How to choose the best software for digital signage?
Are you thinking about using narrowcasting in your organization? Or are you not satisfied with your current narrowcasting system? Make sure you know what you are looking for, so you make the right choice right away. If it later turns out that you should have opted for a different software provider, it will take time and effort to switch. So it is best to invest a little time and get informed.
In this article, we want to help you choose the right digital signage software!
What is digital signage? First of all, a short reminder about what digital signage is. We use the following definition:
“Digital signage is the collective name for everything that has to do with public TV screens, LED signs and the like - indoors and outdoors. It is also often referred to as "digital out of home" (DOOH). Digital signage is used to communicate directly with a local audience with a single message or series of messages.”
Digital signage can be used for both internal and external communication.
You can read more about this on the page: what is digital signage?
Do you really need digital signage software? You may wonder if you really need digital signage software. For example, we regularly hear the question: "what is the advantage of digital signage over PowerPoint?". Understandable, because the basis of PowerPoint is also suitable for narrowcasting purposes. In theory, you should not need a digital signage platform.
In practice, however, it appears that setting up such a narrowcasting system yourself entails the necessary disadvantages. For example, you spend a lot of time preparing your slides, you have very limited functionality (such as missing content scheduling) and you cannot use dynamic content. Keeping your content up-to-date is very labour-intensive and error-prone, and security and reliability often leave much to be desired.
So there are a lot of advantages to using a dedicated digital signage platform. Even for very small companies it is almost always smarter and cheaper to choose a specific digital signage service.
7 Tips for choosing a narrowcasting system
But what do you pay attention to when choosing this software? What should the software absolutely capable of and what are the other features that play a role?
We have listed the most important 7 tips!
An important factor is of course the Usability. After all, you will have to work with it yourself and regularly keep the content up-to-date, sometimes even daily. Nobody is waiting for a complicated technical management environment. Choose a software provider that allows you to work with a clear dashboard and simple tools, such as visual drag and drop editors. This way everyone can work with the software and the management of digital signage in your organization does not depend on a single specific person. It is also advisable to choose a software package that allows you to set a corporate identity that then automatically applies to each slide. This way you ensure uniformity on the different screens and organization-wide changes can easily be implemented later.
2. On premise or cloud
When choosing software, you have two choices: on premise or in the cloud. In ordinary human language this means: do you choose to install the software on your computer yourself, or do you operate the software via the browser? For many organizations - especially for smaller companies - it is advisable to opt for software in the cloud. Digital signage software in the cloud has several advantages, such as:
- you don't have to worry about security yourself
- the software is automatically updated
- you can use the software anywhere and on any computer, simply manage your screen content in a browser
The downside, of course, is that you have little say in the design and security of the software itself. Therefore choose a provider that fits your needs well, has good reviews and has a great eye for security.
Not everyone immediately thinks of good security when choosing software. However, you would certainly not want your screen content to be hacked and all screens in your organization taken over by malicious parties. Certainly with cloud software it is therefore wise to check in advance that security is adequate and fits your needs.
Almost every digital signage set up uses data from external sources. Think of the weather forecast, the latest news, social media messages or traffic information. Consider in advance which sources you want to use. Are these sources supported by the software? And how easy is it to integrate the data into your screen content? Investigate this at the various providers and list what is or is not a deal breaker for you. In addition to the 'standard apps' such as the weather forecast or the news, external sources also include files or spreadsheets in Dropbox, Google Docs or Office365. In addition, some platforms also offer opportunities to show content of sources you choose. For example, in Bizplay you can create apps that display information from JSON or XML files.
Using content from external sources ensures that your content is always topical and interesting. This means you spend much less time manually updating your pages. Makes life a lot easier!
5. Playlists vs scripted programming
A less often exposed detail is the distinction between playlists and scripted programming. This is not equally relevant for everyone, but it is good to know before you make a choice.
- Playlists is the use of a set of slides. The slides are shown one after the other, as a continuous slide show, until the playlist ends.
- Scripted programming is the pre-programming of certain slides (or sets of slides) based on conditions or rules. For example, you can set to show a certain slide an x number of times on a specific time of day on specifc days of the week.
Using playlists is sufficient for most organizations. With playlists you can almost always use a schedule, so you can preset where and when certain content will be shown. Do you want more control or do you have a lot of content that you want to show in varying ways? In that case choose software that allows for scripted programming. Even better if both options are supported so your use can grow with the amount of content you create.
6. Service and support
You hope to use it as little as possible, but it is often inevitable: service and support. Because what do you do when you get stuck? Correct: you read the documentation of the software or you ask the service provider. It is nice if you can count on clear instructions and personal support. It may not be the first thing you think of when choosing a provider, but we advise you to take this into account in your choice. This way you avoid being faced with a let down when you are stressed out and expect support.
And last but not least: the price. Nobody wants to pay top prize for a product that can be obtained for less. When choosing between on premise and cloud, you indirectly also make a choice for a pricing model: often you pay a one off price for locally installed software, while cloud software usually comes in the form of a subscription. Cloud software therefore requires a lower initial investment. In addition, all future updates are included in the subscription fee.
We do not recommend going for free software or freemium software. This can work in the short term, but you can safely assume that you will encounter limitations in the future. In addition, the security and support of free software often leaves much to be desired.
Again: see which software providers meet your requirements and choose the platform that best suits your needs. Is this option more expensive than the other options? Do not put it aside immediately, but consider whether the extra investment is worthwhile, for example because you will save costs in the long term. Our experience is that this is usually the case!
Still not sure which software to choose? Then we have good news: at Bizplay digital signage you can request a free demo that includes all functionality. This way you immediately know whether the possibilities and the dashboard of the software suit your organisation!