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Spicing Up Digital Signage with Interesting Content

By Mike Strand, StrandVision Digital Signage

Digital signage is growing by leaps and bounds but not every installation is a success. At StrandVision, we’ve found that the electronic signs that are entertaining, consistently interesting, changed often and meet the information needs of the viewers are the ones that succeed at business marketing.

Since digital signage content creation is generally assigned to an employee with many other tasks, the tools must be easy to use, quick and rewarding.

This article presents a number of ideas on how you can help your customers spice up their digital signs inexpensively and with minimal effort. The ideas will also help you discuss creative digital signage content approaches during the sales process and possibly even help you earn additional revenue by assisting your customers with digital signage content creation that appears on their digital media players. Some of these ideas turn to outside resources, but you and your customers can often rely on the capabiities that are built into many of the digital signage systems that are on the market.

Look Close To Home

There are many internal business marketing sources of interesting topics and graphics. Most companies have professionally designed Web sites with plenty of content that can be used for digital signage. Newsletters, customer magazines, advertisements, even videos, have text, graphics and clips that can be used for the electornic signage system. Digital signs also provide opportunities to get employees, visitors and customers involved which improves viewership and message retention. Photo contests, student art displays, pet pageants, and employee events are generally great ways to engage audiences and improve employee communication.

We’ve even had a few customers take Flash graphic animations, such as exploded views of equipment, which were running on their Web sites and “repurpose” them for their digital media player. Some customers even add live videos of attractions, such as eagle nests or local views, or even Web feeds like traffic or weather, to give a truly dynamic feel to their digital signage.

Graphics Editors Enhance the Look

Your customers don’t have to use an expensive graphics editor to create and dress up the designs that they want to put on their digital signage. We’ve gathered links to several low-cost/no-cost graphics designer programs that work great for digital signage. I’ve put them on our Forum (http://forum.strandvision.com). Go to “Digital Signage Content” - “Content Design Tips” – “Free Graphics Designers.”

Perhaps the most familiar, but not necessarily the most advanced, graphics designer is Windows PowerPoint. Many are comfortable working with the program but are unfamiliar with the best way to convert a PowerPoint slide or slides for use on their digital signs. You can save your own low resolution images, but for today’s flat screens, the StrandVision Digital Signage solution offers a free converter from a .PPT file to .JPG graphics. You can go to “Use PowerPoint to Create Slides” in the same section of the Forum to be connected to the utility.

Another posting in the Forum, “Design Images for your Display's Resolution and Aspect Ratio,” gives some great tips on making sure graphics are not distorted to fit the proper digital media player screen format. Also, digital signs require higher quality graphics than Web sites so users should be aware of the image size when they select graphics. Images that are too large hog bandwidth, while others that are too small don’t look good on the screen. Graphics editors, but not PowerPoint, will let users specify size to optimize bandwidth. Some digital signage providers, including StrandVision, have built in bandwidth managers that appropriately size graphics to match your screen resolution as they are processed and sent to your digital signage player.

Look Further Afield

RSS feeds are another great source of interesting content. So much so that we have another section on our Forum, “Digital Signage Content” – “Fun RSS Feeds,” that lists digital signage information sources that range from sports news to the latest on the H1N1 virus, to specific, customizable company corporate and stock information, to movie mistakes, this day in history and NASCAR. There are thousands of them out there, some that will be perfect for any venue.

Many digital signage suppliers, once again including StrandVision, have a page type that enables users to include an RSS feed simply by typing in the URL. We also automatically adjust the display time using a words-per-minute algorithm. The only caution is, from a licensing standpoint, users should check to make sure that distribution over a digital signage system is an authorized use of the feed.

For those who want to add their own local electronic signage content, customers can even create their own RSS feeds to deliver specific information to their audience. Many RSS development tools exist, but we’ve gathered a few low-cost/no-cost applications on our Forum that don’t require an IT staff. See “Create your own RSS Feeds for Free” under “Fun RSS Feeds.”

Finally, check out some of the bells and whistles available through digital signage service providers. Some of our customers have taken advantage of our database capability that allows programmed or random access to database information. One of the most creative uses is in RE/MAX real estate offices (and on their Web site) where they show a picture of the property and the listing information. It’s easily managed by updating the database and uploading the picture. Other features, such as special holiday and event templates, countdown pages and estimators (of energy usage or recycled materials, elevator trips, visitors, or any number of other factoids) can add spice to the signage and improve your customer’s bottom line.

Interesting electronic signs are successful installations. Help your customers get the most from their digital signage and pay dividends to you for years to come.

Mike Strand is founder and CEO of StrandVision LLC, an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a leading bar code software and AIDC company. Prospective resellers may contact Mike at mjstrand@StrandVision.com.