One of most appropriate interaction methods for most digital signage networks is touch technology. Most of us have seen this technology deployed in both public places (for example, ATMs) and private devices (for instance, smart phones like the Apple iPhone or Palm Pre). The technology is proven, costs are constantly declining, and most importantly, users are generally familiar with and comfortable using it.
Once digital signage becomes interactive, several things occur. The content is different, the reaction is different, and the data collected is different.
First, let’s consider how the content changes. Remember digital signage is a new medium, and it is different from the PC. It is encountered in different places and circumstances than the PC and Web sites, and its purpose is different. This means you must resist the impulse to take your Web site and simply transfer it to the digital signage network to create an interactive experience. The result would be a larger, public version of a Web site — and not at all an effective experience in this context. (It is also unlikely that the digital signage network would have access to or allow full Internet access and browsing ability.) Therefore, micro sites would be developed specifically for digital signage implementation.
First, understand that content for touch screens must be designed to both engage the viewer, and to lead the exploration of the interaction. That is, you are not simply throwing open the doors to the user; you are attempting to direct them and elicit inputs and choices that will drive them toward the goal you’ve set for the network — finding and choosing merchandise, exploring a brand, or the like.
There are three key considerations that go into creating great interactions:
- Create the right attraction. First and foremost one needs to get the viewer to participate because the viewer may not expect to have the ability to interact with the content, as she does with a PC; the first job is to let her know she has that ability here. Creating an attraction loop, message or some piece of upfront content that will motivate the viewer to engage is the first step. This loop needs to be more in line with a typical content found on digital signage following the advice in the previous chapters of this book. The one exception is the attraction loop is just that: designed to attract the viewer to touch the screen.
- Present one thing at a time. Once you have gotten their interest, keep them engaged and moving through a logical progression. Lead the participant in a guided manner through each step of the interaction you want to encourage. Provide focused layers of information that make it easy to comprehend what is being presented, and direct them to the layer of information that follows. A major difference between digital signage and a PC or smart phone is the amount of time that one will spend with each. Because the time is more limited with digital signage, you need to provide a clear, logical path for the viewer to follow. Offering too much information that is not directed will not motivate the user to continue with the interaction, because they will perceive it too time-consuming and unlikely to provide them with enough value for the time invested.
- Offer choices. Interaction must be more than simple “next page” buttons in order to engage the viewer and direct toward a goal, such as a purchase. The value of interactivity comes when the user is presented choices, allowed to personalize the information presented, and perceive they are seeing something “special” for them.
Digital signage is powerful, and good content makes it that way. But the next level of effectiveness comes when one truly engages the user through enabling them to interact with the network. Touch screen technology today provides an excellent and proven method to let users decide the “path” they take through your content and personalize the experience. New technologies such as gesture interfaces extend that to another level, and combine interaction with group entertainment. Finally, a linkage with the user’s personal screen on a mobile device extends the interactive component of the network in a way that can stimulate longer interactions, interaction away from the digital signage itself, or motivate a purchase. In all of these cases, the content you create must account for the interactive factor and be purpose-designed for this type of network. Much more than porting a Web site to the digital signage network, this requires thinking in new ways – and like a user.