5 DOs and 5 DON'Ts of Interactive digital signage
Like many things in life, trial and error is the key to success in the interactive digital signage business, especially considering the ever-evolving and competitive nature of the industry. This doesn’t mean you can’t try to fast track that process and minimize any negative impacts that can potentially eat away your enthusiasm. The one size fits all solution to achieve this? Learning from others' experiences!
Here is a list of 5 dos and 5 don’ts for interactive digital signage – lessons we’ve learned while working with more than 1500 interactive digital signage experience providers around the world. Feel free to grab it!
Don't ignore the importance of analytics
Interactive digital signage is no longer some big, loud, dumb screen broadcasting a series of promotional content regardless of whether or not viewers are paying attention. We have moved on from that simplistic approach. Today (thank goodness), digital signage solutions welcome users to two-way communication, enabling them to interact through a variety of activities including tactile (at the minimum), voice, motion, etc. This means one thing: if we collect data about user behaviors, we can measure, adjust, and continuously improve digital signage performance, and make business decisions at large. Don't waste the added benefit of the interactive technology you invested in. It might as well serve you better going back to installing those big, loud, dumb screens if you are not willing to consider analytics as part of your interactive digital signage business. Be careful though, analytics is a specialty that not all solutions possess. Choose your digital signage software wisely to make sure this is an available feature.
Don't get stuck in a centralized CMS (content management system)
There are hundreds of Content Management Systems (CMS) out there; you may have already tried one. They usually manage content centrally and appeal as an all-in-one destination that enables users to save and access content within their own UI framework. Have you heard of the phrase "Digital Signage Software should not be an Island"? The problem you'll have by using a centralized CMS is that you are limited to that solution. Just like an isolated island with limited resources and capacity. The software can only sustain itself so much without external communication. Attempts to create advanced, rich digital content could overload your platform, causing performance issues. You will have to republish and redeploy the heavy content each time you make any updates manually on the centralized CMS, which will waste your resources and complicate access by collaborators. So if you want your interactive digital signage to live up to its name truly, avoid a centralized CMS and switch to a platform that dynamically and directly communicates with any external resource using connective interfaces like APIs. This way, you can keep your digital signage lightweight, relevant, rich, and easier to access.
Don't limit yourself to predefined templates and grid-based frameworks
Interactive kiosks and digital signage. They’re just another representation of your brand identity. Unless your goal is to make your brand indistinguishable from the others, don't lock your content into predefined templates or layouts. You don't want to invest in interactive digital signage just so that you can impress people with the mere presence of some snazzy looking hardware device. Use unique and attention-grabbing design elements, layouts, and story flows throughout the entire experience. Templatize your own design - not someone else’s - to maintain a consistent branding strategy. Of course, if you are physically limited by the customizability of your digital signage creation software, don't wait anymore to find alternative software, and make sure that it enables you to connect your current content to the new environment.
Don't overcomplicate things
Embrace the five seconds or less rule. If it takes more than five seconds for your audience to figure out what to do - or do next - you've lost them. Whether you're trying to inform or sell, you only have a short period of time to hold their attention. Here are three principles to keep in mind:
- Emphasize visuals over text: a smart graphic will go farther than the most brilliant paragraph.
- Don't over engineer: Don't overdo animations, layouts, and all aesthetic elements. Your content should look easy on the eyes and easy to use.
- Expect "fat" fingers: Make things easy to tap, grab, manipulate. Is the scene getting crowded? Split it up into separate steps rather than shrink everything to make them fit.
Don't keep it to yourself
Are you going at it alone? Unlikely. Collaboration is grease on the wheels of productivity. Whether it is to share prototypes before the launch, to hand over the project, or to get professional assistance from the software support team or experts, make sure your project is consumable by anyone who will have access to your designs and content. How do you do that? First, establish specific, descriptive, and consistent naming conventions for each item, collection, and scene. Don't name your images "Image1", "Image2", …. It should be fairly obvious to anyone how everything relates to the bigger picture. Second, use software that enables you to publish, share, and play in full view easily, whenever and wherever you are. This may sound insignificant, but the ability to share and exchange feedback quickly will save you significant effort and time.
Do hold yourself accountable for end-users’ privacy
Through every interaction users make with your interactive digital installation, they are sharing personal - and possibly sensitive - information. Your installation must account for the level of privacy a visitor will need to feel comfortable. These are our suggestions:
- Adjust screen size and design according to the intimacy of user input
- Transparency about data collection and usage has to be built into the entire visitor journey
- If personal information is collected, make sure purging occurs clearly, effectively and voluntarily
- Use table-mounting, enveloping enclosures, and other physical approaches to increase a sense of security
Do use no-coding software to create interactive digital signage
Once you are on a mission to create highly interactive, gratifying and purposeful digital signage, you will realize that using a creation tool locking you in a limited design capacity and content accessibility is not an option. Don't be hasty to jump onto the coding option though. Good developers must account for a host of overhead costs, from testing to long-cycle iterations, while non-developers will have to outsource to coding specialists and carry the burden of cost, lack of control, and unpredictable timelines. Ideally, delivering a digital signage experience involves countless feedback, modifications, and iterations. Bespoke development, if not done right or well, can drag down the entire project. DXPs (Digital Experience Platforms) like Intuiface help you bring out developer and designer quality results without coding - and without giving up on efficiency.
Do more than touch
There are two main reasons to do more than touch-based interactions. First, you can do it, and second, for modern audiences, you have to. You can do more than touch because praise the technology, there is a myriad of interaction technologies up for grabs, you just need to adopt them at your will, and of course at the capacity of your creation software. Make your interactive digital signage more engaging by inviting users to do more things than just tapping on the screen. Let them speak, navigate through using real objects, scan to retrieve more information, and feel texture through haptic touch technology. Plus, more interactions mean more data you can collect to generate insights into users, business, and the performance of the installation.
You should also be obliged to do more than touch to make your digital signage accessible and usable to all people regardless of ability. Accessibility isn't a boring list of standards–it's a (not so) revolutionary philosophy of inclusion. Incorporate text into speech, voice recognition, or keyboard interaction for the physically and visually impaired. Find more tips here on designing for accessibility.
Do know your audience
You're not building a touchscreen experience for your own amusement. There's an audience of people out there to whom you need to appeal. Get to know them.
- Define target demographics: Consider age, gender, background. Be conscious of this in your designs. Your messaging, calls to action, layouts, graphics, and more will require one approach for twenty-something females and a different approach for retired males.
- Estimate your target audience's comfort level with technology: Your design must guide your audience without insulting them. You must also be careful not to make assumptions about the prior knowledge brought to your screen. For example, do they really know pinch and spread gestures can be used to resize images?
- Even design aspects like font, font size, and overall aesthetic can be impacted: What is their level of education? Do they possess an increased likelihood of physical handicaps? Will there be international visitors?
Do test, test, test
There's nothing more disturbing than witnessing dead digital signs displaying a black screen or an error message. Even more so if you need it and there's no alternative, and to make it worse if it’s out there for everyone to see! Downtime should not be an option, and a series of tests should follow from the beginning of the project, not just during or after the installation.
- Thoroughly understand network connectivity at the site before the installation. You might have to readjust your content strategy to determine whether or not you can retrieve connection based content.
- Test your content on different devices back and forth. Share it with your colleagues and make sure you don't miss out on anything. Make this process easier by adopting digital signage software that makes sharing easy.
- Triple-check in advance that the form factor is the right match for your content. Verify if it displays the resolution and configures the content properly.