Enabling Digital Signage Technology

Overview

Role: UX Designer
Organization: University of Michigan Information & Technology Services
Team: UX Designers, Engineering, Digital Signage Managers, UX Writer, and VP Communications
Duration: 4 Months

I enhanced the service strategy of University of Michigan Information Technology Services (ITS) by making the digital signage product easy to use for digital signage customers. Leading both the design and research, I discovered that over 50% of signs have advertisements, but messages were lost due to  poor contrast, little information hierarchy, and low readability. Through understanding ITS customers, I designed four deliverables to meet their needs and to improve signs for audiences:
1. Pre-made Templates
2. Template repository
3. University's first digital signage style guide
4. Digital signage infographic
"Alexis seemed comfortable from the start, asked all the right questions, and collaborated on all the fine details of the project that was only loosely defined. This was a strategic and innovative initiative, which meant she was blazing new trails to a large extent" - Project Supervisor
Signs Before
Signs Now

The Problem

Digital signage customers wanted more guidance on how to visually communicate on signs. With many customers having little to no visual communication background, and with over 50% of signs advertising events, messages on signs were lost due to poor contrast, poor information hierarchy, and low readability.

The Process

Discovery

When it comes to the over 800 Digital Signs across campus, ITS manages the hardware, provides the software, but customers are on their own for presenting content on signs.

ITS Digital Signage Service

Hardware
Providing the hardware and installation of digital signs

Software
Providing the digital signage content management system

Technical Support
Assisting with content management system troubleshooting

Make digital signage customers job easier
Project Goal

Research

Customers wanted more guidance about how to present their content on digital signs.

Understanding Digital Signage Customers
No Design or Visual Communication Background
Customers were not familiar with digital signage best practices
...And Other Duties as Assigned
Digital Signage is not their primary role and it is an inherited responsibility
Content Management System is Not Intuitive
The content management system used to build digital signage was not user friendly or intuitive
Evaluating the Current State of Signage through Content Audit and Inventory

Primary Content
News and Events

Audiences
General and Specific

Common Content
Weather, Events, and Marquees

Common Issues
Low Readability, Poor Image Quality, and Content Density

Poor Contrast Sign
Low Readability

Analysis & Revealing Areas of Opportunity

40% of signs with an short expected exposure (ie. hallway) had high and medium density content on their signs indicating that some sign builders understand how much information to present at a given time

1. Provide customers with a clear idea of how to present content based on expectations of exposure, location, & readability.

Short Exposure Sign
Many signs used flat images (ie. JPG or PDF uploaded to a sign) and digital signage widgets were seldomly used

2. Customers may not be taking advantage of the dynamic and interactive digital signage offerings

Flat Image Sign
Event advertisements accounted for over 50% of all signs. However, due to medium and high density content on signage, content managers may be missing effective advertising opportunities

3. Customers use signs to highlight events. 

Event Adverstisement Signage

Convergence

A solution needed to educate customers on how to present content and make it easy for them to apply their learning.

Providing a Tool-Kit for Digital Signage Customers

After analyzing the areas of opportunities we identified four tool-kit items to educate customers on how to best present their content, and a shortcut to digital signage. Each deliverable went through a design process of iteration and testing.

Pre-built Templates
Signage Shortcut

Template Storefront Signage Shortcut

Style Guide
Education

Infographic
Education

Pre-Built Templates

Designing pre-built templates tailored to ITS customers around commonly used content.
Underused Signage Features and Common Issues
Research & Brainstorm
  • Poor Zoning: Signs are dense and busy
  • Widgets: The CMS has underused widgets that can enhance signage
  • Poor Contrast: Not using overlays, poor color contrast, and low readability
Goal: Tailor templates to ITS Customers
Early sketches incorporated content types that customers used and explored ways to include underused items.

Designing for user behavior
While the use of flat images on signs is not ideal, rather than trying to eliminate the practice, I tried to design templates with flexible regions so that if flat images were used the message wouldn't get lost.
Sketch & Wireframe
Template Sketches
Template Digital Sketches
I developed over 15 signs in portrait and landscape orientation that promoted digital signage best practices. Through the development process, I learned of the intricacies of building signs in the CMS
Development
Pre-Built Templates
I worked with a Department at the University to address their signage needs using a pre-built template. Their existing signage had poor contrast, readability, and zoning issues. More information on this effort is available upon request.
Testing
Addressing the Areas of Opportunity

Area of Opportunity

1

Provide sign builders with a clear idea of how to present content based on expectations of exposure, location, & readability.

Achieved Through:

  • Zoning
  • Contrast
  • Typography
  • Color
  • Timing
  • Scheduling

Area of Opportunity

2

Customers may not be taking advantage of dynamic and interactive digital signage offerings.

Achieved Through:

  • Motion
  • Transitions
  • CMS Widgets

Area of Opportunity

3

Customers use signs to highlight events


Achieved Through:

  • Zoning
  • Regions dedicated for flat image use

Template Storefront

Make signage customers job easier by limiting CMS usage, providing design solutions, and anticipating maintenance needs.
The CMS  is not user-friendly or intuitive.

Goal: Assist customers in production of digital signs by limiting usage of the CMS.
Research  & Brainstorm
Product Strategy
Provide flexible options to customers designed around their skillset and need.

Digital Signage Storefront
  • Option 1: Whole Template & Content Items
  • Option 2: Template Only
  • Option 3: Content Only - (ie. weather, marquee)
  • Option 4: CMS Application - (Application configured in the CMS)
Sketch & Wireframe
View, Select, and Use
  • View the catalog of pre-built template options
  • Select the ideal template to fit use case and/or need
  • Use the template by downloading contents or learn how to use it in the CMS Application
Storefront wireframes
At the conclusion of this project, the wireframes of the template storefront was provided to the ITS UX team for further development and iteration.
Iteration & Hand-off
The storefront concept was designed to further  enable the pre-built templates.
Addressing the Areas of Opportunity

Digital Signage Guidebook

Provide depth on digital signage best practices without information overload
Customers do not have a design or visual communication background and want more guidance on how to improve their signage.

Brainstorm:
Goal: Provide depth on best practices in an easy to consume format
Research & Brainstorm
  • Visual explanations
  • Tailored to ITS customers
  • Paired resource to the infographic
The best practice guide was developed in google slides because customers were familiar with the tool and information could be presented in a scannble format.
Sketch & Development Considerations
  • Customers are familiar with the tool
  • One topic per slide organized by focus area
  • Easy to disseminate as a resource to customers
GuideBook Sketch
I used color to indicate the topic and signal change in topic. I also worked with U-M VP Communications for considerations of U-M Brand Identity.
Iterate
GuideBook Iteration
Addressing the Areas of Opportunity

Area of Opportunity

1

Provide sign builders with a clear idea of how to present content based on expectations of exposure, location, & readability.

Achieved Through:

  • Information on critical signage topics
  • Emphasis on visual communication best practices

Digital Signage Infographic

What is the minimum amount of information needed to communicate effectively on a digital sign?
Maintaining digital signage is not the primary responsibility of customers. They do not have a design or visual communication background and want more guidance on how to improve their signage.

Brainstorm
Goal: Provide bitesized information on the essentials of digital signage
Research & Brainstorm
  • What is the minimum amount of information a person would need to know to communicate effectively on a digital sign?
  • Limit this resource to a single page
  • This resource could serve as a companion to the guidebook
Initial sketch concept was around the "building blocks of signage." Focusing on the essentials, I emphasized: Goals, Color, Visual Hierarchy, Fonts, Layout, Aspect Ratio, and Images
Sketches
Infographic Sketch
Iterate
  • Abandoned the block approach because the resource began to feel too dense with the amount of text required
  • Improved the layout so that it better matched the signage construction journey
  • Included a description and visual for all topics
Infographic Iteration
Addressing the Areas of Opportunity

Area of Opportunity

1

Provide sign builders with a clear idea of how to present content based on expectations of exposure, location, & readability.

Achieved Through:

  • Information on essential digital signage topics
  • Emphasis on visual communication best Practices

Solution

Successfully designed and developed over 15 pre-built digital signage templates and designed the template storefront providing signage customers with a jumpstart to digital signage. I also designed the University of Michigan's first comprehensive digital signage style guide

Designed and developed 15 digital sign templates that adhere to & promote best practices. Templates were customizable and designed to fit common signage use cases.
Pre-Built Digital Signage Templates
PRe-Built TEmplate
Designed the template storefront to allow sign builders to access and utilize pre-built signage templates

Template Storefront
TEmplate Storefront
Designed the digital signage style guide to serve as a resource for customers to learn about how to effectively communicate on a digital sign.

Digital Signage Style Guide
Digital signage style guide
Designed the Digital Signage Infographic to serces as a a birds eye view of digital signage best practices

Digital Signage Infographic
Digital signage infographic
The pre-built templates, template storefront, digital signage style guide, and infographic improved the service strategy of ITS by addressing customer needs on visual communication guidance.r
ITS Digital Signage Service

Hardware
Providing the hardware and installation of digital signs

Software
Providing the digital signage content management system

Technical Support
Assisting with content management system troubleshooting

Education
Providing pre-built templates and best practice resources about visual communication