Teaching Industry Newcomers About What Makes Content Effective
The first email I received was from the good folks at the DSE. They were writing to let me know that I'd be allowed to reprise the "Everything you need to know about making digital signage content" presentation that we've been peddling for the last few years during the upcoming DSE 2013. The DSE always attracts a diverse audience, including a good number of people who are brand-new to our industry, so I've been adamant that somebody needs to give a practical, nuts-and-bolts presentation on content at the show every single year. Or, indoctrinate early, indoctrinate often, as I like to say. If you don't plan on making it to the show (or you have better things to do than sit and listen to me prattle away for an hour), much of the session will cover tips that we've published before on this blog, including:
Making great digital signage content: The serial position effect
Place your most important messages at the beginning and the end of your list. Introduce the first item on the list at a slower speed, and leave enough time at the end for people to remember the last item. If possible, choose your two best messages and get rid of the rest.
Making great digital signage content: Get better recall with chunking and coding
Group key phrases or concepts together -- batches of three usually work nicely. Repeat important words and phrases 2-3 times in a row for reinforcement. Consider using alliteration and rhyme, since people are trained to respond well to these patterns.
Making great digital signage content: Optimize for context and eliminate distractions
Use imagery and symbols that are relevant to the viewer. These should make sense based on the tasks viewers will be looking to complete when they see your screens. Be careful when including images that are very attention-grabbing, like people's faces and pictures of babies. These can easily divert attention from your core message.
Making great digital signage content: Crafting your copy and call-to-action
Keep your text simple and clear. When writing your call-to-action, start it with a verb, keep the verb and subject close together, and either leave the call-to-action on screen the whole time, or show it several times per spot.
Making great digital signage content: Sorting out font faces, sizes and styles
Use sans-serif fonts and large font sizes so that viewers can read your message at-a-glance. Don't use too many fonts in a single piece of content, and don't go overboard with colored text. Avoid writing in all caps.
Making great digital signage content: Does color matter?
Choosing one color over another rarely has any impact on the success of your content. So, pick colors that meet your business and stylistic goals, e.g. those that match the color schemes of your venues or advertisers.
Making great digital signage content: Use contrast to your advantage
More contrast between foreground and background is a good thing. A minor change like increasing the contrast by 10% can make the content easier to read, and recognizable to a much larger audience.
Making great digital signage content: Motion, silhouettes and animation
Use motion selectively: you don't want to interfere with readability or comprehension. Give people enough time to read the text, and don't move your text around abruptly. When you're animating an element, try to pick something that has a strong and easily-identifiable silhouette. Consider keeping your logo and other important features on the screen at all times, without excess motion.
Making great digital signage content: Composing shots and scenes
Remember that digital signs have more in common with posters than with TV. Match up your text and visuals, and treat each slide like it's a stand-alone poster. Use visual transitions to link related slides within a larger piece of content.
Testing Digital Signage Content: 5 Takeaways From Our Research
Visual clutter is bad. Higher contrast yields better visibility. Landscape-oriented signage is more memorable than portrait-oriented signage. Shorter messages enjoy better recall. Using a slightly larger screen probably won't have much impact on how your content performs.
Image credit: Darren Harvey on Flickr
Recognizing Excellent Content
The second message in my inbox was from David Drain, Executive Director of the industry's other major acronym, the DSA. They're apparently getting all set up for their DSA Crown Awards, which "recognize excellent content," according to their press release.
I like the setup of the Crown Awards. Having both designed and then judged POPAI's digital signage content awards for several years, I know just how difficult it can be to a) produce a contest that is fair and balanced, b) find judges qualified to actually, oh, I don't know, judge content, and c) convince companies to enter the contest. What I particularly liked about POPAI's setup (and I'm pleased to see has carried over to the Crown Awards) is judgment of both form and function. Entrants don't just upload their prettiest content for beauty-pageant judging. They must also explain the goals of the content, and provide insight into whether the content successfully met those goals.
I particularly like the phrasing "recognize excellent content," since it's (intentionally or not) a double entendre. After all, for the contest to function properly, the judges will have to recognize (as in discover) the great content, and they'll then have to recognize (as in honor) it so that other folks will want to get/make some great content of their own. It's that latter part that needs the biggest boost in our industry. There have been plenty of contests, but none have been able to ignite a critical mass of potential content creators. There are plenty of organizations capable of turning out consistently good (or even great) content, but none have achieved significant scale in the industry. Maybe it's a price thing, or maybe most digital signage owners/operators don't know or don't care about the practical benefits of using genuinely great content. One thing's for sure: the content problem in our industry has not yet been solved. Some clever people have tried (and are still trying) to find clever solutions to the problem, but in my mind there's still a lot more work to be done.
So if you think you make great content, I hope you'll consider entering it into a contest or two this coming year -- both to show off your expertise and to help raise the bar for recognizing content as "great." And if you don't make content but you want to, or if you're new to digital signage and want a quick introduction to one of the most important (and often least appreciated) elements of any network, reading the articles above and attending my workshop at DSE 2013 are great ways to get started.