When considering a digital signage system, you have to think about not just who your audience is, but where they are as well. As people move into your facility’s spaces, and through them, they will encounter bottlenecks and choke points. Think about where to place digital signs for visitors to best serve them at key spots like entrances, exits and elevator banks.
There’s a concept in architecture called circulation, which is how people move through and interact with a structure. It’s taken from biology, because people in a building are, like blood in the body, the very life of a facility. This is worth keeping in mind when considering where to place your digital signs and what to display on them. You should also note that people move through time as well as space – coming upon various areas and features of the facility in a certain order. So, things that were useful at first may be less useful later in the journey.
The best way to understands how circulation works in your building is to walk through it while paying close attention to traffic patterns, where your eye naturally lands when moving through the space, and where your body seems naturally drawn to as you enter.
An entrance is a transition point from one space to another – often from outside the facility to its interior. This is an important place where people narrow their focus and begin to adjust their trajectories for a specific purpose. As you enter your building, where do you find yourself drawn to? What kind of information would be most useful to you at this point?
It might be tempting to place some digital signs or interactive touchscreens right by the front door. After all, people will almost certainly want to get from point A to point B, so access to a building directory and some sort of wayfinding are important when first entering. But make sure you place the digital signs in such a way that they don’t create bottlenecks. A big clump of people that blocks the doorway will only frustrate those who already know where they’re going, and might discourage some people from interacting with your signage at all (thus negating any help you are offering them).
However, you also don’t want to place your screens so far away that few people actually see and make use of them. If your lobby is an especially large one, it might be worthwhile to place directional arrows on the floor pointing the way to kiosks and screens, or have printed signs hanging over the kiosks. A big beautiful video wall that’s straight ahead as you enter can also get attention and give some helpful advice on where the directories and wayfinding are located.
This could well be the very first time a person has interacted with your organization in the real world (as opposed to online), so it’s important to make sure that everything is branded and consistent, so you offer them a terrific welcome and visitor experience right from the start. This could also be an opportunity to tell them more about you – what your core values are, your mission statement, contributions you make in the local community, etc. Donor boards are also popular at main entrances, so people can see who values your organization and its work.
Entrances can also be from one internal space to another. Think about what people are most likely to need or want, and what they could be thinking of as they get to each spatial transition. Would another wayfinding kiosk be helpful at this point? Is this an opportunity to display more specific messaging on your digital signs? If the on-site café is nearby, maybe a menu board, or at least some messages that show the daily specials and a few menu items (with tantalizing high-quality photographs or video).
It’s important to tailor your digital signage content for the area people are in. For example, it doesn’t make sense to show student announcements in staff-only areas of a campus, or sales team incentives to your buying public. So, schedule only what’s relevant to the audience using that particular space, and use it as an opportunity to tell them more information about where they are and what they can do there.
Elevators, escalators and stairs are known a circulation elements in architecture, since they facilitate the movement of people through the space. People are also changing levels within the structure, which is very different psychologically than simply going from one room to another. A little information about what’s coming up on the new level is useful, and makes people feel more comfortable since they know what to expect. But keep in mind that people tend to go right onto an escalator or stairway, so if you want to use interactive screens, place them well off to the side so the flow is not inhibited.
Elevator banks are different because people are waiting for a little while. You can’t really predict exactly where people are going on an elevator (unlike stairs or an escalator, where you know exactly where they are going next), so this is a good place to promote more generalized information about your organization, what you’re currently offering, and what’s available in the facility. Make sure your screens are ADA compliant, since any wheelchair users will certainly be using the elevators.
Smaller screens are probably best here. If people have to step back four steps in order to see your huge 70-inch display, they will feel disconnected from the elevator they are waiting for. You also might reduce the screen brightness a bit. If the screens are annoying to people waiting for their elevator to arrive, they will not thank you, and your digital signage can leave a negative impression.
Like an entrance, an exit is a transition point, but this time people are leaving your facility and re-entering the wider world. This is a good place to show things that relate to outside – transportation info, weather, local traffic, nearby businesses you partner with, etc. You can also take this opportunity to thank people for visiting, and maybe even have an interactive screen (off to the side) for feedback surveys about their experience while visiting your facility. This will help you fine-tune your digital signage offering, bringing it more in line with what people want.
This is one of the most important things to remember when managing a digital signage system. It’s not just a matter of putting up screens and letting them run. It’s a dynamic form of communication, which means it must constantly adapt to the needs of the audience. You may do a great job anticipating what people want or need when they enter your facility, but no one knows better than the people who actually use your digital signage whether it meets or exceeds their expectations.
Another thing to keep in mind for all locations people move through is where there are natural choke points. Cluttering these up with digital signs may add to the problem, whereas placing your displays a short distance away might draw off some of the traffic, making moving through a smaller space more efficient and pleasant for visitors.
You want your digital signs to enhance the visitor experience, not detract. Make things seem inviting, so people want to look at your screens. Some of this can be accomplished through your content itself, but other factors can also make the sub-space around the digital sign feel welcoming. A couple of well-placed benches, chairs or stools to give people a chance to rest, catch their breath and re-orient themselves might work – and there are the digital signs, adding to their experience. It could even be something as simple a placing a couple of attractive plants near the signs or kiosks, which many people will find a pleasant place to spend a little bit of time.
Think about what people want and need when they enter, move through and leave your facility, and do your best to make those things available. The watchword is suitable – make sure what you display is suitable to what people want at different locations, and also make sure the placement of the screens is suitable to the physical location they are in.