DIY Cheap & Easy Digital Signage for Your Small Business

You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to create your own engaging Digital Signage Display Advertising to use for your small business. I will show you step by step in this guide on one method you can do yourself while you are on a tight budget.

Photo and edit by: The Technologenius © 2021, Project: Cheap and Easy DIY Digital Signage
Photo and Edit by The Technologenius © 2021, Project: Cheap & Easy Digital Signage

Digital Signage Displays are becoming more popular for brand marketing and advertising as our knowledge of human behavior becomes more apparent regarding what attracts people to buy.

Studies show that 90% of the human brain process information visually over other sensory types. The brain processes image 60,000 times faster than text.

Many businesses have adopted the Digital Signage trend once they’ve realized its results in attracting customers. If you want to “taste a piece of the pie” but not too sure if it is worth the investment, I will show you a cheap and easy way to try it out yourself.

All you need is a cheap TV with an HDMI input, a Windows OS computer stick, and FREE digital signage software.

Step 1- What digital signage software should I use?

You can try using this FREE Digital Signage Software, which provides free unlimited screens, 1GB Storage, cloud hosting, content management studio software or web dashboard, and player software.

Personally, starting with the free version as a test and later upgrading to the software’s paid enterprise version. I have found it a great and easy solution to manage multiple sites from one dashboard software.

For the sake of your first project and this article about “Cheap and easy digital signage solution,” I would suggest trying out the free version first, patented as “mediaCLOUD.”

As of 2021, they now offer a more straightforward content management method via a web browser dashboard. Suppose you want to use the more advanced features of this solution. In that case, I recommend using the “DigitalSignage Studio” software (this is also free to download). They also provide you with comprehensive step-by-step tutorial videos on how to use their software and the basic web browser solution.

The best thing about this software is that it is compatible with any operating system. I recommend downloading the “Windows OS Signage Player” version, as I have found it to be the most straightforward and robust solution to install on the player.

With the “DigitalSignage Studio” software, you can create scenes for your slides, assign content for each player, schedule times and dates of your content, adjust split displays on one screen, and much more.

So now you have two things.

1. The DigitalSignage Studio software or web browser dashboard.

2. The DigitalSignage Player installation file software to be used later in this article on the windows OS computer stick.

Step 2- What digital signage media player should I use?

Now you need to get a media player to play your content on the TV. Professional digital signage companies typically supply you with a Windows Nuc, Android tv box, or a Raspberry Pi for solutions where a media player is not inbuilt to the monitor, aka. LFD’s (large format displays) can be pricey.

The simplest methods to use are Windows and Android solutions.

The Windows OS is the more robust yet expensive solution, and Android is cheaper, the more straightforward to maintain method.

Since I mentioned that the Digital Signage software you will use for this project is more compatible with Windows OS. A cheaper version of the Windows Nuc that you can use is the Windows OS Intel Compute sticks. These computer sticks can pack a punch for their small size and do reasonably well for digital signage.

Disclaimer: The link to the Intel computer stick is an affiliate link for Amazon. I will receive a tiny commission at no extra charge from you when you purchase the item. The small gesture supports my blog.

I use Intel Compute sticks for multiple restaurant and bar menu boards running 24/7 for a few years now. With little physical maintenance, I have not seen them fail yet. If you clean the fan exhaust regularly and set a reset time for them every night, they could probably run for many more years. They aren’t too expensive to replace with another if it fails, which I haven’t seen happen for my projects.

Photo by: The Technologenius © 2021, Project: Intel Compute Sticks Digital Menu
Photo by: The Technologenius © 2021, Project: Intel Compute Sticks Digital Menu

The steps you should take to set up your Windows Home OS Intel Compute Stick for a Digital Signage are:

  1. Power on your Intel Compute Stick
  2. Set your preferred Keyboard language, your Region, and the Internet or Wi-Fi password credentials in the location will install the signage. Then press start after that’s done.
  3. Create a Microsoft account and add a pin
  4. Go to the Windows search bar and search for “switch out of S mode” and follow the Microsoft store’s prompts to remove the s-mode. If there isn’t any button to switch it out of S-mode, you don’t need to do anything about it. This method will not work in S-mode.
  5. On Windows search, search for: “Add User”/Family & other user/I don’t have a Microsoft account/add a user without Microsoft account.
  6. Add a Local User (e.g., DigitalMenu-1) without putting in a password, and make it the admin.
  7. Right-click on “This PC”/Properties/Change the Computer name.
  8. Set a Computer Name under WORKGROUP, e.g., MyPlayer-1
  9. Set the automatic user login by searching for “run” in the windows search and typing in “netplwiz” in the run search. Then select the local user you made earlier to login and hit the reset password. Leave the password section blank, and press the apply button, and ok.
  10. Add a cloud storage drive shortcut (like Dropbox, one drive, etc.) Onto your computer desktop. This conveniently stores your install software and backup local media playback quickly across multiple devices.
  11. Download the VLC player as a backup media player from the web. (You probably won’t need to use this, but better safe than sorry).
  12. Install the “DigitalSignage Player” exe. file that you have downloaded earlier (type in the User and Password details)
  13. Install your antivirus software for safe measures (I recommend using Sophos Home FREE, I haven’t found a better functioning free antivirus software)
  14. Install Team Viewer (set un-attendant access & grant easy access in settings), Any Desk, or Chrome Remote Desktop. This is to access the computer from a different location using the internet if something malfunctions on the computer stick.
  15. Do all the Windows Updates and resets.
  16. Remove the windows’ sleep and power settings.
  17. You should check that the time and date are set to automatically update and also using the correct time zone. This will affect the SignagePlayer software scheduling feature.

Step 3 — What TV should I get to use for my Digital Signage Display?

As for the display, all you really need is a TV with an HDMI input, which you simply plug your Intel Compute Stick into. Since you are using this digital signage display to attract your audience, I recommend getting a TV with reasonable image quality.

If the TV installation is up high around 2.4m and the audience is roughly about (about 8 feet), I would recommend a screen size of a minimum 50inch screen for it to be visible. Then I would suggest using a 60inch or larger screen any further of a distance to the audience.

Alternatively, you can use this formula provided by Samsung:

Viewing distance (in inches)/2 = recommended TV size.

For example, if you usually sit 10 feet from the TV, that’s 120 inches (10 feet x 12 inches).

120/2 = 60

So that’s a 60inch TV

If you don’t already have a TV that you can use, you can find many cheap LED/LCD TVs from Amazon to use for this purpose. It doesn’t need to be a Samsung, Sony, or well-known brand. A cheap 50inch TV from Amazon would do for this project.

Disclaimer: The link to the TV and following mounts is an affiliate links for Amazon. I will receive a tiny commission at no extra charge from you when you purchase the item. The small gesture allows me to continue trying out alternative methods to write about for you to benefit from.

Step 4- How do I create content for my Digital Signage?

Using the “DigitalSignage Studio” software that you have downloaded earlier. You can create scenes, which are essentially the content slides you wish to display on your screens. This software feature allows you to upload your own images and videos, texts, backgrounds, and add additional touches like embedded YouTube videos, weather, time displays, RSS newsfeed, and more from the software’s resource library.

Photo by The Technologenius © 2021, DigitalSignange Studio software
Photo by The Technologenius © 2021, DigitalSignange Studio software

I usually create my content with the Adobe Suite for customized animations and videos before uploading them onto the DigitalSignage Studio software and deploying it to the display screens. The subscription price for this is really high, though.

Alternatively, you can use Canva for free-content creating tools or use Free video editing software such as;

Step 5- How do I install the Digital Signage Display TV?

Look at the surface of the wall, ceiling, or floor that you plan to install the Digital Signage Display on. What material is it? Is it hollow? Are there studs in the wall that you can mount on? is there any framing above the ceiling that you can fix your tv mount too?

If you mount the tv against the wall, use a TV Wall Mount with the wall plugs for the type of wall material. If you are suspending it down from the ceiling, use a TV Ceiling Mount and ensure it’s secure onto any framing or structural beam. If you want it mounted on the floor, then use a Standing Frame.

Ultimately, every situation will require different mounting applications. You should get the advice of an experienced installer to avoid any injury or danger to the public.

Step 6- Testing your Digital Signage Display Solution

Things you need to look out for a while testing your completed digital signage;

  • Does the presentation look appealing?
  • Does the content repeatedly play in a loop?
  • Does the tv or computer stick go into sleep mode during playback or after a particular duration?
  • Does the content cache and continue to function when the internet is out?
  • Does the player log in to the user credentials automatically and reboots the signage player content after a power outage?
  • Are there any spelling mistakes or incorrect information on your content?
  • Does the resolution framing of your content fit what is displaying on the screen?
  • Are the slides or content changing too quickly?
Photo by The Technologenius © 2021, Project: Intel Compute Sticks Digital Menu
Photo by The Technologenius © 2021, Project: Intel Compute Sticks Digital Menu

Conclusion

Congratulations, you are now ready to make your own Digital Signage Advertising Display for your business. With this, you will also attract an audience to your shop with engaging visual media that you have created yourself.

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Here you will find stories of “how-to” guides, experiences, failures, experiments, research, and development. A toolbox for engineers and techies to find solutions, or for curious readers looking to find how things work

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The Technologenius

The Technologenius

Engineer & Tech tinker. I write guides, tutorials, tips & tricks on how you can use technology to improve your business and living. https://mailchi.mp/ced47f27b

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