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How Digital Signage Works: The Complete Guide to Understand Your Digital Signage

If you are an owner of a brick-and-mortar store, driving store traffic is definitely one of your top priorities.

There is always foot traffic right in front of your doorstep.

But how do you attract them and get them to visit your store?

The first answer that comes to your mind could be advertising.

But here comes another question. How do you advertise?

Some business owners choose to advertise with traditional signages such as banners and handwritten signages.

Some other owners choose digital signage advertising.

Infographic By Big Screen Media


What is Digital Signage?

Signage is a display tool used to convey a message.

In general, anything that is displayed publicly and serves a commercial purpose is considered as a signage or a sign board.

Some examples of traditional signage are:

  1. printed banner
  2. neon signage
  3. shop signage
  4. handwritten sign board
  5. outdoor signage

On the other hand, digital signage is the digital version of the traditional signage.

Digital signage works with data. It can handle and store electronic information.

Traditional signage can only display content in static formats, but digital signage can display content in a wide range of digital formats such as images, videos, texts and animations.

Types of digital signage include:

  1. indoor digital signage
  2. outdoor digital signage
  3. digital menu board
  4. digital kiosk
Digital Directory at Hospital

Is TV a Digital Signage?

Since digital signage refers to anything that is capable of displaying messages publicly, does the TV in front of a store considered as a digital signage?

In our opinion, as long as an advertising content or a promotional message is delivered publicly in digital format via a display, it is indeed a form of digital signage.

However, a professional or a commercial-grade digital signage can offer more features and benefits than your ordinary home TV.

A screen or a display alone does not make it a commercial digital signage.

A commercial digital signage is a powerful business tool with different crucial components.

Advertisers and business owners need to understand that every tool serves its own purpose.

Home TV is for home entertainment while digital signage is engineered specifically to meet your business need.

If you want to understand how a digital signage works, you need to understand how each component works. 

Basic components of a digital signage include:

  1. Display
  2. Content
  3. Content Management System (CMS)
  4. Media Player
  5. Installation

What Is A Display?

Digital signage delivers visual contents. Thus, it needs a display.

A display is a screen or a projection surface that shows texts and images.

Business owners can have different screen sizes to meet their applications.

The most common screen sizes of a wall mounted digital signage are in between 19” and 65”.

Screen size is measured in inches. When we measure the screen size of a digital signage, we have to measure the length of its diagonal.

The length is measured from one corner to the opposite corner of the screen.

Measure Digital Signage Screen Size
Digital Signage Screen Size

Things to consider when choosing the right screen size:

  1. Viewing distance
  2. Application
  3. Content

The Best Viewing Distance?

Some might say that a larger digital signage is always the better choice.

It really depends.

First, consider your viewing distance.

What is the distance between the viewers and the digital signage? Where will you install the digital signage?

Choosing a larger screen size seems like a safer choice since it can cover a longer viewing distance.

However, the truth is, a larger screen in a small and limited space is nothing but a trouble.

Screen Size (inch)Comfortable Viewing Distance
19”1.0m – 1.5m
24”1.3m – 2.0m
32”2.0m – 3.0m
46”2.9m – 4.6m
55”3.4m – 5.4m
65”4.0m – 6.5m

Second, consider your application.

How will you use your digital signage?

The viewing distance will be longer if you are installing your digital signage in your storefront.

This is because a storefront digital display targets foot traffic that comes from all directions.

The screen size needs to be large enough to appear visible. The audience needs to be able to view the content from a farther distance.

On the other hand, the viewing distance will be shorter if it is an interactive kiosk where users are allowed to click and interact with the screen.

Third, consider your content.

If your content is mostly made up of smaller texts, it is recommended to use a digital signage with a larger screen.

If you are displaying videos or images, you will have greater flexibility in choosing your screen size.


In the end, you are the only one who can find the best viewing distance. It depends on your application, your content, your budget and how large is your room or area.

Remember, the larger the screen size, the heavier it will get, and the higher the price it will cost.

Types of Display Technologies

Customers nowadays are looking for supreme viewing experience. It is getting popular for owners to invest in High-Definition display screens for their digital media signages.

No matter how sharp or clear a screen is, the core of a display lies in its display technology.

The two main types of display technologies used in digital signages are the LCD technology and the LED technology.

Digital Signage

The main difference between an LCD display and an LED display is the backlight technology.

LCD or liquid crystal display uses fluorescent lamps to light up the screen.

On the flip side, LED display uses light emitting diodes.

In general, LED display provides better image quality. It has higher contrast level and colour accuracy.

Besides, LED display consumes less power compared to LCD display.

In terms of cost, LCD display is cheaper than LED display.

In short, it is true that an LED display is a better display in terms of performance and features. However, if budget is your main concern, an LCD display is definitely the better choice.

LED DisplayLCD Display
Back-lit TechnologyLight emitting diodes.Fluorescent lamps.
Picture QualityBetter picture quality with higher contrast level.Decent picture quality.
Power ConsumptionLower.Higher.

What is A Content?

A display is nothing more than a pitch-black decoration if there is no content.

A content is a message that a business owner wants to deliver to his audience.

How important is a message? It is as important as a sales pitch.

Instead of approaching your audience directly with a salesperson, when you are advertising, you are using a promotional or an advertising message to reach your audience.

In order to achieve an effective advertising campaign using digital signage, advertisers need to create well-crafted messages that meet the customers’ needs.

Digital Signage Content

Digital signage is a powerful digital media display. It can display content in various digital formats such as videos, images, texts, animations and graphics.

When you design the signage content, you need to identify the main message of your content, the goal, the design elements and the design layout.

Digital signage can display content in both portrait and landscape display orientations.

So, you also need to identify whether you want to display your content vertically or horizontally.

Portrait Landscape Display Orientation

Types of Digital Signage Content

Since digital signage supports various media formats, it pushes your boundaries beyond imagination.

You are free to design and produce any content in any format that you prefer.

Different contents can be displayed for different applications.

Some examples of digital signage content are:

  1. Digital Menu
  2. Video
  3. Image
  4. Notice & Announcement
  5. Sales & Promotional Message
  6. Building Directory
  7. Showcase or Portfolio

1. Digital Menu

Using digital menus in a restaurant helps to provide a convenient and smooth order process. Customers can view the menus while queuing. Digital menu boards can help customers to make faster decisions. Besides, customers will also be attracted to beautiful food photos displayed on the digital signages.

Digital Menu Board

2. Video

Video advertising is one of the most effective strategies to reach the targeted audience. Video content can tell a story in a very interesting way. It can be both informative and entertaining.

3. Images

Image is the king of content. An image is worth a thousand words. Want to attract your audience? Displaying attractive, colourful and meaningful images on your digital signage is definitely the right way.

4. Notice & Announcement

There are times when business owners would want to post an announcement to notify the audience about some important information or events. You might be updating your business hour or announcing a temporary closure due to holidays. Make sure to display them on your digital signage. People tend to pay attention to digital information rather than a piece of paper.

5. Sales & Promotional Message

Highlight your promotion in the most creative way possible and encourage customers to spend.  

Promotional Message Digital Signage

6. Building Directory

Not every content is designed to promote or to sell. Digital signage is important too in delivering general information. Building directory is extremely crucial in providing directional guidance to visitors. Although it is not a promotional message, it also helps to drive foot traffic into stores.

7. Showcase or Portfolio

Show your customers what you can offer. Convince them with your most awesome projects or works.

How do you produce digital signage content?

Business owners can choose to design and create digital signage content in several ways:

  1. In-house designers and writers
  2. Outsource
  3. Content Management System

In-house vs Outsource

In-house design means you are creating the content within your organization.

Outsource means you are hiring third party experts or external party to help to create the content on your behalf.

It is obvious that the design process is more flexible when your internal team is involved. Quick decision can be made.

However, the cost might be higher over the long term.

This is because outsourcing helps you to control cost. You only need to pay attention to how much you need to pay for the service.

If you are creating content within your organization, you need to pay attention to various areas such as financing, salaries, infrastructure, software and personnel.

Content Management System (CMS)

Content Management System is a software that helps to organize and manage digital signage.

Most CMS also provides pre-designed templates that help to create digital signage contents.

Using a pre-designed template, anyone can design content with ease.

What is a Content Management System?

Content Management System (CMS) or digital signage software provides users a wide range of solutions to organize, schedule and manage content easily and quickly.

If you have only few digital signages, you can always choose to plug in USB drives and play your content directly. CMS is not really necessary.

However, imagine you have a large network of digital signages for all of your branches nationwide, how do you manage all of them?

Managing a network of digital signages is not an easy task. Each digital signage will have to show its own content within its own schedule.

CMS provides a central management platform.

The biggest advantage of a CMS is its remote management. The administrator can access and manage all digital signages remotely from a single location.

Digital Signage Software CDMS

What is a Digital Signage Media Player?

The digital signage media player is a device that renders digital content to a display.         

You need to make sure your selected media player is able to render formats that you want to display, such as images, videos and texts. This is because some media players support only a limited range of media formats.

A media player is an integral component if you want to manage multiple digital signages via a content management system. It helps to connect digital signages with the content management system via the Internet.

Digital Signage Media Player

Besides, digital signage player also provides an extra layer of security protection against hacking.

If your digital signage’s security is breached, hackers can display inappropriate content using your digital signage.

Another important feature of a media player is its ability to support multi-screen display.

There are basically three types of multi-screen scenarios:

  1. Synchronized or same content to different displays
  2. Different content to different displays
  3. Split-screen
Digital Signage Multi Screen Scenarios

Installation of Digital Signage

Wall mounting is one of the most common installations of storefront digital signage.

The installation is not complicated, but there are things we need to take concern with.

Steps in installing a wall mount digital signage are:

  1. site survey & planning
  2. wall mount installation
  3. cabling and wiring
  4. configure CMS & media player
  5. testing

1. Site Survey

Every reasonable action starts with a great planning framework.

Identify how large is the area and determine how many digital displays are needed.

Make sure you list down all the locations that you want to install the digital displays.

Consult digital signage solution provider. Choose your preferred products and software.

Digital Signage can be used as digital menu board.

2. Wall Mount Installation

There are two main types of wall mount in the market – tilting mount and flat mount.

Tilting mount allows you to tilt and adjust your installed digital signage displays. The mount needs to be installed a few inches away from the wall. This installation method is great for applications such as digital menu and queue status display.

Flat mount installs digital signage displays close to the wall. It helps to save space and provides sturdier supports for heavier digital displays. This installation method is great for most applications such as retail advertising and information board.

Whether you choose flat mount or tilting mount installation, it is important to pick a wall mount that fits your display size and weight.

Wall Mount Signage - Digital Signage

3. Cabling and Wiring

The processes of cabling and wiring do not look flashy, but they are indeed crucial steps in installing a functioning and effective digital signage system.

How do you want to hide your cable?

How many power plugs do you need?

Do you have enough power sources?

There are some considerations you need to take concern of.

And if you want to run your digital signage system online, make sure you prepare internet connection cables too.

4. Configure CMS and Media Player

Each digital signage needs to be connected to Content Management System via a media player.

Configure your digital signage system using the Content Management System.

Setup and access all devices or displays that need to be monitored.

Determine how many administrators do you need via the user management interface. Assign proper access and role to each administrator.

Digital Signage Software Content Management

5. Testing

Once the installation and the configuration are completed, do a test.

Check if the digital signages are able to decode and display your contents. 

Check if the Content Management System is able to access all devices in the network.

On-site vs Cloud-based Digital Signage

We are now in the age of digital.  Digital signage solution is no longer limited to on-site software and hardware availability.

Thanks to Cloud Technology, we can run our digital signage solutions online via the Cloud.

We do not need to own or run any physical server on our site. We can rely on third-party companies in helping us to manage external servers.

External servers are responsible for hosting our digital signage solution and software.

If there is any technical issue, we can utilize the expertise of IT professionals from third-party companies. We can cut down the cost of hiring in-house technical team.

On the other hand, an on-site digital signage system requires an on-site server.

Business owner is the one who is responsible to manage and maintain his on-site server.

On-site vs Cloud-based Digital Signage
On-site Digital SignageCloud-based Digital Signage
CostHigher initial cost, but lower ongoing expense.Lower initial cost, but higher ongoing expense.
Data StorageStore data in local server.Store data in cloud server.
Hardware & Software UpdateOwn organization has full control.Cloud service provider has full control.
IT SupportRequire local IT support team.Professional IT support is provided.
Data PrivacyComplete control over privacy.Third-party provider takes full responsibility in protecting data and ensuring data privacy.

In short, if you want to take full control over the system, on-site digital signage is the best solution.

If you are looking at a budget-friendly solution, cloud-based digital signage could be the best solution.

How Digital Signage Works?

Each screen or display needs to be connected to a media player.

Then, media players are connected to a local network or the Internet.

Once displays and media players are connected, administrator can access and manage all devices via the Content Management System.

How Digital Signage Works

All the contents created such as images, videos and animations can be uploaded to the Content Management System.

The administrator can create playlists and schedule the uploaded contents. Different instructions can be sent to different media players. Each media player can display different contents at its scheduled day and time.

Once the contents are uploaded and scheduled, the media players can proceed to download contents and save in local drives.

When digital signages or digital displays are playing the contents, they will send data and log files back to the Content Management System.

The administrator can then manage and monitor all devices remotely, and check if all devices are working properly.


Understanding how each component of the digital signage system or how digital signage works can help business owners to set up effective digital signage networks. One needs to sharpen his tools if he wants to excel in his work.

Digital signage is one of the most effective business tools that every business owner or advertiser should consider. Seek professional advice and service from a digital signage solution provider if you would like to start a new digital signage project.

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