Fresh, engaging content takes serious time, energy and budget to help achieve your desired ROI/ROO over the long haul. There's really no quick fix.

How can your software help? Depending on which software you choose, the options range from many to few when it comes to creating content.

By Steve Glancey, VP of Business Development & Pete Erickson, VP of Creative

Built-in software options:

1. WYSIWYG editor: Just because your software has it, watch for major differences in the number of features and capabilities. For example, are your fonts, colors and layouts limited or are all design options completely configurable with the ability to upload custom fonts, set colors by Hex #s and set unlimited customization of layered zones with transparency etc.

2. App store: Having pre-designed templates or integrations with 3rd party tools can save a lot of time and money designing/coding. A differentiator here is the number of apps as well as your ability to customize the look and feel to your brand without having to edit the code. Obviously, the design quality of the apps cannot be understated as well.

TIP: Make sure the content is appropriately licensed. Many providers include this very important detail in their fine print. You’re responsible for licensing that .rss news feed from CNN or ESPN copied from the web.

3. Vertical-specific tools: enterprise grade software solutions have built extremely powerful tools specifically for digital signage. Think of it as a Photoshop/After Effects/Dreamweaver mashup with the features you actually need to put it all together. What makes these tools so powerful is their ability to completely customize everything in one place–blending video, images, HTML5, dynamic data, and even custom code or API integration/editing. Then, when you’re done, publish to your playlist in one easy click.

4. Full-service software providers: if you select the right software and/or AV Integrator partner, they can not only help you with the software or hardware, but also with all things related to content including strategy, design, implementation and ongoing support.

Tools < Taste

It’s worth emphasizing that while a robust feature set in your software can get the average user pretty far in terms of quick content creation, it can’t completely make up for poor taste. While templates and pre-fab layouts often provide a helpful starting point, your content creation requires someone or some people in the mix to provide a sense of taste and uphold a design standard that supports your network’s objectives.

If you have a design team at your disposal, great!

If you don’t, here are a few key action items to pursue to ensure your software’s content creation tools are put to good use.

1. Brush Up on Design Fundamentals

2. Know your C.R.A.P. - that is, the 4 primary principles of design:

  • C ontrast - Used well, proper contrast of colors and element size hierarchy, contrast gives your viewers the quickest path to understanding the most important elements on your content.
  • R epetition - Effective repetition creates visual cohesiveness in a design by using consistent sizing, color, typography and positioning in the content. Done well, repetition shows thoughtful restraint.
  • A lignment - Properly-aligned elements create a sense of order, flow and visual hierarchy in your content. A good design can also however break the rules of alignment in a way to grab attention.
  • P roximity - Design that provides the right amount of space between elements results in readable content. It also supports good alignment by creating effective visual flow by appropriately grouping elements as needed.

3. Feed Your Palette with Inspiration

4. Develop a Design “Brain Trust” (go-to design buddies)

  • Join a Slack, Facebook or other online community - ask questions, learn about specific topics and design mediums similar to digital signage.
  • Buy coffee or a drink for a local designer or freelancer once a quarter - ask them what’s interesting to them, what trends are catching their attention.
  • Don’t know any designers? Look up the nearest AIGA or SIGGRAPH chapter and check out their next meeting - it’ll get you out of your comfort zone, and expand your horizons. Meetings are usually very social and non-pretentious.

When all else fails, hire it out. If you don’t have the chops to do it yourself using the tools in your software, set a budget to account for outside creative work. There are a lot of great agencies in the industry that produce fantastic work such as https://www.openeyeglobal.com/, https://fwdigital.net/, and https://www.reddotdm.com/ to name a few. If an outside agency isn’t your thing, hire a full-time or part-time video, motion editor or graphic designer.

Build it within your software or use 3rd party resources. Do it yourself, hire them in, or hire it out. Whatever you decide, just do it well, because we could all use a world with better digital signage content.