only a few seconds to grab their attention, and then another few to keep it. Cluttering up the screen with too many content zones is one way to make sure your message gets lost – it’s confusing on the eye and people will just walk on by. The same goes for too much text on the screen, or using text in visually confusing ways – having more than one font per message is a bad idea, as is all italics or all bold (or the dreaded ALL CAPS). Having text lines too close together also makes it hard to read quickly, as does using colored text that clashes with the background.

2. Awkward Movement
Moving content gets noticed five times more than static, so if you have nothing moving on your screens, you’re not getting the attention you want. However, too much movement creates visual chaos and also makes people look away. Use animation and video, but sparingly – to enhance, not detract.

3. Poor Quality Images
Text-only digital signage is almost certainly doomed to failure, so you want to use imagery. But make sure it’s high quality – using stretched, squashed or pixelated pictures makes all your efforts seem amateurish. Common clipart also no longer works on today’s visually-sophisticated audiences. High resolution images that help reinforce your message are the key.

4. No Contrast
Obviously, white text on a light background would be nearly impossible to read. And the same goes for dark text on a dark background. But you want to use principles of contrast to do more than just make your messages legible – you want to enhance key elements. Try using a little bit of bold text or high-contrast colors to make key elements stand out, and mix image sizes a bit. But be careful you don’t end up making a big mess that drives the eye away from your message.

5. No Tailored Content
Some organizations simply recreate their website on their screens, or throw up a bunch of pdfs. This is not what digital signage is for. You need tailor-made content that works for your specific display sizes in the specific locations they are placed for that specific audience. It needs to be unique content in a unique format for people on the go – easy to see at a distance, and intriguing enough to get people to stop and look a little longer.

6. Bad Placement
Your screens are up too high, or get glare on them during high-traffic times of the day, and people just can’t see them. You want your screens at eye level, or a little higher – and if higher, tilt them down slightly. You also need to make sure your screens are where people actually go and spend time – sticking an expensive display in a hallway by the rarely-visited supply closet does you no good.

7. No Call to Action
Every message needs to have something for the viewer to do – sign up, attend the meeting, go to a webpage, patronize the café, whatever. Giving them a call to action is rewarding for them – they feel like they are part of something – and gives you ROI on how effective your messages are. Without a call to action, your signs are just branding.

8. Not Knowing Your Audience
If you don’t know exactly who your audience is, how can you communicate effectively with them? What are their wants and needs? Do they prefer hard data, humor, tips and tricks, or what? What are their challenges and how can you help them overcome those challenges? When do they look at your displays? Do they ever interact with them – either physically with touchscreens or later, following a call to action? If you don’t know your audience, it’s time to do some research.

9. No Communication with Stakeholders
Stakeholders in a digital signage deployment could be anyone from technology providers to HR professionals and advertisers on your system, as well as your content creation and management team. Identifying everyone who has a part of the deployment AND day-to-day operation is vital. A lot of digital signage systems don’t get successfully adopted because an IT team installs it without ever consulting those who’ll use it.

10. No Maintenance
You’ve thrown up some screens and started pushing out messages with no thought to maintenance or expansion. Digital signage is incredibly scalable, but you need to plan for it. Consider what you might need 3-5 years down the line, and plan for that. You also need to keep your system up-to-date with new hardware, operating systems and software updates. Like any other system, if you don’t update as you go, something’s eventually going to break.

11. No Flexibility
You can’t plan on your current team always being there – have clear instructions and training procedures for new people stepping in to old roles. Or maybe roles will need to expand, or split, or change? But even more importantly, how will you adapt in the future to new technologies, trends and changing demographics? If your system becomes fossilized, you’ll lose the competitive advantage in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. Be flexible and able to adapt as need be, and your investment in digital signage will continue to pay out dividends for a long time to come.

>> Want to avoid more mistakes? Listen to our podcast: 13 Ways to Fail at Digital Signage