Some rules of thumb for developing the right content for digital signs
You’ve seen them in malls, airports, coffee shops and fast food restaurants. They’re large format LCD displays playing back animated messages that are used to advertise products, entertain people, educate an audience or enhance a brand image. These displays are delivering messages via a medium known as digital signage, an extremely effective communication method that reaches an audience where it matters most; in a venue where the message can be acted on.
This powerful medium is not limited to shopping centers; houses of worship can also benefit from digital signage. but instead of selling products, it can used for informational and promotional purposes. Churches that host multiple gathering can list event and meeting locations to help people find their way. Promoting upcoming events is a great use, especially if the display directs people to a sign up location, because it allows them to act immediately. Many churches list the daily prayer list, a wellness board of convalescing members and some even welcome new members by listing their names and showing pictures so they are more approachable to the rest of the congregation.
Many churches struggle trying to understand how to use digital signage because it’s a new technology, and there are many types of messages that can be communicated. Understanding where to place displays, along with knowing the type of messages to communicate and how to build them is crucial. Here are some tips to help you get started.
What It Is
In its simplest form digital signage is a multimedia poster that rotates through multiple messages. You can re-use the same media assets to develop the weekly bulletin or website updates so building multimedia messages doesn’t need to be a huge effort. If your solution delivers messages that you already communicate, you may ask why it’s needed. Well, any good marketing person will tell you that multiple communications are required to get people to act. In addition, digital signage is an impactful medium that people can’t help but notice. Plus, messages can be updated in minutes and your audience is able to immediately act on those messages.
There are probably many items on the list of what you want to communicate, and trying to fit them all on a display may not work. A good rule of thumb is to start simple and then keep it that way. For instance, if your church hosts several different events, use a dedicated portion of the display to list each event’s meeting room location and time. Another portion of the display can rotate through other messages of interest to the audience.
Digital Sign Placement
Place displays where people will notice them, but think about the message you communicate. An entryway is a great place to list meeting locations because it helps people get to where they need to be quickly. Locations with a high dwell time, like a common area where parishioners gather before and after the service, is perfect for communicating many messages which you can set to rotate through a loop.
There are many opinions about how long a playlist loop should be. A loop is measured by the amount of time it takes to see the same message twice. Some industry pundits want to see fresh content during the entire dwell time, but for informational use in a location like a common area, this approach doesn’t make sense. Parishioners are gathered together and talking to each other, so they aren’t necessarily fixated on the display, whereas people waiting in a doctor’s office might be. While they’ll notice the display, they may not see all the messages, so having the same message loop a few times is perfectly fine.
In a retail environment it’s normal for a single message to appear on the display. However for informational uses, breaking the display into regions (or zones) is an effective means of communicating. In a common area, one portion of the display could list the prayer board, another a wellness board and the largest region could promote upcoming events or important notices.
This is where some trial and error comes into play. It’s highly recommended to test a few sample messages with your communications team first, using the displays set up in their final location. As you move around the space, is the font large enough to read? If not, you need to determine what font size is acceptable, and whether it needs to be increased, or if in fact another display is required in an additional location. Display size is another critical factor, and generally speaking, bigger is better, but by all means don’t put a 52” display in a 10×10 room when a 32” will do the trick.
Multimedia messages are very noticeable, but placing displays in locations where they can be easily seen is still important. Before deploying displays, study your audience. Make note of the “flow” of the crowd. Where do people tend to stop to chat? Monitoring these patterns will help you determine the best mounting locations. Then, you will need to match display locations with the audience’s line-of-sight.
Integrating motion on the display is a great tool to attract the audience’s attention, but don’t overdo it. In many cases adding transition effects between messages is all that’s needed to get noticed and it lends a sophisticated appeal.
Don’t Use Tickers
Crawling tickers are great on ESPN to show sports scores, but they really have no place on your display. They are certainly neat to see, but getting your audience to read the message is difficult and a waste of valuable display real estate.
In areas where people are gathered for at least a few minutes at a time, use the 7:15 rule when building your messages. That is, people should be able to read the message in 7 seconds, but the message should be left on the display for 15 seconds. In entryways where people are passing by quickly, the rules change and message duration should shrink accordingly.
Aspect Ratio & Resolution
Always build your content to the aspect ratio and resolution of the display. Don’t forget about placing displays in portrait mode too. If it fits well in your environment and messaging structure, portrait oriented displays are a noticeable alternative.
When it comes to adding image files to a message, make sure you scale them down. An HD display is 1920×1080, so loading in a camera image that’s 3872×2592 does nothing except tax the media player. There are many image editing applications that are free and easy to operate, so find one you like and use it.
Digital signage is an exciting new communication medium with the power to influence your audience. It’s a proven tool in large retail environments and houses of worship are now adopting the technology to communicate informational messages to their congregation. With just a little research you can learn what’s needed to outfit your house of worship so you can start communicating in a new and exciting way.