Guest Post: Trey Hicks, Visix
There’s a famous tricolon popularized by British real estate tycoon Lord Harold Samuel – “location, location, location” – that was meant for property but holds true for digital signage. You want a lot of people to easily see what’s on your screens.
Let’s examine a simple, but oft-overlooked aspect to a successful digital signage deployment: the physical location of the displays.
Organizations usually place their screens in high traffic areas where there are lots of people either moving through or congregating – lobbies and entryways, busy hallways and corridors, elevator banks, and common areas. That makes sense since the more people who go past the screens and see the content, the more likely someone will find something appealing.
When first planning a digital signage system, or reconfiguring an existing one, the best practice is to actually walk through the spaces, getting to know how the floor is laid out, what the natural flow of traffic seems to be; see what people tend to do in the spaces, and figure out the best places to put your screens. Things to consider:
- How long people stay in the space
- What they do in the space – move through quickly or slowly, or linger
- Where people stop, for how long and why
- What obstacles there are in the space that can block views of the screens – walls, pillars, stairs, etc.
You’ll also want to think about things like viewing height – a display so far up that people need to move their heads to see it probably won’t get a lot of views in an area where people tend to move through quickly. Also think about distances: most people can see clearly for about 20 feet and it usually takes about 6 seconds to walk that distance.
So, assuming someone sees your display at the first opportunity, you have about six seconds to get your message out to them. If you place a screen too high up, the distance at which people can see it is shortened, and so is the time they have to read and understand your message. Too low also reduces the viewing angle and exposure time, though not as much as too high (so err on the side of lower, if necessary). The best idea is to aim for average eye-height, about 5 feet off the ground.
However, content is also a factor in placement. If you plan to show employees HR communications, then you’ll want to put a screen somewhere they spend time, like the break room. If you will offer interactive wayfinding and directories to visitors, it really makes sense to put those in the entryway or lobby when people first come in.
In retail or hospitality environments, you want signage about a product near that product, and the same is true for on-site services. Have a digital menu board near your café or cafeteria, and put screens that show messages about a gift shop or gear store either near those locations or somewhere it’s easy to get to them quickly.
Go With What’s Natural
But where, exactly, to put those screens? One thing to do is pay attention to where your eye naturally goes first when entering a space. That’s probably a good place for a screen. But think about things on a macro level as well – there are three main viewing patterns for digital signage, and each one is better suited for different content:
- Point of Transit – people are moving through the space on their way somewhere else. These messages will tend to be shorter, probably more static images and things like deadline reminders (“Registration ends Friday”), general behavior messages (“We recycle here”), events (“General meeting in Room 707 at 4pm”), welcome messages, and messages to indicate where wayfinding and directories are located.
- Point of Interval – people are waiting for some length of time for some reason. Messages can be a bit longer because people spend more time in these locations. Use attractors like news tickers and weather forecasts, social media fees, staff spotlights, short videos and brand building.
- Point of Interaction – people are buying something, or interacting with staff, or with a touchscreen, and so are stopping for even longer. This is a great time to have messages with a strong call to action, information relevant to why they’re stopping, info-rich static messages, etc.
You’ll want to alter how long your messages are displayed based on what kind of location the screens are in, which will in turn influence your message design.
There’s a bit of a contradiction in placing screens – you want them to blend in with your décor, but also stand out. Think about using space that otherwise gets unused, like on columns or other places that seem like “extra” space.
Free-standing kiosks with interactive touchscreen are great, partly because they can be placed just about anywhere and because people will linger at them – digging through directories, getting wayfinding maps and scrolling through information and options while spending a good amount of time at that location. That means you can expose them to more messages, or messages with more detail. In addition, most kiosks are already at heights and have interfaces that are ADA compliant.
When placing wall-mounted touchscreens, you also need to take the space around the screen into consideration. Sure, a group of people crowded around something can create interest, but if there’s not enough room, or people have to wait too long to interact with the screen, they’ll become frustrated and lose interest.
Ambient light can be an issue for screens of all types, in all locations. Glare on a screen makes it hard to read, so think about that when choosing locations. And make sure to look at a potential space at several times throughout the day – the display might be fine in the mornings but get serious glare in late afternoon.
Sound is something that can be very effective when used sparsely, but you really need to use it as an enhancement, and not let it be a distraction. A busy lobby that echoes is probably a great place for a video wall, but not so great for videos with sound. Audio tends to work better in break rooms, waiting rooms or other areas where people linger and need entertainment.
And as funny as this may seem, it can be helpful to go to places that have poorly placed digital signage and evaluate why it’s bad, so you can avoid the same mistakes.
It boils down to keeping your digital signage goals in mind when choosing where to put your displays. What kind of messages do you want in which location? How can you maximize the impact of those messages? Don’t just throw a bunch of screens up and then try to figure out what to put on them. Goals inform content, and content informs placement. And make sure to do walkthrough audits from time to time to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your digital signs.