How Businesses Can Make Digital Signage More Accessible  

How Businesses Can Make Digital Signage More Accessible  

The world population stands at 8.1 billion today, where at least 1 billion people have some form of disability.

What’s shocking is that most businesses have yet to acknowledge this reality — up to 90% of websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities!

Digital signage aims to communicate with customers at scale, and if you haven’t incorporated inclusive design in your signage strategy, you’re losing out on a big pool of prospects.

So, how can you enhance digital signage accessibility for your business?

Let’s discuss this in detail, starting with a discussion on universal design. 

What is universal design?

Universal design is a design concept that factors in people with a range of abilities. This is not design-thinking exclusively for disabled people, although this audience is a big part of it.

Let’s consider a sidewalk, for example. It’s accessible to people with physical disabilities — those in wheelchairs, crutches, and the like. But it’s also accessible to toddlers, parents with strollers, and the elderly.

Take this concept into your digital signage design. 

If you use high-color contrast in your signage, it’s more accessible to people with visual impairments, deficiencies, varying visual range, and older folks, too.

Getting the gist? Let’s dive into the principles of universal design so you’re an expert by the end!

  • Equitable use: Make your design accessible to people with diverse abilities. Like the sidewalk we mentioned earlier.
  • Flexibility in use: Factor a wide range of preferences, perspectives, and abilities into your design. For example, signage that supports multiple formats like audio, video, and text.
  • Simple and intuitive: Make the design simple and easy to understand. Personal experiences, language skills, and formal knowledge should not be a barrier to usage. For instance, ATMs. The interface is simple and has clear instructions on how users can proceed. 
  • Perceptible: Your design should be able to communicate necessary information effectively despite ambiance and other external factors. If your displays are in a crowded and noisy location like a mall, including captions is a good way to reach your audience. 
  • Tolerance: The design minimizes any hazards or extreme consequences in case of unprecedented errors. Let’s take L Squared’s wayfinding solution, for example. It’s built to help users find their location easily in spaces like hospitals, hotels, and more. If a user enters the wrong location and wants to restart, they can do so easily, with no risks.
  • Low-physical effort: The design can be used comfortably and efficiently with minimal (physical) effort. This can be your automatic doors or elevators that are accessible to people with various physical characteristics. 
  • Size and space approach: Appropriate size and space are provided for people with varying mobility, heights, postures, and body sizes. A vending machine in open areas is a good example of this approach.

Questions to ask in the design process 

Now that we know the universal design principles, let’s start the ideation process. And the key here is to ask the right questions.

Go beyond the obvious – Yes, legible text and fonts are crucial, but what about physical accessibility, ease of reach, and user-friendly navigation?

Use these questions to guide you through the design process. 

Location 

  • Where will the screens be located? 
  • Is the area easily approachable? 
  • Will people with different mobile ranges be able to use it?
  • What is the lighting like?
  • Are the screens obstructed from any angle?

Mounting 

  • Are the screens mounted or free-standing? 
  • If mounted, are they high off the ground? 
  • Will all screens be at the same or different heights?
  • What orientation will the screens be mounted on? 

Interactivity 

  • Are the screens interactive or non-interactive? 
  • Are they meant to encourage an action? Or are they just for display?
  • Is the interaction necessary for the goal of the sign?
  • What kind of interaction is needed? 
  • Is this interaction communicated clearly?

People 

  • What are the demographics of your audience? 
  • Does your audience care for these signs?
  • Do they have time to look at them, or are they in a hurry?

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, you’re on your way to designing more accessible digital signage. The next section will discuss how you can do this.

How to design your digital signage for accessibility?

So far, we’ve laid the groundwork for creating accessible digital signage. Now, let’s put this theory into action.

Clear and readable text

The first step to designing accessible signage is to ensure your display text is clear. This means choosing the right font, font size, and display area for your text.

The best fonts are not only easy to read but are also available to most audiences. In general, Microsoft fonts are the most accessible to most people.

Here are the key factors to keep in mind:

  • Font style: Choose font styles that are simple and easy to read. Consider reading conditions like dyslexia and astigmatism while choosing your font styles. 

Although design experts say it’s not one-size-fits-all, fonts like Georgia, Helvetica, Opens Sans, Rooney, and Montserrat are the better options. These have adequate letter spacing, distinguishable characters, and different thickness modes, making them more accessible.

Note: Avoid cursive, script, narrow-width, and block-type fonts as they’re usually more difficult to read and could hamper communication.

Notice how different fonts have varying readability rates. Serif and Sans Serif are easier to read than Handwritten (Script) and Modern fonts. [Image source]

  • Font size: This goes without saying but your audience needs to see your message. Too small and they’ll be struggling to see your text. Too large and it’ll be an uncomfortable read. Remember to scale your font size to your display size, frame layout, and approximate reading distance for a better user experience.

Additionally, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3) over Roman numerals (i, ii, iii) as they’re easier to recognize and help avoid eye strain.

Remember: You’re dealing with attention spans less than 8 seconds! If your audience can’t read your message the first time, consider your train missed.

Image source 

P.S. The key is to design with context. Huge video walls at a mall will have different text, legibility, and style requirements to interactive kiosks at a hospital. 

High-color contrasts 

Color contrast is the difference in brightness (or luminance) between foreground text and background visuals. 

Imagine white text on a yellow background. That’s going to hurt your eyes!

While choosing colors, keep the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) in mind to include audiences with various visual ranges, impairments, and deficiencies. The purpose of these guidelines is to keep your design perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Brand color palette: Choose contrasting color schemes. If you have a dark background, use light-colored text in the foreground, and vice versa.
  • Combinations: To those who are partially red-green color blind, these colors are both similar and different all at once. Additionally, if you have yellow and purple in a striped pattern, the lines appear to vibrate. This could unsettle many users and cause discomfort. 
  • Backgrounds: Text can be hard to read in photographic backgrounds. You can impose your text on solid colors for an easier reading experience.
  • Whitespace: The goal here is to not clutter your design. Give the different elements of your signage space to breathe for a clean and polished look. This also ensures that your design does not overstimulate your audience, who might be sensitive to loud colors, clutter, and (design) noise. 

Pro tip: You can use a color contrast checker to assess the best combinations. Ensure that the contrast ratio is at least 4:5:1 to make it accessible to audiences with color blindness.

User-friendly interface

Simplicity is key. This is true for most things in life, so is it for your digital signage design.  

Digital signage interfaces should be user-friendly — with an intuitive design, clean layout, and easy-to-navigate layout for higher customer engagement.

How to make your digital signage user-friendly: 

  • Aesthetic: Opt for a more minimalist design to avoid clutter and confusion 
  • Touch: Choose a touch-based or touch-less screen depending on the use case 
  • Recognition: Recognition over recall; any directions for usage should be clearly presented so that users don’t have to rely on memory to complete an action 
  • Tolerance for error: Design your interface to minimize any chance of errors or confusion. 
  • User control: This means in case of mishaps, change of mind, or mistakes, users can easily undo or rectify their errors

Physical accessibility

Remember those questions we asked above? 

They’ll help you factor in details like location, mounting, and interactivity while implementing your signage.

  • If the sign is mounted at a high height, will it be accessible to someone in a wheelchair?
  • If interaction is necessary, is the interface and navigation simple to understand?
  • If your screens are in a crowded area, will your audience see your message?
  • If the screen is at an angle, is its visibility obstructed? 

Here are some do’s and don’ts to remember:

For instance, customers with an injured arm, a parent holding a toddler, a person with one arm, or a disease like Lupus have different motor abilities. By following the Do’s above, you’re factoring in their range of motion to complete the action. 

Transcriptions 

Research by WHO suggests that 1 in every 10 individuals will have a hearing disability by 2025!  Transcription is the solution to drawing people nearer, irrespective of their disabilities. 

  • Transcribe audio and video content: You can either add subtitles or text alongside your video to make your signage content accessible to people with hearing impairments and disabilities.

This is also useful for other scenarios. Imagine you send out an emergency message on screen. You’ve asked everyone to evacuate the building immediately. If someone is on the phone or has earphones plugged in, seeing the text will also caution them.

  • Use multiple formats: Text transcription is great for hard-of-hearing individuals. But it’s not useful for people with visual impairments. A better option would be braille code that you can generate using braille translation software. 

Tip: Use assistive tech like screen readers to detect any issues and work on improvement. For example, these tools can detect missing alt text (text that describes images) that is useful to visually impaired audiences. 

Media-rich content 

Beyond text-based content, creating content in different (dynamic) formats is at the heart of universal design. By including audio, video, and graphics in your digital signage, you cater to audiences with different abilities, learning styles, and concentration levels. 

And this is where the magic happens!

Let’s consider examples in various scenarios: 

  • Healthcare: You can use text to share important updates like guidelines, best practices, and shift schedules. But where you aim to lessen patient anxiety, using dynamic content and live wait time displays is the way to go. Remember to use our color contrast ratio for more effective (and accessible) communication. 
  • Education: All students are unique. While some learn best through textbooks, others do better with visual content. This is especially true for students with dyslexia who prefer visual and auditory learning.
  • Retail: If your audience demographics speak various languages, providing text or audio translations is a way to deliver consistent customer service, irrespective of language proficiency.

L Squared’s digital signage is simple to use, with no tech expertise required. On the content admin side, its powerful cloud CMS makes managing content as easy as a few clicks. It has 100s of built-in integrations to support multiple media formats like audio, video, live streaming, and more.

Benefits of accessibility in commercial digital displays 

Designing with accessibility in mind has a range of benefits. Besides being more user-friendly and customer-centric, here are some other benefits:

  • Diversify your doorway: In a world shaped by diversity, designing with accessibility opens the door to more customers. It’s a combination of a smart business move and high customer empathy. The results? More room to scale, expanded customer reach, and more business goals to smash!
  • Deliver better CX: Customer experience is all seamless customer journeys. Accessible signage, besides being inclusive, makes it easier for customers to interact and engage with your brand. Whether it’s registering for a service or finding their way around your business, they know they’re supported every step of the way. And that makes for unbeatable CX.
  • Positive brand experience: Your customers are your biggest brand reps. Deliver good brand experiences, and you’ve got them hooked. Deliver the opposite, and over 55% of customers will walk away after two bad experiences!

Accessible design humanizes your brand; it shows your conscious efforts toward making customers feel comfortable and respected. And when customers feel valued, they bring in new business, support your journey, and reward you with loyalty.

Best practices for signage accessibility 

Before concluding this blog, let’s take a look at a few best practices for continuous improvement.

Customer feedback 

Nothing will help you improve better than hearing from customers themselves. Collecting and implementing feedback shows your enthusiasm and dedication to do better. Here are a few (fun) ways to collect customer feedback:

  • Happiness ratings: Ask your customers to rate their experience with your brand. Add an option to add more detailed feedback in a text box.

  • Customer effort score: This type of customer survey tests for ease of use. Ask questions like “On a scale of 1 to 10, how easy was it for you to use our solution?”

  • Emails: Last but not least, the good ‘ol email. Most customers don’t respond to feedback emails because they think companies don’t actually care. If they’re unhappy, they simply move on.

Here’s a tip: Add a short yet thoughtful line to your email. Something like “Thanks for your response! We’ll get back to you in 3 days.” This will make customers feel like their opinions matter and be more proactive towards giving feedback.

Training and Awareness

To err is human, and to upskill is divine.

Don’t treat training as a one-and-done event. Invest in training your content creators and managers regularly so they’re up-to-date about best practices, new software features, and more service capabilities.

You can also organize learning and development sessions and have senior management, industry experts, or design enthusiasts speak about relevant topics to improve accessible design.

Keep up with the latest accessible design trends

Trends can come and go, but inclusivity is here to stay. 

What works now might be redundant tomorrow. With new and more innovative designs and tools coming in, keeping yourself (and your team) up-to-date is key to creating relevant (and cool) designs. 

We recommend these sites to catch up on all the latest design buzz:

Over to you now

That concludes our blog on designing digital signage with accessibility in mind. Now, you’re all set to cater to various customer needs and abilities! 

Before you go, we’d like to remind you there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. So don’t be afraid to experiment, do your research, perform user tests, and get your team’s input into crafting the best customer experiences.

If you’re looking for a turnkey digital signage solution, L Squared has got you! We provide end-to-end signage solutions, including a cloud-based CMS, cutting-edge displays from our solution partners, and signage services to transform digital communication. For more information, contact info@LSquared.com