A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Signage

A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Signage

It’s easy for people in the Visual Communications industry to forget that not everyone knows what digital signage is and what it can do. We thought it would be a good idea to go back to the basics and offer a primer to help you determine the best system for your needs and industry, whether it’s a hotel, casino, airport, convention center, hospital, bank, corporate building, college campus or outlet mall.

What is Digital Signage?

Digital signage, or Visual Communications, can be a network of screens, or a single screen, powered by specialized software to display various types of content, including videos, promotions, announcements, social media feeds, weather, news, event schedules, performance data and more. Digital signage has thousands of use cases, and signage implementations can be seen in almost every industry—in fact, the next time you’re out and about, pay attention to how these screens are being used—you’ll be surprised how many places you’ll notice digital signage.

How do you Manage Digital Signage Content?

At Four Winds Interactive (FWI), we offer one comprehensive content management solution comprised of two main components:

Content Manager: This software platform helps you schedule, deploy and manage digital content, across as many use cases and screens as you have.  FWI offers Content Manager Desktop and Content Management Web solutions, giving you content management options. 

Content Player: This is the device that enables your screen to play the content deployed from either Content Manager Desktop or Content Manager Web. FWI supports Content Players for the following platforms, web, iOS, Android, Windows, Brightsign and Samsung Smart Platform (SSP).

How to Build a Visual Communications System

Building a Visual Communications system starts by determining your goals. Do you want to engage customers in a store or will your strategy be geared more toward employees Or do you want to do both? Whatever your goals are, they need to be defined prior to implementing digital signage. Next, you’ll need to decide what kind of content you want to display and how the screens will be used. This will determine what kind of hardware (i.e. LED/LCD screens, projectors) you need in order to display the content.

Digital signage options can include video walls, interactive kiosks, menu boards, readerboards, dynamic or static signage and wayfinding or directional signage—so with the variety of options available, it all comes down to what challenges you’re trying to solve.

You’ll Need to Ask Yourself Some Questions:

  • What and how many types of screens do you need?
  • Do you want your content to include audio?
  • Where will the screens be placed? (i.e. a corporate office, an airport, a hospital, a casino, a restaurant or store).
  • Do you want people to be able to interact with the screens?
  • How far away will your audience be from the screens?
  • How many screens will you need?
  • Do you need customized content based on the branch, area, audience or time of day?
  • Who will be managing the content?

Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll be better able to choose the types of displays you need, as well as which FWI Content Manager you need to manage your content.

Know Your Digital Signage “Must Haves”

From choosing hardware and software to selecting a digital signage software provider, you’ll need to know what you absolutely need in terms of equipment and support. Do you need wireless connectivity? What about content capabilities? Do you need to connect to social media networks, event listings, HTML5 or RSS/MRSS feeds? Do you need comprehensive content scheduling and reporting capabilities? Do you want your digital signage company to monitor your systems, perform upgrades and take care of ongoing optimizations? Maybe you even want the signage company to manage your content? (FWI Managed Services will do all of that for you.)

You also have to consider any third-party systems you need to integrate with, like CRMs, PoS systems, event management systems, CAP alerts for emergency messaging and more.

Determine Your Budget

With Digital signage, you get what you pay for. While there are a few “free” platforms out there, it’s important to understand what’s included and what’s not.  Some of the “free” options will charge you for software updates and support, and the feature-set you get isn’t tailored to your needs and can’t scale as you grow. Also, not all digital signage platforms are created equal. It’s important to do your homework and have an established budget to work with.  

A true enterprise digital signage company will help you determine what you need, what you don’t and what it takes to ensure long-term success. And, if you’re wondering, support should always be included—never added on as an additional fee.  

Choosing a Digital Signage Platform

Choosing a Visual Communications platform is a very important decision. You want to make sure the platform is powerful and flexible enough to meet your needs today, plus be able to scale into the future. You also want to ensure they have the right expertise and that they offer the level of ongoing support you’ll need. Look into their business reputation through client testimonials and consumer organizations. Do they do have projects around the country or even internationally? How many years have they been in business? What has been said about them online?

You also want to pay attention to Case Studies that highlight their previous projects. Make sure they’ve handled projects for your industry, whether it’s hospitality, retail, healthcare, corporate or education. Look for a variety of signage solutions, including outdoor and indoor, as well as small and big projects.

Choosing a Visual Communications system takes careful consideration. Talk to as many companies as you need to, making sure you get a demo of each one. Then, contact FWI to talk about your needs, learn what a true enterprise digital signage platform can do and see why thousands of other organizations trust us to power their Visual Communications initiatives.

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