Top 5 Digital Signage System features today
What do you need Digital Signage to do?
In compiling a list of the Top 5 digital signage system features it is important to qualify the type of signage you are interested in. There are many systems available and some are more specialised than others. Our Top 5 digital signage system features list includes the features that all systems should have, even if they have a specialised use, but the list is more relevant to the average digital signage display requirement.
In choosing a Digital Signage system there is a myriad of options available today and most are not required for most businesses. Broadsign, for example, has fantastic advertising features for ad agencies. You can create customers who want to run ads on the system with ad rates, proof of play and a user interface that is designed for the purpose. PADS4 has unrivalled data connectivity to display external data from any data source to produce truly dynamic live data content.
Others do and do not have features like data integration, advanced scheduling, 24/7 system monitoring and notifications. It is therefore important to know what your usage requirement is before you invest in something that has features that you will never use. You should think about what you need to display and how you want to create your content.
It goes without saying that most digital signage projects do not require the level of sophistication of either Broadsign or PADS4. These systems will do anything but the cost is high for ordinary signage requirements and they will have many features that are simply not required.
Make a list of what you think you need. Do you need menu boards, workplace information, weather elements, evacuation notices, videos, Facebook feeds? Work out how much time you have to work with digital signage and if you have knowledgeable help. This will help you decide what type of system is suitable for your workflow and available technical resources. Then evaluate if a system has the features to do what you want and in the time you have to work with the system.
So what are the Top 5 digital signage system features that we think are requirements for the average digital signage system?
Top 5 Digital Signage System features
#1 Cloud based or On-Premise digital signage
How a system operates is of paramount importance to your workflow and IT resources. If you are not a very tech-savvy business or do not have the time and resources to manage a digital signage system then you probably want a cloud-based solution. If on the other hand you have people inside your business who are knowledgeable or you outsource your IT management then you will probably go for the on-premise solution. But what do these really mean? Larger businesses may want to display content that is mission critical or extremely sensitive and so they may consider an on-premise solution for security reasons.
Cloud-based Digital Signage
A cloud solution is basically a software service (SaaS). The software is hosted on a cloud server and you access the software and control and edit the content from an internet browser. You are not involved in running the server, managing the server, updating software or any day to day running of the software. This is all taken care of for you. You merely need the hardware at your premises – an internet connection, a screen and a media player with player software. The digital signage provider does all the rest to ensure you have a working system.
This is a great option for single screen users, low to mid-range screen number users, businesses that do not want to get involved in the technical aspects of the system. Cafes, restaurants, sole trader retailers, clubs and pubs are typical sectors that find cloud solutions extremely time efficient and cost-effective. It is, for sure, the simplest and easiest way to run a digital signage system allowing the business to concentrate on running its own affairs without adding any extra workload.
On-Premise Digital Signage
The on-premise solution is where the software is controlled and installed by businesses at their own premises. The Digital Signage Provider will provide a download of the system software application that businesses will then install on their own (server) computers. All screens will be connected to this server computer via a local network. The management and software updates are the responsibility of the owner. This solution provides the business with total control of the system with their own security requirements. It also provides greater control of system resources. With companies that have strict security and or highly critical display criteria then an on-premise solution is usually the best route to take. Financial Institutions, Airports, Government, larger businesses tend to go for on-premise solutions so they can fully control the system inside their secure environment. However smaller companies with IT departments can run on-premise solutions as they tend to be available as buy outright systems rather than monthly subscription models. Single to a small number of screen users will not really benefit from an on-premise solution. In general, you need to decide what type of ownership suits your business and your workflow.
A thing to consider is that as your business grows you may want to transition from a cloud system to an on-premise system. If a provider only provides a cloud solution then you will have to start again to transition. A provider that provides both cloud and on-premise solutions are providing a truly versatile system and should be worth considering.
iScreen Digital Signage Scalability
Here at iScreen, we provide both solutions for this very reason. We realise that your business changes and grows and that your digital signage requirements change along the way too. Our system is scalable to fit your growing business and scalability is a big consideration. Once you start a digital signage project you really do not want to start again. You want the system to fit around your changing requirements.
Heres a list of some integral features that you need nowadays to create engaging content.
#2 Digital Signage Tools and Elements
Tools are everything. You want your content to stand out. You want to create content that is original and engages viewers. Too many digital signage displays fail because they do not have the tools that make presentations dynamic. The days of simply displaying a series of static jpeg images from a USB stick are over. Already the audience is more demanding than that and expect a greater sophistication to capture their attention.
You need to be able to integrate text, scrolling text, images, videos. You need to be able to “rotate” these element features and be able to place text on top of images with different colour backgrounds, transparency, font colour and sizing. You need to be able to layer elements. Resizing and positioning should have multiple controls – drag and drop, pixel numerical control for precision, full width and fixed width, left right and centre…… The more flexible the control interface the easier and versatile the design will be. Some systems have fixed partitioned areas to the screen interface. We prefer a fully fluid grid with flexible resizing and positioning. This creates a more unique look and feel.
With shapes, you can highlight content, create headers and footers. Shapes should have colour and transparency features as well as borders and curved corners with border-radius settings. Shapes should be draggable for size and positioning and also have the other controls mentioned above for precise editing. They should have layer alignment to be able to sit on top or behind other elements.
Orientation and Resolution:
The content needs to be able to play on any screen size and with both vertical and landscape orientations. It needs to be able to play on full HD as a minimum but have 4K and even 8K potentially available too. You also want it to be able to play across multiple screens for video walls.
Widgets. Feeds. Data:
Time, Date and Weather widgets should be standard features. More interesting is the ability to integrate Facebook and Twitter feeds, YouTube videos. Live Data from say XML feeds and Google Sheets are even more interesting. Adding “live” data to your digital signage takes it to the next level. Providing the latest pricing or times or stock availability is a standout feature that gives your viewers the up to the minute latest information they need at the right time. In our view, a system that does not provide data capabilities is very limited. More on data integration below.
With the increasing ascendency of touch in interface control so you need to have an interactive capability for your digital signage. Interactivity with touch screens adds user choice and control to digital signage. Users can select content and have navigation choice. This can enable applications like Wayfinding, product information access, category selection and more. Some systems also allow for data collection from your users – email addresses, polls and questionnaires with button clicks and onscreen keyboards. Adding interactivity is advanced but can be a very useful application in certain situations and should not be dismissed even if you do not start with these features – down the line you may need them.
Static displays are not eye-catching. Replacing printed posters with static digital signage is pretty pointless. You need your content to change and when it does change it needs to be animated to catch those passing people’s attention. The more animations you have the more options you have. A simple fade can in some cases be very effective but a dramatic flip or swirl can sometimes grab attention more easily, Text that moves. images that bounce, pages that slide up or down can all enhance viewer engagement. Use animation creatively to “wow” the audience.
Other tools to consider are adding web pages, creating your own HTML code and adding that adding content from other content in the system, streaming and QR codes. You should also consider management features like creating additional users and creating different permissions for these users. You might want to create a user that can edit content but not schedule it to display.
#3 Live Data presentation
What do we mean by live data and digital signage? If we use menu boards as an example perhaps it will become clearer. How many cafes have you been to with printed menu boards where the pricing has been altered manually with a blog of white paint or a sticker. What if you could get the pricing to change, on a digital signage screen, automatically from a google sheet on your mobile phone? What if you could control the whole menu from this Google Sheet and take off items that have sold out or add a new item? And what if you could do this without having to edit the page design at all. Well, this is what “Live” Data is capable of doing. You can have one price in the morning and one price in the afternoon. In fact, if you have your pricing in your POS terminal then you may be able to use that data instead. Connecting to external data is now a vital element in modern digital signage. It provides the latest information to your viewers automatically. If the data changes so will your screen content.- simple – automatic – quick.
Data can be text, images, videos so you can control whole pages of content. It doesn’t have to be limited to numeric data. Using data connections like this can be the most powerful tool that digital signage can provide because it can use data that you already have. If you have to choose between a system that does or does not connect to data we advise you choose the one that does. For certain you will want to use this functionality down the line, if not straight away, and so it is one of our Top 5 digital signage system features.
#4 Scheduling and Narrowcasting
Content needs to be scheduled to display at the right time and the right screen. You should be able to schedule by the minute, by day of the week and multiple days of the week. Advanced scheduling will also allow recurring events – every Monday or every Monday and Wednesday between 9.30 and 11.00 am. Dragging scheduled events in a calendar app is also a quick and simple way to create schedules if the software has this feature. Previewing the content in the schedule app is also a nice way to double check everything is OK before you commit to the scheduling.
With this kind of advanced scheduling, you can target your audience with relevant content. Between 9.30 and 11.00, for example, you can target young mums who have just done the school drop off. If you had a schedule between 3 and 5 pm running you could target after school kids with children’s products and treats! This kind of scheduling is sometimes termed narrowcasting – the targetting of a specific audience in this case by the time of day.
#5 Easy to use
Last but not least in our Top 5 digital signage system features is the user interface. This should be easy to use and understand. An overly complicated structure to create and schedule content can be a real deterrent to quick and easy content creation. If it is too hard and takes too long then people are discouraged from creating content and the system becomes a static display as people can’t be bothered to edit or create new content. Digital Signage projects die because they are not dynamic and change frequently enough. If it takes you a long time to create content you will not be creating a lot.
Features like drag and drop, draggable resizing and positioning, colour pickers, styling features, side panel tools and controls, copy and paste functionality all help to create an effective workflow. If tools for a particular element automatically appear if you click on the element this is a great time saver. You want the controls you need at the time you need them. If you have to go hunting for the tools you will soon get fed up. It shouldn’t be too hard for you but also users you allow to use the system. If you have to spend hours training staff how to do things then this is not an effective user interface. It should make sense and be intuitive.
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