For those of you who know me in the industry, you know that when I commit to something I do my best to follow-through on that commitment practically 7 days a week. I trust a lot to my experience with customers — end-user customers, resellers, and vendors – and to having an open mind to learning. That is why I signed-up for an advanced website coding class through MiraCosta College, a local community college in San Diego County. You’re probably wondering why I would do something as crazy as that, while managing the day-to-day of my corporation. The answer is very simple. I wanted to be able to compare the experience with digital signage content management software (CMS) to the experience designing and coding a web site.
I’ve always believed that there are more similarities than differences in digital media with Digital Signage, and I’m not the only one. Thanks to the PHP and WordPress class, students and instructor Leigh Cotnoir, who is a patient with my questions and also an excellent instructor for teaching best practices, I have gained so much insight in just the past 8 weeks of this 17 week online course.
I personally do not have a degree in software coding. I do, however, have experience with, and in some cases recommended, 6 different kinds of Digital Signage content management software. Most are based on Windows OS with some being Linux-based. I’ve also noticed recently that Digital Signage Today published a “Digital Signage Software Comparison” guide, which leads me wanting to share my perspectives on Digital Signage CMS as a public platform for digital media and a virtual showcase.
When approaching any customer about Digital Signage, we’ve all learned through various trainings, or through trial-and-error, that you must begin with the customer’s objectives. What that entails could be a plethora of things. That’s why it’s our job to help design and shape that with the customer – even if the CMS must be flexible to be modified. That’s where the digital media and coding background comes into the picture and where best practices should be considered.
The next most important thing to consider after the objective is the design of the layout starting with a wireframe or skeleton frame concept. Just because something looks good on a web site and responsive to your mobile device display doesn’t necessarily mean it is appropriate for a 55-inch or larger display. Even a 4K, 5K or higher resolution display will have different content considerations that would not be necessary for a 1080p display. However, there are ideas you can glean from the customer’s website to help bring consistency of message to the big screen.
There are a number of commonly requested features by the market the customer serves – not wanting to limit it to vertical markets. Examples are Retail, Entertainment Venues and Stadiums, Hospitality, Higher Education, Retail Banking, and Local Government Agencies wanting central and remote control of content via the network and an on-premise enterprise licensing option, but zone-linking and meta-tagging of content are better appreciated by Retail, Entertainment Venues and Stadiums and Hospitality. The same goes for Point-Of-Sale (POS) data integration. Windows-based customers appreciate the LDAP and Active Directory functionality as a level of authentication for setting administrative permissions. Almost all customers appreciate the ability to preview content on a screen prior to publishing the content over the Digital Signage network. These are just some key examples, but there are many more to consider when scoping the opportunity with a customer.
The CMS platform you choose for the customer should cover 90% of these common features and still have the flexibility to be modified, such as custom widgets, HTML coding, etc. [Notice I haven’t event brought up price yet – it doesn’t need to be the lowest price CMS.] With the flexibility of software opens up enhancement services opportunities, which inject the much-sought-after uplift in a total solutions approach for Digital Signage. There are other value-add services such as installation, hosting and network monitoring, digital content design services (such as using Adobe Photo Shop and Adobe Illustrator), and financing.
The final Digital Signage product should be a win-win for both the service provider and the end-user customer. It not only meets their objectives – possibly creating a call to action among its own customers and foundationally is consistent with the customer message from its own web site – but it becomes a showcase for the service provider’s full-service capabilities. That is the true value of Digital Signage.