When people are repeatedly exposed to the same stimuli, they stop noticing it. This is a result of something called sensory gating or selective filtering – the brain actually spends quite a bit of energy not focusing on things, so we don’t become too overwhelmed by too much input and sensory data.
Think of what’s known as the cocktail party effect, where you stop noticing the sounds of people talking and drinking and moving – if you actually paid attention to all that, you’d go crazy. The psychological term is habituation, and we’ve all experienced it. After a while, you don’t notice the hum of an air conditioner, or the sound your car engine makes. Because we have this mechanism in our brains, things we get used to stop getting noticed and just sort of fade into the background. (This is one of the challenges of signage design for wayfinding, and why digital and interactive wayfinding is so much more effective – it changes, so it gets noticed more frequently.)
But even a dynamic system like organizational digital signage can fall into a rut and start getting filtered out by an audience. That’s why it’s important to change things up from time to time, so people start paying attention again. We call this content refresh. Your digital signage content is still valid and important but changing how it looks can do a lot to re-engage people who may have started selectively filtering it out.
Sadly, a lot of organizations tend to get their messages and playlist just the way they want it, and then never change a thing. This almost guarantees that people will stop paying attention to your screens.
An easy change is the colors you use. You probably have an approved brand palette, and your organization is probably already using the 60-30-10 rule (which is using three colors in ratios of 60%, 30% and 10% for your primary, secondary and accent colors, respectively). So, change which color is the secondary and which is the highlight, or add in different shades from your palette to compliment your primary. You can quickly search to see which colors and shades go well with one another, as well as current trends in colors and patterns. We’re not talking about an entire rebranding here, just a slight shift to make your digital signage content look new again.
The same goes for fonts. Change which fonts you use, or their sizes. All fonts have a personality and a purpose. Again, you probably have a few approved fonts to use with your brand, so just draw from that pool. Or use the same few fonts you always have but use them on different messages. If you have, say, a safety message that always needs to be in your playlist rotation because it’s always relevant, and are using a nice sans serif font for that like Arial, simply choose another san serif font that can also work.
You might also think about how some of your regularly-scheduled messages are worded. Can you say the same thing more succinctly? What’s another way to phrase the message? By the time a person figures out that what they thought was a new message is really just an old one, they will have already engaged with the content.
Backgrounds are always tricky – a great background can reinforce what you’re trying to communicate, but one that’s too busy can make it hard to actually read and comprehend the message. One thing to think about is smoothly transitioning to different types of backgrounds – images, patterns and colors – depending on the season:
- Spring – brighter colors, golden hues; images of plants and things that make people think of life and vibrancy
- Summer – colors with blue undertones (as if seeing things through a summer haze), as well as seafoam green and slate grey; images of beaches and blue skies, people being outdoors and unencumbered
- Autumn – Earthy colors like pumpkin and burnt orange and caramel; images of autumn leaves, kids going back to school, and other activities associated with this time of year
- Winter – clear and icy colors and images, as well as royal blue, magenta and violet; images of snow and ice and low sun, starker and bolder lines
But you can use anything as inspiration for your refresh – schools have semesters, companies have quarters, medical facilities have different things to focus on at different times of the year, etc.
Layouts can be updated as well – the exact same messages simply organized differently on screen can make things feel different and new. If you have tended in the past to drive the eye to the upper right corner of the screens, switch the focus to the upper left. This can be the overall screen layout, or even full screen messages. If you always center your text, try experimenting with justifying the message to the right and left margins from time to time.
You can even refresh your playlists – maybe that safety message has always been displayed around 1pm; change it to 2pm and see what happens. Shuffle the order of some of the messages and see if things seem different enough to be interesting again.
And this is a great opportunity to clean out your playlists, as well. Trash old messages that won’t be repeated, and look at those that will to see how you might be able to refresh their presentation.
Try altering your calls-to-action as well, and see if you get more responses. That’s a great way to engage people and get some useful ROI in the process.
But don’t just change things for change’s sake. You’re going for a refresh of your digital signage content, not a complete overhaul. Stay within your brand’s design parameters and try to gather data on how effective your changes are – by walking around and seeing what catches people’s attention, and by short questionnaires and surveys. Data-driven changes are likely to be the most effective.
It’s a real shame to let a dynamic system like digital signage fall into a static state and become just part of the background. Use all the tools at your disposal to constantly update and tweak your offering, so your screen content always feels fresh and engaging.