Tips And Techniques For Digital Signage Layout

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

AAARGGGHHHH!!!! The ‘Tips and Techniques for Digital Signage Layout‘ published over on the Digital Signage Expo (DSE) site whilst undoubtedly well intentioned are TRULY AWFUL and as many of the folks who wrote into us today have said also; it’s “exactly the kind of ill-informed advice that hurts our (still nascent) industry” more than almost anything else!

As one senior exec in the industry told us “To have something like this posted with implied authority is infuriating”

First off, trying to specify where content goes on a screen without considering the content itself or its context is very very WRONG.

Bill Gerba, who is presenting a ‘7 best practices’ speech’ at DSE seems to agree with our criticism. In a Twitter he made recently when we first raised the issue “Have to agree with @DailyDOOH, the tips don’t make sense. Screen zones can only be planned AFTER objective, context, placement and content”

The article makes not one mention of one of the most obvious ways to capture the viewer’s attention and get the message across; which is of course, FULL SCREEN – it’s what the OOH folks have been doing for decades now.

And rather than talking about what is common, why doesn’t the article talk about what is right? Now we are not saying that one methodology could possibly be correct for all applications but there are some facts that must be taken into account when doing any sort of design: –

  1. People can only look at and process one thing at a time
  2. Peoples’ attention is attracted by motion
  3. The smaller things are, the shorter the effective viewing distance

We’d also put forth for major consideration that in most any out-of-home space a screen will never capture peoples’ full attention to begin with. Other than in movie theaters, people are not there to look at the screens – most viewing will be done at a glance and there will always be myriad distractions in the environment – including most significantly, other people!

That said, the implications of chopping a screen into multiple zones are that you turn one big screen into multiple, less readable screens and your multiple zones compete for attention reducing impact and effectiveness of all of them!

If it’s worth putting on the screen, then make it bold and readable! Lou Giacalone calls this “temporal interleaving vs. spatial interleaving” and it also implies keeping the messages nice and short.

Phil Lenger, President and Owner of Show+Tell Productions, along with Lou will be telling you how content should be done at DSE and we suggest that folks go along to the ‘Content Day – How to Create Compelling Content‘ – it’s on the Tuesday, 2/24/09 9:00am – 5:00pm and is a Full Day Conference

14 Responses to “Tips And Techniques For Digital Signage Layout”

  1. Alex Hughes - Amigo Digital Says:

    Good well balanced article and I can’t help agreeing with all the sentiments, espcially those of Bill Gerba. To propose screen partitioning seems like a very dated concept – especially if these proposals are put forward preceding the actual content development!

  2. Michael Willems Says:

    I could not agree more… I have been against screen partitioning from day one – unless extraordinarily well done. Partitioning as usually done just gives your audience an excuse to not watch the content you want them to watch…

  3. Stephen Dorsey Says:

    Thank you for pointing out the obvious! I thought I was the only one that found it ridiculous and completely off-mark.

    Unfortunately, this is what can and does happen when a young industry like ours is dominated by important influencers (DSE) who can widely distribute information as newsworthy and educational, when in fact they are passing along a client’s promotional marketing info as part of a sponsorship deal. DSE does a lot of things right but they should have realized that this article was nonsense.

    In any case, I appreciate that you took the time to clarify matters.

    As a content provider to the digital signage and mobility industry, our starting point has nothing to do with the screen or zones…it’s about content strategy.

    Moreover, we focus on the objective and the impact the content should have on the target viewer. How we achieve this effectively in the context of location and screen size is the challenge we must address for each individual client. Hence the real value proposition.

  4. Chris Bias Says:

    With all due respect, I think what you’re missing is the fact that your publication is strictly for out-of-home networks… whereas DSE’s publication is also read by people who use digital signage in other environments. I use digital signage (using MediaTile) in a corporate environment — at Eli Lilly and Company — and the multi-zone layout is the only way I would ever go.

    Your comment that “most viewing will be done at a glance and there will always be myriad distractions in the environment” is exactly right. That’s why, in the corporate environment, I use a three-part layout that features weather, stock market information, and Reuters news, along with my company news in the main area. By putting content on the screens that employees need in their daily life — weather, current time, news — they also catch company news.

    Guy ended with how important it is “to keep your audience in mind.” I couldn’t agree more.

    P.S. I’m attending the Content Day all-day session at the DSE and I’m quite hopeful it won’t be all centered around OOH networks… There are more than just OOHers that are using digital signage. If it’s all OOH, I’ll likely find myself back at The Paris, losing cash by the handfuls.

  5. Josh Tonasket Says:

    I generally can’t stand passive digital signage because of all the noise; ESPN as the main ticket in a bar and then DS around the boarders is madness between the network scrolls and DS. I agree that FULL SCREEN is the most impactful way to capture attention, if the content is engaging the prospect will pay attention to the next loop of advertisement. I think screen zoning is better suited for interactive digital signage where people are looking for as much information at one time to help navigate them to pertinent information they are seeking.
    I think the better read from DSE was ‘Audience Metrics in Turmoil’

  6. Stephen Ghigliotty Says:

    Yes another example of an IT voice where a marketer should be…

    This is dated and tortured and works against digital signage as an industry. Another reason not to attend DSE…

  7. Richard Lebovitz Says:

    If you take the time to join and read my response to Adrian’s blog on the Digital Signage Expo LinkedIn group, I think you’ll find that we’re not above criticism here, and as the one who chose to publish the article, I’ll take my fair licks. But let’s be careful about false statements, such as Stephen Dorsey’s “they are passing along a client’s promotional marketing info as part of a sponsorship deal.” The only fact in this statement is that UCMedia is a DSE client. As for the argument over “partitioning” vs. “full screen,” don’t you think some thoughtful and contructive explanation of the pros and cons would help advance the understanding of “best practices for digital signage content,” which also is the name for the Digital Signage Association’s publication on this topic. The association, BTW, doesn’t take a stand.

  8. Manolo Almagro Says:

    an interesting article – (albeit old) but relevant all the same. – Even TV news is changing its ways – the ticker (and partioning) is on its way out.

  9. Guy Avital Says:

    First, I am impressed by the amount of attention this article received.
    I don’t agree with some of the conservative remarks which suggest that digital signage layout should be only a full screen.

    I believe that you should listen to your audience to reach your audience. Screen division is an integral part of digital signage and its here to stay. Full screen TV style is appropriate in certain venues, but will not accommodate customer interests and needs in others. Digital signage screens are not just a display for playing commercials.

    For many of our customers its primary use is to provide useful information. A good screen layout will accommodate their interest and gain their loyalty. We see it in education and corporate digital signage, where digital signage is gaining popularity. Our minds are trained to scan through a webpage to find the information we are looking for, and we like to come back and find the information next time we visit. You achieve customer loyalty and confidence in the information the screens provide.

    I think screen division will be a part of digital signage with respect to the venue and the audience. I believe we are going to see Screen divisions more as interactivity gains more popularity. We shouldn’t limit the capabilities of digital signage by creating strict rules that promote full screen as the way to go, but rather take advantage of all options in screen layout that accommodate your audience needs while distributing quality messages. The beauty of digital signage is your ability to create a content that is tailored for you prospective audience. Content is still a “King”. Let’s not Chop Digital signage wings by limiting it to full screen and take the advantage of digital signage features and apply them to the right venue.

    The article I wrote was about “how to divide a Digital signage screen, while maintaining the right ratio for the main media section” If you’re going to use full screen layout only, the article does not apply to you.

  10. Guy Bucknall Says:

    Unfortunately, I agree with you all, detractors and publishers alike. Over the last ten years I have been involved in a number of DS roll outs in various applications and only recently have used both full and split screen applications.

    To para para phrase Bill Gerba “Screen zones can only be planned AFTER objective, context, placement and content”. It does not mean that you should never use either layout but the audience situation and the communication brief is what should determine both the source of raw content, creative execution and delivery format.

    In general terms you DOOHers out there are correct. A golden rule in advertising is deliver one message at a time and the more times you repeat it (using multiple creative executions if you have the budget) the better. Thus a simple message, full screen with some good movement to attract the eye will generally be your best format when you have limited dwell time and you are in a generally ‘visually busy’ scenario.

    In longer dwell time areas, however, where your DS is competing with other video media such as Satellite TV, you simply cannot run a channel that is purely advertising. Ten years ago, we all got away with it because people were just amazed to see such a flat screen and as a consequence the content got noticed. Today, your content must be relevant or be ignored. Thus, the need for multiple feeds from various applicable sources is an essential in a long dwell time scenario. If your brief is to remove a paper based notice board (as I recently did in more than 200 sites), the target audience needs to be able to know that they can glance at the screen and get the information immediately. By splitting the screen, you can achieve a number of information sources (as required by the communication brief) and if you do it well you can even advertise to them too.

    There is one issue that has bothered me slightly in all the correspondence in your most interesting blog. No DS application is the same, even if two host brands are competing in the same market, there are still multiple differences between each. These might be different brand objectives, slight variations in target audience etc. If there is a golden rule in running a number of DS networks it is that there is a very fine line between getting a DS operation very right and getting it very, very wrong. The only way to combat that in the medium to long term is to plan it properly and then research the hell out of it. Adjust it and then research it again. Oh… and then keep on researching it. You will, I promise, adjust it a little every time and sometimes you might even end up back where you started – just five years later. But throughout, you will have done what using Digital Signage is all about, providing an excellent communication system that is flexible in an ever changing world.

    Kindest regards

    Guy Bucknall
    Former MD of Gym Screen Media

  11. Stephen Dorsey Says:

    To Richard Lebovitz.

    I am not above apologizing if my comment was deemed “false” so let me ask you:
    A. Why did your “client” (or you) post their company information at the end of the article on your site if it was not to promote their company?
    B. If there was indeed no consideration for you publishing this article(any?), then do all your clients have access to posting and having you promote an article on your site? Is this a service available to all exhibitors with no fees or strings attached?

    If the answer to these questions are yes. Then I apologize for mis-informed my statement.

    If you read my entire entry, I think you would understand the context of my comment in regards to the the value of the information provided.

    Stephen Dorsey

  12. Richard Lebovitz Says:

    I understand how you could have leaped to the conclusion you did, but the facts are exactly as I stated. As a matter of course, we’ve been publishing bylined articles regardless of the contributor’s relationship with Digital Signage Expo. You’ll see similar biographical information at the end of other articles, many of which are written by Expo speakers at my invitation and with the stipulation that the information be “non-commercial” and “educational” in value. It could be argued that anything not written by a professional journalist has some promotional intent implicit in it, but the acid test is whether the information is authoritative and credible, which seems to be the crux of the argument here. If we were to exclude an article simply on the grounds that it was written by someone who has a company affiliation, then I’m afraid that we would deprive our audience of some valuable sources of information and insight. We can speak further about our approach at Expo if you’d like, but I think I’ve said enough here.

  13. Yahav Ran Says:

    when I first saw the article in DS expo, i thought it was a “tribute to the ancient ways to designs your layout”, nothing more than a bad joke.
    I’ve been designing layouts for digital signage in the past 5 years. working with page based (full screen) and zone based application. I think that what we are missing in the “zone base/page based” debate is that both of the this are only tools for the designers to work with, and not a “design approach”.

    I’m personally using application that support both zone based and page based simultaneously. I use zones in the design to ease my workflow. and with soft edge, soft blending and alpha channel supported I can easily integrate the zones into my “full screen” design. Why not work with both? it make more sense to me.
    In that way I keep the “full screen look” (page based) and integrate zones for real time data information (RSS, Weather, data base).

    my point is, both are usable and should co exist nicely together. separate them, and you simply limit your design.

  14. Kindle... and kindling • Real Digital Media Says:

    […] also to blogger Adrian Cotterill of The Daily DOOH. In a post yesterday, Adrian took on an immensely misguided guest article on screen layouts posted on the site of the […]

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