3 Reasons Why Your Digital Signage Doesn’t Need Video, etc.

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Trent S
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3 Reasons Why Your Digital Signage Doesn’t Need Video, etc.

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Have you ever been walking down the sidewalk, and a bus drives by on the street right next to you? Know how difficult it is to walk straight while looking at the advertisement on the side of that bus?

Do you typically sit down to watch television, or do you walk in circles around the room while watching television because it feels more natural that way?
Is your car moving in a drive-in theater? It isn’t a drive-by theater, right?

Remember flash cards from back in grade school? When your friend, or classmate, held the cards up to you, did they hold them still, or shake them around violently to help your comprehension and retention levels?

It’s easier looking at the bus if either 1) you are standing still, or 2) the bus is at a stand-still. Yes, you sit or stand to watch TV. Your car is parked in a drive-in. If your friends or classmates moved the flash cards, it probably used to annoy you.

Noventri believes that the majority of digital signage deployments don’t need Video, Flash, and animation. We’d like to share with you 3 reasons why we believe this to be true.

The Human Brain’s Natural Tendency

We’ll begin by talking a bit about the way the human eye works. Your eye is made up of two types of receptors; rods and cones. Don’t worry; we’ll eventually tie this in to digital signage.

Rods are predominantly located in the peripheral vision, and are responsible for seeing motion and light. This is why you tend to notice movement in your peripheral vision, and then turn to look towards it. Ever try to walk to your bedroom late at night without much light in the house, and notice that you can’t see dim objects that well in the center of your vision? Part of that, of course, is because you just got done watching TV or looking at your computer for so long, but the other part is because of your rods not being in the center of your eye. Rods are also responsible for your night vision.

An interesting fact is that your rods do not see red. That’s why some flashlights emit red light- so that it doesn’t spoil your eye’s adaptation to darkness. But, honestly, that has nothing to do with digital signage; it’s just interesting.

Cones, on the other hand, are located in the center of your vision, and are responsible for seeing color and detail. This is why when you look directly at an object, it appears more detailed and more colorful. Try looking at something colorful in the room- a highlighter, or perhaps the little status light on the front of your computer. See how colorful it is? If you shift your eyes so that this object is at the far edge of your peripheral vision, you’ll notice how much less you notice the color of the object. Of course, you notice the detail less as well since you aren’t looking directly at it.

Luckily, our brains are advanced enough to know that when we’re moving, the world around us is moving in reference to us. When processing the information around us; the brain tends to take the shortest path from sensing to processing. It’s a good thing that it does; otherwise, you’d burn your fingers on that hot surface before your brain knew it was hot.

When you’re moving, whether it be walking, riding, or flying, your brain is constantly updating information to let you know where you are in reference to the world and where various objects in the world are in reference to you. When you are moving, and the things around you are still, it’s much easier to process. There is a lot of information out there that your brain is tasked with deciding whether or not is important. When you are still, the brain doesn’t have to worry about that relocation information and can concentrate solely on what is moving; for instance, the television, your child’s baseball game, or a bus driving by.

This is just one of the reasons that content on a screen should always be still when your target is moving. Movement on the edge of your vision gets your attention (by engaging your rods); we all know that. Once you’re looking at the object, your brain is concentrating on color and detail (through the cones); so that you may study the object, or in this case, the message on your digital signage. We shouldn’t prevent the brain, through the eyes, from taking the shortest, most natural path to understanding.

Priority, Intention, and Attention

Even if the audience is still, that doesn’t automatically mean we can load our digital signage down with videos and animations. We also have to consider priorities and intentions when discussing still content versus moving content. Imagine two different gentlemen: one walking into a hotel at 8:50am, the other walking into a movie theater at 8:50pm.

One gentleman needs to get to an important meeting by 9:00am. He hits the “snooze” button on his alarm clock one too many times this morning, didn’t have time to shave, and had to drive a little over the speed limit to get the hotel when he did. His priority is to find the meeting room his meeting is being held in, and get to it in the next ten minutes. Can you imagine his frustration if an animation is covering the meeting agenda, or perhaps if he has to wait on a text-roll animation (think TV Guide channel) to see his particular meeting? This guy is in a hurry; he’s on the move. His content should be quite the opposite.

Another gentleman has arrived with his girlfriend to see a new movie in theaters. The movie starts in ten minutes, and he isn’t the kind of guy that likes to miss the movie trailers, let alone the first few minutes of the movie. His girlfriend wants popcorn and a large soda, so despite his desire to get seated as soon as possible, they get in line for refreshments. He opens his wallet, and to his horror, he finds only ten dollars left after spending twenty on the movie tickets. A bead of sweat forms where his hair meets his forehead, and he scans the room nervously for food prices. Finally, behind the counter he spots a row of digital signs displaying the prices. He was never very good at math, and just before he can decide if keeping his girlfriend happy is affordable, the digital signs all switch over to a video advertisement for a popular soft drink. Can you imagine his predicament and frustration as he reaches the front of the line?

Again, if someone is on the move, in a hurry or on business, give them still content. Give them the info they need. Put yourself in their position.

If someone is at their leisure, standing in line, or waiting in a waiting room, it may be appropriate to give your audience some motion so long as you remember their intentions. Give them the info they need before trying to “entertain” them too. Put yourself in your audience’s position.

Now, before you take that as your “green flag to go” for video and animation, realize that even if your audience is still, motion might not be acceptable. Remember the rods and cones we mentioned? While your rods and cones work together to give you vision, they also are in a constant battle for your attention. If a group of birds are sitting in a tree, you’ll most likely pick what you believe to be the prettiest one, or the most aesthetically pleasing one, and study it’s details and color (using your cones). If one, or several, take flight from the tree, it will feel unnatural for your eyes to not follow the movement and center the moving birds in your vision to study. Imagine trying to read a book with someone jumping up and down in front of you. Imagine a digital sign with more than one video region, all competing for your attention. A video of a steak grilling is great, until you put it next to a live video feed of the baseball game happening outside. You don’t want your digital signage competing with your staff for attention, either.

Worried that your customers won’t look at the digital signage if it doesn’t have motion? The reason why you don’t need to worry is so incredibly fundamental- the idle mind wanders, the busy mind does not. You don’t need to worry about whether or not our first, business-like gentleman is going to look at the digital signage. Of course he is! He’s looking for info; looking for help; seeking assistance. Our other gentleman, at the theater, is looking to make a purchase and will also look at the screens. There’s no need for flashy animations to get attention.

When doing content for your signage, remember the viewer’s priorities, and remember their intentions. People standing in line, waiting to order food are most likely hungry or thirsty. Don’t clog up their digital signage with anything that pollutes them, stopping viewers from their ultimate goal in this case: eating and/or drinking something. They need to know what is on the menu and how much it will cost them so they can buy it and get on with their lives. Remember, digital signage is not some shrine that people make pilgrimages to kneel around, stare at and worship; it is a tool. Let’s use it like one.

Processing and “Digestion” Time

Finally, we should touch on the subject of processing time. Even if you’re standing in a line, waiting to order your six-dollar hot dog or check into your hotel, your brain needs time to process the information on a digital sign. If someone is getting bombarded with advertising that transitions way too quickly, or animations that are altogether unnecessary in this instance, they won’t have a chance to process anything. The message will be lost, and they’ll probably look away. In any content, still or moving, give people time to process. You might like the idea of three seconds between transitions, but your customers probably won’t.

For important information, like meeting times, food prices, or airplane departures, there will never be enough processing time. Instead of trying to get expensive technology to figure out when someone is looking and when someone is not, why don’t you just leave that important information up all the time? We are supposed to be progressing past paper signs, not taking down paper signs and watching people suffer while waiting on a digital advertisement to finish. That just seems like a step backwards.


So, before you install digital signage, or make content for your existing digital signage, consider your rods and cones. Consider whether or not you actually need video, flash and animation based on the priorities and intentions of your audience. Consider allowing some more processing time. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. If you consider all of these things first, you can get the attention you want out of your digital signage deployment without video, flash, and animation.

Want to hear one of our customer’s opinions on video, flash, and animation in digital signage? Read Should Digital Signage Become a New Dog With Old Tricks?

Wondering if your digital signage should have audio? Read an account from our Vice President, Andrew Hoffman, on intrusive digital signage in the Quick Service Restaurant Digital Signage Mishap blog post.

Like this article and want more of the truth? We highly recommend you read every word of The Truth Behind Digital Signage.
Trent Semler
Art Director
Specialized Communications Corp. / Noventri
20940 Twin Springs Dr.
Smithsburg, MD 21783-1510 USA
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