Before making a big purchase in life, most of us do our homework and probably think about it quite a bit. Planning for and purchasing a digital sign should be no different. There’s budgets, costs, installation, permitting, electrical work, marketing strategy, content strategy and many other components to factor in, not to mention fully understanding your local city or county by-laws around what’s allowed and what isn’t when it comes to digital signage.
If you’ve been considering or have already purchased a digital sign, familiarizing yourself with what is and isn’t permitted when it comes to content can be extremely valuable. Not only will you be better prepared when you role out a content strategy for your sign, but you will certainly save the embarrassment, frustration and maybe even money associated with fines to business owners that violate local sign codes.
It may seem that society is overloaded with rules and regulations around everything. While some of this is true, we must remember that laws and rules exist to protect citizens while creating a fair and pleasant environment in which to live. As business owners, we must respect our laws and strike the right balance of obedience while maximizing what can be done with your sign without breaking the law.
Most by-laws put in place by local governments around signage are done so to protect drivers and passers-by. While digital signs can be fantastic marketing tools, they can be a distraction to drivers when you consider the visual impact of a brightly lit sign to someone behind the wheel. Owners of digital signage sit on the other side of this argument, looking to do anything within their power to create content that is distinguishing and noticeable, often thinking “the more flash, the better”.
As owners of digital signage, the core purpose of these types of investments is to advertise products, services or events, and ultimately, grab attention. While advertisement is always important, a carefully crafted sign code can help reduce the number of things competing for a driver’s attention, while helping to promote safety, energy usage, and community character.
When considering drivers, safety is and should always be priority number one. The more attractive a digital sign is, the more of a threat they pose to drivers, particularly in the area of distraction. A distracted driver is an unsafe one, so when understanding digital signage by-laws, regulations will likely be built around minimizing distractions and promoting driver safety.
Brightness and legibility will also be a focus of by-laws. A common complaint of digital signs is that they can be too bright, especially at night, causing glares and making content difficult to read, so as you make investments in digital signage, be aware that local laws may prohibit brightness extending beyond a certain limit, along with limitations around nighttime hours of operation.
There are several other areas that your local by-laws will likely focus on. These will probably include message hold time, transitions (moving from one picture of slide to another), content sizing, whether animation or movement is allowed, and more.
Hold times are defined as the amount of time between changes to a message or display. Best practices and most laws state that hold times should be at 8 seconds or longer with display times of at least 12-24 hours for a content design.
Transitions are defined as the method by which a message changes. This could be a pan, fade, slide-in/slide-out, or many others. While most sign software offers many options from transitioning from one slide or graphic to another, many signage by-laws will be written to complete transitions immediately with all parts of the message changing simultaneously.
Content sizing is also a critical component. Many by-laws or codes limit the total digital sign area, and thus, the total size of a sign you can purchase. Pay attention to the portion or percentage of the sign that can be digital.
Finally, animations or movement as a component of digital content is probably the biggest limitation of digital signage by-laws. Make sure you fully understand if movement is allowed, when it is allowed, and at what hours of the day. Some by-laws allow movement only during the day, or only within certain hours of the day. Others don’t allow movement at all.
To close, while it may seem overwhelming to fully understand and abide by your local digital signage by-laws, at little research on your part can go a long way, and help you craft a decision and go-forward strategy that will help you maximize the value you can extract from your digital sign, while ensuring you’re playing within the limits of what’s allowed and what isn’t.
The Project Content team