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COVID-19 and the Rise of the Engaging Workplace : Part Three

This is the third of three entries where I’ve shared Creating Margin’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide shift to Work from Home, and how these dynamics may forever change our expectations of the workplace.

In the first entry, I shared about Creating Margin and our experience moving the team to work from home in response to COVID-19.

In the second entry I shared some insights into the global shift to Work from Home, and discussed modern concepts of the workplace including the failed Open Office and the more popular Activity Based Workspace.

The Rise of the Engaging Workplace

On a visit to OtterBox in Fort Collins Colorado around 2012, I was impressed that they had installed a steel slide for staff and visitors to get from the second floor office spaces down to the lobby of the building. We learned that OtterBox used flexible meeting spaces, digital signage, meeting room signs for quick booking, and even booking apps on their cell phones. They had a kitchen and coffee shop in the office, and opportunities to get outside for a refresher while walking between buildings.

Otterbox was one of my first visits to what I’ll call an “engaging workplace”. The visit helped me realize that workplaces could be genuinely fun, exploratory, technologically “easy to use”, comfort zone-stretching places. In the corporate world, seated behind a desk for most of the day, we’ve all grown up a little too fast.

Otterbox was one of my first visits to what I’ll call an “engaging workplace.” The visit helped me realize that workplaces could be genuinely fun, exploratory, technologically “easy to use”, comfort zone-stretching places.

Many companies understand the opportunity. On a recent visit with Humana in Louisville, Kentucky we had another example of an engaging workplace. They were serving gourmet food in the cafeteria. We had meetings in a variety of room types (a recording studio and the executive boardrooms stood out). We learned that the treadmill desks on the second floor are nearly always in use. Visiting with Humana, I understood a clear purpose to each space and an overall design vision geared towards encouraging collaboration.

While Humana’s scale and business challenges are entirely different than Otterbox’s – and my visits were over eight years apart – I sense that the solution to “bringing people back into work” after COVID-19 will look similar for most companies today.

Five Defining Features of An Engaging Workplace

I recently watched an interview with Senator Lindsey Graham concerning the economic stimulus package addressing COVID-19. Graham was concerned that with this relief bill, laid-off workers will receive more money than what they were making at work. Graham predicted that this may end up deterring people from returning to work.

While the majority of office workers are salaried (US Bureau of Labor Statistics), Graham’s concerns about whether those who have lost their jobs will return to work may apply to white collar workers. With wide ranging layoffs now impacting Corporate America, workplaces designed around engaging concepts will be more successful convincing staff that it’s worth it to return to work.

Let’s define what an Engaging workplace might look like. As we do this, I’d like to consider how two of the technologies that Creating Margin has specialized in now for over six years – digital signage and workplace management/booking systems – might play a part in this shift.

Here are five features of the Engaging Workplace.

Provide Ready Access to Important Data and Information

An Engaging Workplace will provide ready access to relevant and updated data and information across devices.

Content Management Systems (CMS) and digital signage networks can help facilitate this ready access. In a CMS, content updates can be made by staff, a third party, or feed from a database. Content can be created and sent to specific screen or group of screens.

The placement of digital signage displays is important, and in our experience, customers will choose heavily trafficked areas. That said, management often requests multizone dashboards to summarize KPIs and allow for what has been called visual management.

In order to share data widely, one must collect it. A meeting management solution like Pronestor can be helpful in tracking different types of meetings, equipment, and catering bookings. Pronestor’s Insights tool allows for data about workspace and technology use to be summarized. Using digital signage, dashboards can be shared across the organization.

Allow for Flexibility and Team Building Activities

Engaging Workspaces will allow for flexibility of seating and unusual team building activities, and foster culture in the process.

Activity Based Workspaces are known for their flexibility. In an ABW, teams can blend and management often sits among their team in the same space. In his book Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal argues that organizations will look to teams made up of members of different teams to improve communications and efficiency. Helping blended teams to form while remaining connected to their department will play a big part in the Engaging Workplace.

But let’s take this a step further. How can our workspaces also encourage team building activities? I think about the ropes course that I visited with a project team during my IMBA program. Or the trust fall exercise where you fall back and depend on team members to catch you. An Engaging Workplace could allow for activities like these to foster connection and learn about team members’ strengths and weaknesses. What are other examples of what this looks like? Open spaces in the office, fitness equipment, or encouraging employees to take breaks and engage in activities.

Some of the word “Engaging” speaks to company culture, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Companies who are concerned about culture will make sure that the workplace aligns with that vision.

Digital signage can make the use of flexible spaces more efficient. If a huddle area isn’t in use, why not repurpose the screen to show announcements and pertinent info? Live-streaming company addresses is a common use of digital signage tools.

It takes advanced software technologies to keep flexible workspaces from becoming a free for all. Pronestor is what we recommend for this advanced technology suite. Pronestor allows for spontaneous booking of defined rooms and hot desking. Using the simple user interface (UI), even complex meetings can be created or updated.

Blend the Physical and Virtual Worlds

Engaging workplaces will find creative ways to blend the physical and virtual worlds.

The physical and virtual worlds can be blend in a variety of ways. This video wall in Netflix’s Los Angeles headquarters is an example. Standing in the room surrounded by screens, you can be placed in a different world as the content changes.

Consider too the idea of a “virtual office” with digital meeting rooms which can be occupied by Avatars of employees. We might call this the “context aware workplace” where staff may be distant but can still feel connected in a digital space made to look and feel like an office. This would be a sort of Second Life for Business.

Digital signage can play a part here as well. What if a screen on the wall could also play host to meeting participants’ Avatars? This would allow staff who are in the office to observe the meeting as if outside the meeting room. Adding a tangible element to a virtual meeting would improve the physical office’s energy, provide evidence of productivity, and help accountability for meetings.

Pronestor’s Planner software is built around the process of booking meetings and managing both physical and virtual resources.

Hardware Testing Areas

The engaging workplace has a dedicated space for testing solutions before they are delivered to customers.

One of the most useful areas in Creating Margin’s office here in Boise Idaho is our hardware lab. In the hardware lab we can take software applications and test on the hardware that we’ll in the field. Our emphasis on the QA process is important to confirm that the solutions we are providing are stable.

We test digital signage in our hardware lab. Staff can track an order of priority for application testing, and myriad other tasks.

Incorporate Showrooms for Demonstrating Real World Applications

Engaging workplaces will allow for real-world applications to be installed and running, so that visitors can see technology in action.

Using the office as a showroom to wow potential customers must be as old as the office itself. I’m sure that business owners on the early manufacturing floors would proudly show how efficiently the business was running. I’ve seen these “customer experience centers” (CECs), across industries and in both B2B and B2C companies. Even A/V Integrator companies are now implementing showrooms. This shows how valuable the “showroom as a sales tool” can be.

Concluding Thought

In conclusion, I want to encourage you. There is much to be hopeful about in this time despite the prevailing bad news. Society continues to advance, despite the lives lost to COVID-19. Companies will come out of this crisis with better awareness of the importance of the office space.

Overall, I challenge you to take COVID-19 as an opportunity to return to your workplace re-energized, open to ideas of how to upgrade it to achieve its full potential.

I challenge you to take COVID-19 as an opportunity to return to your workplace re-energized, open to ideas of how to upgrade it to achieve its full potential.

COVID-19 and the Rise of the Engaging Workplace: Part Two

This is the second of three entries where I’ll share Creating Margin’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide shift to Work from Home, and how these dynamics may forever change our expectations of the workplace.

In the previous entry, I shared my experience moving our team to Work from Home. I wrote about how this trend is happening worldwide in a way we couldn’t have imagined just months ago. I introduced Creating Margin as a workplace technology provider and embedded partner for our valued customers.

The Trend. Now Speed It Up!

Working from Home has been growing more common for many years. A 1998 Harvard Business Review article speculated that 30 million to 40 million people in the US were telecommuting or working from home. In 2016, Gallup estimated that 43% of Employees work remotely (outside of the office) at least sometimes and that the trend was growing. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 56% of today’s US workforce could in theory work remote, even though only 3.6% WFH half-time or more. Where are we headed? GWA suggests that 25-30% of the workforce may WFH one or more days a week within the next two years. So COVID-19 isn’t creating a new shift to WFH, merely amplifying a shift that is already happening.

How Workplaces became “The Office”

It’s worth considering what we’re losing as we (temporarily?) migrate homeward. The modern office has a rich history according to K2 Space and Lucy Kellaway of the BBC.

Cubicles to the Open Office

As the personal computer gradually transformed how we do business, we took a step back in our humanity. Few workplace designs have been more criticized than cubicles. Often parodied in movies such as Office Space, “cubicle farms” have thankfully gone out of vogue. Younger staff with a repulsion for cubicles have preferred workplaces setup with no partitions. Arranging the same number of desks without partitions came to be called the “open office”. Amazingly, open offices have been tried since the 1800’s, and have always been reviled!

The original “Open Office”, and just as unpopular

Activity Based Workspaces

The advent of laptops and mobile phones helped usher in the most recent office design concept we have of Activity Based Working. Activity based design emphasizes flexible desks, break out rooms, and phone booth rooms, which offer privacy during calls (if limited leg room). A special emphasis seems to be on outlets within reach, whiteboards, and televisions for sharing our mobile device screens. The comforts that were lost during in the open office are slowly returning to our workplaces. Research shows that Activity Based Working may improve employee eating behaviors, productivity and satisfaction.

What Defines An Activity Based Workspace?

Flexible Desks / Hoteling

Easy Booking

Small Group “break out rooms”

Meeting “phone booths”

Blended Teams Seating

Global Reach of Technologies

Creating Margin’s work to implement digital signage and workplace technologies has enhanced many customers’ Activity Based Workspaces. For instance, booking an impromptu meeting is easier than ever for our customers. Mobile phones can be connected to Bluetooth speakers, or streamed to a TV. Hot desking allows for staff to easily find a workspace from multiple floors, or even a different building.

Now the Rise of the Engaging Workplace

Activity based workplace design has been successful, but as COVID-19 recedes and we return to our workplaces, we’ll see the rise of the engaging workplace. What does an engaging workplace look like? That will be the subject of my next entry.

This was the second of three entries where I’ll share Creating Margin’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide shift to Work from Home, and how these dynamics may forever change our expectations of the workplace.

In the third and final entry, I will explore how we may realize how valuable an office environment can be now that we “don’t have it”, and explore five defining features of an Engaging Workplace. I will provide more information about how Creating Margin offers solutions to help you develop an Engaging Workplace.

COVID-19 and the Rise of the Engaging Workplace : Part One

This is the first of three entries where I’ll share Creating Margin’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide shift to Work from Home, and how these dynamics may forever change our expectations of the workplace.

Moving to Work from Home

As humanity battles the invisible spread of COVID-19 around the world, Americans have only just begun to pack up their workspaces and bring them home. Guest rooms, closets, basements, and tool sheds are being rearranged and repurposed to be that “work away from work” that they have always wanted. If it turns out you don’t have a suitable space at home, Zoom Meetings is ahead of Microsoft Teams in allowing you to use a background image of your choice to hide your humble abode from coworkers’ prying eyes.

Certainly, COVID-19 will transform our lives in many ways. This week I spoke to the GM of a hotel that our team at Creating Margin recently completed a digital signage project with. Cainan told me that COVID-19 is projected to impact the hospitality industry six times worse than September 11th, 2001. A dire outlook for sure, and probably true for at least a few more months. In time, tourism will rebound, and – once we gain herd immunity to this novel coronavirus – large gatherings like conventions and tradeshows will again be possible. As social creatures, we will all look forward to this return to normal.

Image showing work from home statistics


While Silicon Valley companies have shown that Work From Home (WFH) policies can be successful – and, as tech companies are inclined to do, trumpet their findings from the rooftops – most SMBs await the verdict on whether this can work on such a large scale. TIME has called this “the largest work from home experiment” ever conducted.

One area that will be forever imprinted by this crisis is our workplaces. This week I’ve several articles on this topic and surrounding concerns. I thought about the role that office amenities alongside work from home policies can play in employee retention. I added my experiences, having worked for over 12 years with dozens of Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of small and medium sized businesses to sell and implement digital signage and workplace technologies. My goal for these articles is to offer a glimpse into the future of our workplaces and how they will transform in the wake of COVID-19. I will explain how the digital signage and workplace management technologies that Creating Margin delivers will help to create workplaces defined by their experiences, not just a place with a desk, computer monitor and some family trinkets. The workplace of the future will facilitate experiences and connect teams by triggering ideas, nourishing culture, allowing for real world testing of software/hardware applications, and more. The prospect of experiences may be more important than ever as employees look for reasons to justify returning to an office.

Who Is Creating Margin?

I am the founder of a technology startup in Boise Idaho called Creating Margin. Our team at Creating Margin specializes in selling, installing and supporting digital signage and workplace management systems. One thing that makes us different is that we fill a specific need for customers which creating the content that end users show on a digital signage screen. Digital signage content might look like a 3D graphical map of a multi-floor facility, a touch screen user interface (UI), or the branded template that displays company announcements in the best way possible. We provide complimentary professional services to program solutions or can configure existing solutions/templates to work for a unique business. And we’ve been successful: in our six years of business we’ve been able to implement digital signage and meeting management tools for over 200 organizations.

Creating Margin Moves to Work from Home (WFH)

I’ll admit – moving the staff to WFH was uncomfortable for me. I believe strongly that being physically present with team members is a crucial part of scaling a start-up business, so I took some time to make the decision. The bell curve of Coronavirus’ spread made the decision for me and not a moment too soon – on our third WFH day, the Governor of Idaho Brad Little mandated that nonessential businesses send employees home. Idaho now has roughly 700 cases; at the time of our move to WFH, only 2 weeks ago, there were fewer than 20.

This is the first of three entries where I’ll share Creating Margin’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide shift to Work from Home, and how these dynamics may forever change our expectations of the workplace.

In the next entry I will further explore this massive shift to Work from Home – which, it turns out, has been happening since the 1990’s – and we’ll discuss the concept of “the office” and how it came to be.

Digital Signage benefits everyone

As my wife and I sat in Freddy’s (burger joint) eating our frozen custard, I analyzed the digital menu boards above the ordering counter. They were perfect. All of the menu items were easy to read and other areas rotated frequently, showing more desserts or sides. Even bigger snapshots of ice cream sandwiches swapped with juicy burgers in the middle of the screen. All I knew was that Freddy’s had just saved themselves buckets of money by introducing digital signage. Even customers who walked up to the counter were mesmerized by the moving pictures.

I asked myself, “Is there any industry that wouldn’t benefit from digital signage?” It’s so useful, and the statistics prove that implementing digital signage makes a difference all of the time. The more my husband and I talked about it, the more the answer became prevalent. We came to this conclusion:

Any industry has a product or service, informs people, or entertains, will benefit from digital signage.

If you think about it, that pretty much encompasses the entire business world. Non-profits fit within this realm, scientific research facilities, and even historical venues. Digital signage is a powerful technology, and one of the most flexible of its kind. Digital signage benefits are endless. Here are a few thoughts on why I think digital signage is for every industry.

Digital Signage can be a video wall or an interactive display.

1. Digital Signage effectively informs

When static signage is replaced with digital signage, the amount of information that’s presented can easily be multiplied by double or triple. Whether the content is a map, an events list, or some facts about an exhibit, tact is always important. The saying, “knowledge is power” comes into mind when giving customers something to look at. If customers aren’t targeted, college students benefit from digital signage constantly with updates on class schedules, and upcoming deadline alerts.

A beautiful Video Wall at Uniqlo.

2. Sales go up with digital signage

In fact, about 25% of sales make up the revenue for the retail industry, according to Mood Visuals. It can even make up to 30% more in sales than retailers without digital signage, according to Sarah Landrum. Still not convinced? Take Adidas for example. They raised their sales by 40%, just by partnering with Intel to include a 3D interactive footwear wall. With that said, the trend is said to continue growing and expanding.

A stunning video wall showcasing their shoes much better than a

3. Easy, flexible, and money-saving

Digital signage itself sounds daunting. It’s really only a screen and a media player. This does depend a little on your setup, but for starters, let’s begin there. It’s flexible because it can play video, lots of images, have RSS feeds, and even support HTML5 content. You can turn it into a kiosk if you want! That opens up incredible opportunities for any business or organization. Money is pocketed through increased sales (above), not needing to pay for new static signage, and even replacing a job function within an organization.

I finished my Dirt N’ Worms custard (because I’m a kid at heart), and thought a little more. Sure, digital signage has been around for more than twenty years. On top of that, technology is everywhere we look. Seeing digital signage is becoming such a normal (and even expected) phenomenon, that it will continue to become deeply embedded into our society. If you’re in the business sector and haven’t considered digital signage yet, I personally dare you to consider the possibilities.

How Digital Signage builds trust with customers.

Maybe the title of this article is a dead give away. But, in a world where messages are constantly flung each and every direction, it’s comforting to know that digital signage has become a very established form of communication. Digital Signage owns the “catch your eye” factor of marketing while communicating more effectively than any static ad you’ll ever see.

So why does digital signage build trust with customers?

1. It embeds in the mind of the viewer as a good source of information

Take digital menu boards for example. Although it might be one of the simplest forms of communication, it has already established a ‘mental handshake’ with the viewer. It states what the restaurant offers, and the viewer turns that into a course of action and orders a burger. Even digital signage located inside light rail cars become an essential source of information. Stated upcoming stops and the current stops for the people riding the train are vital for shuttling individuals across a city. Again, it establishes that “you’re taken care of,” feeling for the viewer.

Digital Signage building trust on the light rail.

2. Digital Signage fills the gap of a knowledge dependency

You’re lost in the middle of a huge airport, and you’re running late. Suddenly, you see a giant touch screen right next to the escalators! You to find a map of the airport, and you’re off in the right direction. Digital Signage can show people when flight times are, or what is delayed. It can even be helpful in educating people on something they may not have experienced before, like an EF5 Tornado in New York City. Digital Signage can help your customers know what new promotions are happening in a bank branch. The list goes on, and digital signage can be useful in spreading any type of knowledge.

A woman at an interactive kiosk in an airport.

3. It re-affirms your brand image

Sure. The marketing and communications world is obsessed with brand consistency and brand image. But, it makes a huge difference. Digital signage builds trust like a bridge to the viewer and makes an introduction. Whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time, customers can be reassured by consistent messaging in a small area. Familiarity and positive brand experiences build trust. This might be anything from a company lobby to a Nike Store where viewers can interact with the brand in an uplifting way. With technology like that, it’s hard to forget a tactile experience.

Content Creation For Digital Signage

In the new age of digital signage, content can make or break the experience you create for your customers. Whether a company invests in cutting edge equipment or not, they may miss the mark…is their content taking full advantage of its capabilities, or did they simply throw their funds at an absurdly expensive digital screen? They would probably under-utilize it anyway… Perhaps the business could better serve and impress its clients with the assistance of a consultant with years of experience and knowledge in digital signage content creation.

Right Content At The Right Time

Once they’ve found the right combination of equipment and a plan to utilize content in an optimal fashion, an expert team will help determine whether this content should change according to a set schedule or not. This is known as Scheduled Digital Signage Content, and the link provided leads one to excellent examples of how a business can use it most effectively.

Digital Signage Training

In order to efficiently use its scheduled content, a company may enlist a portion of its employees to take Digital Signage Training. A wise consultant will help select the best training package and tailor it to a company’s needs. Within a short time, they can create new content for digital maps, video walls, visitor management systems, wayfinding solutions, and much more.

Custom Content Creation

However, the long term strategy of training employees to create and update content may not be optimal for each business. Instead, a consultant may recommend content packages that may offer five to ten customized updates per month. Ideally, one may opt to train employees while they utilize such a package. The company will no longer need to pay the higher cost of these monthly content updates once the trainees learn to take over.


Whether your company needs to select the best combination of digital signage equipment, train its employees to utilize the gear, or invest in a package with immediate custom content, Creating Margin will exceed your expectations.

Why wait? Schedule our Digital Signage Needs Assessment Services and discusses the digital signage possibilities for your business, employees, and clients.

NFL Network Uses Interactive Touch Screen

It’s amazing how digital signage works to augment our day-to-day reality. Earlier this week, I watched a clip from the NFL Network, where the commentators used an interactive touch screen application to show a March Madness bracket to project the “best future NFL player”. Charles Barkley simply tapped once on the team he liked, and the ‘team’ would move onto round 2 of the predictive competition.

The commentators started with the top eight players ranked in this year’s NFL Draft (April 23rd for those interested in watching). They were making many assumptions about how all of the professional football players would pan out. “How can you project the possible outcome of these strangers’ careers?” I asked myself.

But the show was still fun to watch because of the context – we’re all watching NCAA Basketball’s March Madness play out as well as any year I remember. It’s almost completely unpredictable, and I think that’s what’s so intriguing about it. Really, Yale? Wichita State? It’s always a good show.

Charles Barkley taps through his options.

It was entertainment because of the technology – I can touch the screen to advance a team or individual to the next round. We can all imagine that two talking heads would be less entertaining if not grounded by the “visual aid” of the interactive screen. There’s nothing like an interactive screen as an aid, versus a static graphic.

It’s clear that, even with an occasional blooper by Charles Barkley, touch screen technologies augment our reality and make the great American pastime of watching TV that much more entertaining! Seth Davis takes on the second half of tapping through his guesses on the touch screen soon after.

Technology is amazing. What’s one way that technology has changed your day-to-day? I’d love to hear from you.

4 Digital Signage Tips For Happier Users

As you embark on your quest for better digital signage and happier end-users, here are a few signage tips we’ve put together to arm you with success.

1. Make it Useful

If you really know your customers, then you’ll know exactly what they need. People often make the mistake of using filler information in place of useful content. Beautiful weather displays and scrolling news feeds are not always useful to the user. Instead, present the user with quality information that will help them from the moment they see it.

2. Make it Comfortable

When people walk up to an interactive display (like a kiosk), it’s important to make sure it caters to every kind of person. Whether it’s a person in a wheelchair, a kid, or an elderly person, each one is just as important. Ensure that each person can comfortably interact with your content, and find what they’re looking for.

Click to See the ADA Guidelines Here:

3. Make it Memorable

Have you ever been to an outdoor mall with a map shown on digital signage? Not only was that useful for lost shoppers, but it was easy to find. There’s nothing worse than hidden signage, or digital signage that’s hard to get to. So if you’ve got the, “when, where, why’s,” all sorted out, then your digital signage should be easy to find and see. Once people know where to find that information, they’ll come back to it again and again.

4. Make it Clear

Any company could own the biggest, and most expensive digital signage screens, and still not make an impact on viewers. But why? Big screens can leave an impression, but if the message isn’t clear and concise, it won’t have a large reach. Be sure the content is easy to read and that interaction steps are clear. Planning strong content with a great message is the first step in making digital signage effective.

Each digital signage solution is unique. These four tips will boost the value of your signage in any situation and make sure that your user is well taken care of!

New Year’s resolutions for Digital Signage content in 2016

While many in the digital signage content industry are focused on acquiring new customers to buy screens – an ever-shrinking group of those who have managed to avoid the technology (in vain!) – those of us in the content creation niche, are confident that our market will continue to expand. As we ring in the New Year and replace our calendars (isn’t it good to keep some things non-digital?), we’d like to suggest these New Year’s Resolutions for Digital Signage in 2016.

Come to Grips – Your Content Isn’t Getting Any Younger

One fact about content in our connected world is that once it’s put out there, it will be consumed and, as a result, date stamped. Try writing blogs – it’s a beast that must always be fed!

The same is true of videos, graphics, case studies, white papers. Once the content is released, we must move on to creating the next iteration of it. In short, content gets old – and fast. Digital signage content falls within that same realm.

Thus, as more companies add digital signage to their businesses, they start a timer for when new content will need to be developed. In our experience, this tends to be two to three years. While this isn’t new news to the sector, it should serve as a reminder that the budget should be set aside for content specifically. Then, hardware and software can remain fresh and add value through new content development.

Update Digital Signage by Updating your Website

In our work creating and optimizing digital signage content, we have often used our customers’ websites to guide the design conversation. A new trend has risen, where the same content can be sent to a website and to digital signage. Customers like to base designs for screens off of brand guidelines, and existing content. This works hand-in-hand with digital signage content.

Companies have realized that IT teams don’t update digital signage. Even though the company website content benefits, the digital signage content doesn’t. Instead, consolidate those internal content resources, and let one upload to the webserver update both digital signage and the website. With many customers opting for cloud-based digital signage systems, this is even easier to accomplish.

One caveat is that websites and signage tend to require different resolutions and file types for digital signage content. When considering parallel updates to websites and digital signage, make sure to do your homework. Consult with a company familiar with both digital signage systems and web development.

Don’t Go Interactive Unless You’re Replacing Somebody

This subtitle sounds a little extreme. The job market these days don’t appreciate it either! But, unless a digital sign is providing information that an employee could state, it won’t be used. People prefer personal contact when they need help. As a general rule, don’t implement an interactive screen unless you’re planning on having it significantly supplement a person on your staff.

Do your Front Desk staff spend a lot of time printing boarding passes for guests? Are people constantly asking how to get to their event space? Are you paying someone to throw away printed menus when you could make them digital and update them as often as you want? I offer these examples because they are a few of the applications of digital signage that tend to be the most valuable to users.

But, if you expect visitors to swipe their way through headline news on a 55-inch screen while reading detailed articles as people look on, we suggest re-evaluating your use case. Weather conditions and scrolling text messages are also funny. Catching the eye of a passerby is one thing, but these two overused digital signage content types rarely provide value to customers. Even if the information is regularly updated, the value will quickly grow fade. As with any technology, the driving force should be to improve customer service while containing costs. This is a fine balancing act indeed, but one that can ensure the success of your digital signage.

We see many examples of unused digital signage, with interactive kiosks at the top. Remember in Home Alone, when Kevin McCallister tells the story about the roller skates he never took out of the box? Don’t be “that guy” with digital signage that your customers don’t even need to use!

Let Your Desired Digital Signage Content Decrease the Cost of Software and Hardware

We’ve seen a lot of customers purchase software and hardware that is overkill for what they plan on doing with it. In a dream world, you would constantly update content, and screen functionality. But we find that few customers have the resources and/or focus to accomplish this.

Spend a little extra time finding a solution that provides functionality for what you want 90% of the time. You’ll end up saving a lot more than 10% on the software and hardware of your investment. Tools with all the bells and whistles can cost upwards of $2,000 for software (or $50/month hosted). Interactive hardware is just as much. Less expensive options provide software for free, a player at less than $500, and a non-interactive screen for less than $1,000. Don’t let the cost of digital signage scare you. Instead, determine how your content functions, and find software and hardware that can affordably make that happen.

How Digital Signage Content Is Broken – And How Affordable Managed Services Can Fix It

This article appears in the Sound and Video Contractors July 2015 Issue

Digital signage, increasingly prevalent across industries, is now used in a variety of applications, among others, to communicate with employees, market wares to shoppers, track warehouse safety metrics, guide visitors through hotels and public places, and post-meeting room reservations. Digital signage is everywhere and growing.

But the common problem with Conference Room Signs and Meeting Room Digital Signage that spans industries and uses are, for the most part, that content is broken.

When called in to optimize existing digital signage networks, we have found that eight out of ten digital signage installations have fallen short of their original vision for development. That may not mean that 80% of digital signage customers are unhappy, because for some end users, if “the screens are working,” they feel their system is working. But that doesn’t mean their digital signage installation is operating as planned or offering a return on investment.

While working with a leading digital signage software firm, we observed that great attention was paid to ensure that the software, hardware, and installation were executed to perfection, but curiously, there was no discussion about how to ensure that the installation would be running effective content for their  Conference Room Signs and Meeting Room Digital Signage.


Regardless of the reason, broken content is the eventual product of one-off gimmicky projects, overly complex software tools (often sold as “easy to use”), advertising agencies unfamiliar with the medium, or the next shiny thing in technology drawing away attention.

Gimmicky messages, images, or tech experiences are often “broken” after the first couple of uses. Take for example a software firm that has created a touch screen game where the user gets points for swiping at French Fries as they flowed across the 55-inch interactive screen. Most of us would try this game once- if it was free. But digital signage isn’t a free download from the Apple Store! Digital signage requires purchasing all the hardware, software, and funding content development. Because of its narrow scope, this particular fries game wasn’t a successful pilot, and there wasn’t much we could do for the developer.

Overly complex software products appear attractive until the realization that updates aren’t built-in and may not be possible if the in-house team lacks the necessary technical knowledge and creative ability to deliver regular content updates.

Digital and creative agencies may be a great resource for those who can afford them, but traditional ad agencies unfamiliar with producing content for digital signage tend to complicate the development process and can be costly, assuming they are not “learning” at your expense.

Unlike mobile app standards, the digital signage industry, in general, has not collected data to quantify the return on investment. In part, that is due to the fact that there are so many variables including venue, interior or exterior location, dwell time and audio applicability. That’s why the best practices for digital signage user interface (UI) design are often based on a composite of customer experiences.

And, designers who are new to the industry are at best-making assumptions about what looks good or functions well on a screen that is many times the size of a smartphone or tablet. All of which suggests the need for an affordable managed service that takes the burden of updating digital signage of the customer’s shoulders. End users who engage a Managed Services Provider (MSP) monthly instead of hiring an untrained full-time employee, have a flexible resource who is:

  • Expert in the software of choice,
  • Familiar with what works for digital signage in a particular setting, and
  • Able to apply lessons from other customers in real-time.

With an MSP, customers – from Mom & Pop shops to the major technology group downtown – can afford effective digital signage, which makes budget less of a barrier to entry. Important because digital signage can be a very valuable tool for businesses and an important part of an A/V integrator’s offering.

Creating Margin is a member of the Digital Signage Federation, the only independent, not-for-profit trade organization serving the digital signage industry. The DSF supports and promotes the common business interests of worldwide digital signage, interactive technologies, and digital out-of-home network industries.