My background in programming is a weird and long story that I'll get to someday, but the important part is that my recent experience in web development has largely centered around Django, a powerful Python framework. The systems department in the library is a mixed bag of programming experience, with plenty of very competent programmers with experience in say, Perl, PHP or Fortran. They've deployed a couple of WordPress installs to deal with certain parts of their main web site, but all-in-all, there isn't really an institutional standard here. So I jumped around and built some basic signage apps with Django, and toyed with a Rails apps that could accomplish the same thing. The basic requirements being that the app run in a fullscreen web browser, such a Plainview, and have the ability to rotate through what more or less amount to slides.
The design was pretty straightforward but took a lot of mocking up and some testing to get to a point where I felt comfortable with the visuals. I went through what books the library had, and did some reading online, but found surprisingly few definitive resources regard digital signage. The most useful book I found was written primarily for physical and static architectural signage. It was helpful primarily in font consideration, both for type faces, weights, and knowing when you need diversity. For the digital side, my best friend was the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) published by the W3C. I looked to the WCAG primarily for guidance regarding colors, contrast and color brightness. The WCAG also had some good advice regarding font selection, but for my purposes was mostly a mirror of what I found in print, which was to avoid scripted fonts.
As for what I ended up with, we have a clock and date in the upper right, set in Lucida Grande, and other titles and text are set in Helvetica Neue. There's something about times, dates and email addresses set in Lucida Grande that I like and find very readable. The overall theme is dark for a couple of reasons, the most obvious reason is to allow the slides to stand out. It's also dark to contend with the lighting conditions in the stacks, which is relatively dark to begin with.I want the displays to be as bright as possible without blinding our patrons. The perfectionist in me isn't satisfied with the design, so I'm continually making small adjustments and changes here and there. All of these changes will culminate in a new and hopefully more balanced font layout in the near future.
I've got an app more or less ready to go. Mission accomplished. Except for this minor matter of maintainability.
Problems of Maintenance
I was hired using federal stimulus funds, so my job is expected to exist for around two years. No one in my department has any experience with Django, and very very minimal experience with Python, to say nothing of Rails or Ruby. Crap.
Some discussions and a few meetings later, it becomes clear that if I'm going to be a Good Programmer™ and deploy something that they can fix and update themselves, it's going to at least have to be in PHP and ideally, based on WordPress. I've toyed with WordPress plenty of times, and I've set up several sites and blogs using it as a base, but I wouldn't have called myself a PHP programmer. It's not a terribly difficult language to pick up and use though, so it wasn't a big deal to replicate the core functionality of my Django app. Blend in a little mix of WordPress plugins, some template hacking, and now we have a functional digital signage system. It's not perfect, and can't be modified and extended in quite the same way as my Django app could, but it gets the job done, and will be able to stay alive without my continued presence.
Afterthoughts and Looking Ahead