Digital signage can truly be an enigma. Today, it seems to be all around us in forms as diverse as interactive flat-panel displays, signs the size of buildings, and, most recently, on mobile devices we carry around with us.
Digital signage can be a very effective and surprisingly affordable communications medium for businesses and institutions of all types and sizes. But if you’re just getting started with a digital signage project — as well as designing the AV infrastructure behind the screens — you may be unsure of where exactly to begin and what all is needed to make it happen. Here are six things to remember when investing in digital signage.
1. Budget A digital signage system is not a one-time purchase. The budget needs to include costs beyond the initial investment. Future purchases will likely include software upgrades, new hardware, tech support, and, possibly, training. A company may even seek outside design consultants occasionally to completely refresh its look. In general, a budget that accounts for up to 24 months is better than one that only considers the first outlay of cash for displays.
2. Scalability Another factor in setting up digital signage systems that is often overlooked is scalability. An inflexible system seriously limits the ability to adjust, add, and change hardware and displays in the future. Content and functionality of the signage system will be in flux as well. Expanding signage configurations is par for the course when setting up a signage system. Other departments will want to deploy it once they see how effective it is. Companies get bigger and change locations, add offices, upgrade facilities. Signage needs to be able to scale with the organization.
3. Involve more than one person Digital signage shouldn’t be software that goes onto one computer with only one person running the show. Many people in an organization should be involved in digital signage content and configurations. Licensing agreements or Web-based systems easily accommodate multiple users, and the effort that goes into creating content and maintaining the system won’t need to start at square one with each personnel change.
4. Check with personnel before purchasing Chances are, digital signage will have many uses in an organization. Will it be used for marketing, wayfinding, deploying alerts, or some combination of those things? Chances are many departments will want to be part of the decision-making process: content designers and managers; IT staff; security staff; even legal and purchasing departments. Involving staff early in the process provides insight into the needs signage can meet and makes people feel invested in the process.
5. Don’t fall in love with the hardware Getting a great price on flat-screen televisions or media players is not the biggest concern when purchasing a digital signage system. Content is king, and thus a content management system (CMS) is the priority in signage. People, whether employees or customers, will be interacting with the software. The hardware needs to support the software, not the other way around.
6. Do a network survey Before buying, a qualified IT person from the purchasing organization should do a survey of power, network connectivity, and IT security policies for every location digital signage will be placed. Make sure displays will work where they will live; don’t let firewall or cabling issues disrupt deployment.