The Digital Signage Insider

Optimal Digital Sign Layout

Published on: 2004-05-13

One of the things that has been on my mind lately is the optimal usage of space on a digital sign. Many of our customers are deploying signage on a single common form factor: the 42" plasma screen. Yet, from this one standard canvas, they have created a tremendous number of different presentations. For example, while many of our banking customers take a full-screen approach and display a single "feed" of content on the screen at once, others in retail, travel and finance choose to segment the screen into multiple regions and display multiple pieces of information on the screen at once. Still others choose to orient the plasmas vertically in a "portrait mode," and use them like large moving posters.

Unfortunately, because our customers occupy such diverse fields and use their digital signs for such different applications, it's difficult to tell if one usage of the plasma is decidedly better than another. (This is compounded by the fact that our customers who use the signs to increase sales are often reluctant to part with their lift data).

One increasingly popular approach seems to be the 3-pane approach, with a full-motion video feed occupying the upper left portion of the screen, some live content displayed in the upper left, and a "stock ticker" application running along the bottom.

Personally, I'm unsure of the value of segmenting the screen this way. Even a 42" screen looks fairly small when viewed from 10 or 15 feet away, and since digital signs are often suspended from the ceiling, this is not uncommon. Additionally, at 852x480 pixels, most plasmas used in digital signage applications do not have a very high resolution, which means that the small text squashed into the live content and ticker areas can appear fuzzy. A high definition screen would fix this, but costs much more than a standard screen. Finally, while customers in a travel hub or financial institution might be stationary for a long enough period of time to absorb the information contained in three screens, shoppers in a retail environment probably won't be. That's why (to me, at least) a single-pane approach makes the most sense. It can provide the biggest impact and fastest motion to hopefully capture the attention of passers-by.

Finally, for those who think that I take this opinion because our FireCast digital signage software can't handle the multiple region setup mentioned above, a standard FireCast OS system can display up to 2 full-motion video feeds and an unlimited number of additional web and flash feeds for things like stock tickers. Additionally, our Dynamic Media Edition (DME) will handle up to 24 simultaneous live areas of content plus unlimited web and streaming areas, provided that you have a fast enough computer to play it back on Smiley.

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