Content Strategy

Digital Signage Best Practices: Environments

Written by:
Pete Erickson
VP of Creative

With an industry as open as LeBron against a team of preschoolers, there’s no better time to get in the (digital signage) game. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a rookie ready to make your mark, Screenfeed’s own Coach Content has your back with more quick tips for digital signage content considerations & environmental factors.

Factoring the environment of your venue will help your content truly go the distance.

No screen exists in a vacuum—here’s how to make what’s on it not suck

Pardon the mixed metaphor there team, but it’s time to break down two environmental factors that can impact the effectiveness of your content, and what the heck you can do about it. The reality is, there are no screens that exist in a perfect viewing environment except maybe movie screens, and even then—well, don’t get me started about how a crying baby ruined A Star is Born for Mrs. Content and I—but alas, I digress.

On to the bullet points.


Whether you’re in Times Square, the waiting room, the breakroom, or the bathroom; your content’s luminance has some competition—ambient light. Of course, ambient light is any light source other than the one coming from your screen or projector, and incidentally threatens to wash out the content being displayed.

Ambient light is everywhere...and could pose a threat to your content's contrast levels!

Now there’s a slew of conversations we could open up in terms of how hardware can be used to tackle ambient lighting concerns, but what can you do about your actual content? Well, in some cases, not a darn thing. But in others, such as custom content, in-house content, and configurable third-party content; there are a few darn things you can do to make sure the lighting conditions in your venue don’t let the air out of your floaties.

It’s the design principle that makes text readable, images discernable, and generally helps show your audience what’s important to look at, and what’s not. The brighter the ambient light levels, like in a sun-drenched entrance lobby, the more diminished black levels will appear on your screens, decreasing the overall contrast, thus lowering your audience’s ability to perceive content details in between true black and white. For darker environments, the issue is reversed. That is, larger areas of white or lighter color tones can drown out the in-between details around them the closer they become to being the brightest light in the room. Think about trying to look at an airplane in the sky against the sun (for heaven’s sake don’t actually do this)—that plane (low-contrast detail) is going to be hard to see because your eyes are being blasted by the light source behind it (bright screen in a dark room).

Quick Tip: Choose (and schedule) your content based on the brightness of your venue during key viewing times.

If your venue is generally bright (example above), choose content with a brighter design scheme that will hold its contrast under brighter conditions. If your venue is generally darker (example below), choose content with a darker design scheme to prevent the brighter elements from drowning out the more subtle ones.


If your venue changes along with the ups and downs of daily natural light, look for opportunities to daypart different content variations in your software to play as light levels change.

Viewing Distance

Another environmental factor that’s probably out of your control, but still impacts your viewer’s ability to fully engage with the content is average viewing distance. At the risk of sounding obvious, factoring in the distance your audience is viewing your content should influence key content decisions.

Typeface Size and Placement
Much has been made, and rightly so, about ensuring your content features text at a size that’s readable from the average distance your audience will be from the screen. Telecine even recently announced a helpful online tool to calculate the recommended minimum typeface size based on a few key parameters. Whenever possible, though, it’s best to arrange some sort of internal testing setup to evaluate your content’s text readability using a handful of trusted assistants. At Screenfeed, we have dedicated screens set up around the office to test new content designs for exactly this purpose.

Quick Tip: Use an online tool or, even better, real-world testing or internal testing setups to evaluate the readability of your content based on average viewing distance.

Another factor I hear talked about less often is the placement of text on your content. This factor is related to the average viewing angle your audience views your screens—the more your audience tends to see the screen from a sharper angle to the right, left or below, the more obscure text and other elements placed on the outer thirds of the screen will appear. Now I’m not suggesting your designers should create all content with primary messaging placed front and center without exception, but it does at least deserve to be held in consideration if a fair amount of your viewers will see your screens at more extreme angles.

Consider the placement of primary visual items like text in relation to the most common viewing angles for your audience.

Bonus Factor—Noise and Audio

Even though the majority of Screenfeed customers do not feature/support audio, it’s still worth giving it a participation trophy here as a ‘Bonus Factor’ because if your screens do support audio, it absolutely requires some content thought.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of supporting audio in your content, bravo as audio that reinforces the strategy of the visual makes for a killer combo in terms of recall. In no uncertain terms however, should your content’s effectiveness depend on the audience hearing the audio—between competing ambient noise, to ear-weary on-site personnel pulling the plug, content needs visuals to carry the burden of engagement. (Hence the first 2 sections above—wink) Even on its best day, your content’s visuals will do a better job sticking in the brains of your audience. It’s science. The moral of the story—don’t slack off on well-strategized text and graphics, team.

Ok, ok, one caveat may be if your network’s content objectives is based more on ambience and emotion than action—in that case audio can go a long way to calm, excite, or elicit any mood in between.

Quick Tip: While using audio to reinforce your content messaging, use short, readable text callouts and graphics to address your actionable network objectives.

X’s + O’s

As I’ve said, and as you already know, ensuring your content remains effective and engaging can’t be done in isolation—you know your network and the venues it inhabits, but have you allowed the unique environmental factors of those venues to inform your content decisions? If you’re a network of multiple sites, the importance of evaluating each site on its own becomes even more important. Location, architecture, and lighting all tend to hold their own little ‘surprises,’ so you may even want to craft your content plan of attack on a site-to-site basis.

Hopefully in breaking down the X’s + O’s of lighting and its effect on contrast, as well as viewing distance and its effect on readability will give you the revamped content game-plan you need (or maybe just a needed kick in the pants).

To help keep your content strategy above .500, be sure to bookmark or share this post and refer to my cheat sheet below.

Until next time, Keep up the Content!

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