Customers report that SignCommand is an intuitive software application that makes creating messages for LED signs easy. Shay Einhaus, regional consultant at Stewart Signs, talks about the ease of use of SignCommand, as well as some of the challenges customers face. Listen or read more to find out about the benefits of SignCommand.
John Maher: Hi I'm John Maher. I'm here today with Shay Einhaus, regional consultant at Stewart Signs. Today we're talking about customer benefits and challenges of using SignCommand. Welcome, Shay.
Shay Einhaus: Thanks, John.
John: Shay, what are some features of SignCommand that you find that your customers are using the most?
Shay: With the power of this program, most of the customers that I'm proud of to work with are very much into the scheduling, the messaging, and the graphics capability. From a scheduling program, there's a virtually unlimited amount of time that they can use in going out into the future as far as programming defined to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it and how they want to do it. Then with that, they are able to schedule down to the second, what it is what they want to put on the sign, whether that be a meeting or events that happened at the school.
Much so that the recommendation, almost tongue-in-cheek, is to take your calendar for the year and program everything that's on your calendar, that you have scheduled for that year into the system and only edit as needed. Then it should just be added on the fly approach. I know of only one school that went so far as to do that. Most schools would handle the scheduling from a week to a month at a time, but having the flexibility to do as much or as little as they would like — that is a great feature of the sign — to be able to do that, and not be restricted to having to have Monday go into this program and know that that's the only way you can do it is to get rid of what's there and put what's new on.
That is the old technology, and this new technology does afford them to be able to do quite a bit more with the sign at their leisure. Or, they can be as aggressive with scheduling as they want. The other picture that works really well, I would almost say to a fault, is the quick messaging feature. In my opinion, it's a little bit lacking in what you can do with it, only that it allows you to put one line bullet messages on there that are very important and need to be prioritized to the top of the list.
As far as what can show on the sign, the customers love it because as they're going through their day ... that PTA meeting tonight gets canceled or gets changed, you go to the quick message tab you hit it, prioritizes it, and throws it on there so that everybody in this amount of time that you have it set for can see just that one message and it overrides any other programming or scheduling that's been put in place. It is a nice feature for that aspect or for maybe from an emergency standpoint. Something happens to the school ... lockdown, things of that sort. That's nice, but it doesn't allow you to do much more than that.
I have had schools who don't want to get any more in-depth with the program. That's all they use [and] now they're stuck with these little one line taglines, it is fly by all time and it works, but it's just not as productive as what in-depth scheduling or in-depth programming could be.
Quick Messaging Capability
John: When you're taking the time and you're doing more with it you can obviously, you can add more graphics to it, and animations and things like that that really make your message pop, and that's great when you have the time to plan ahead of time. Like you said, maybe use that scheduler and get those messages out in the best way possible. But sometimes you're just stuck under the gun and it's a last minute message that you have to get out to everybody immediately. Having that quick messaging capability is good for that when you really just need to throw something up there really quick for people to know right away.
Shay: Correct. It's happened. We've had it happen with ... snow days, are a good example. You get a freak storm in the middle of the day, 'we're letting school out early', and you start putting the message out there to let people in town know that the buses are running early, so that they're not freaking out whenever they've got all these new stops that are in the way when their normal business is now disrupted, and even the kids and the parents passing around all know this type of thing. But it's ... I've had a couple in California that have used it for fire emergency situations.
There's been a fire or flash flooding or something like this, like you said, something on there — a quick response. I don't have much choice, I don't have time to sit and really program something, but this is it, it can be as long as you want. It's sort of a blasted message so to speak. It works out really well for those that use it. It's just not the optimal way to use it to get the most out of sign, but in those situations, it's been very popular. The other item that's the most ... probably the most popular from my customers is the graphics library that we have on the sign, and that allows them to grab anything and everything that's in that library specific to the size of their sign.
They don't have to even think about. If they click it, it shows on the sign ... they don’t have to change colors. If they have a single color sign on, the full-color graphics will automatically configure a grayscale. If they have a full-color sign and everything that's in there as full color will show up as you see it. It's all been professionally formatted to their correct pixels, makes it extremely easy and kind of a no-brainer on how to get all of the basic information that most schools would ever need. There are things on there ... I've never had never had at my schools ... but there are things that cover kind of the gamut. From fundraisers to carnivals, to all the PTA meetings and events that could possibly go on at a school.
Regarding timelines, vacations, all these types of things that are, that are happening at a typical school. Or even churches or businesses — it all implies there's a nice little package of information that's already built in for each of these organizations to use, without having to come in and try and create content, it’s a nice feature.
Graphics and Animation Capabilities
John: You don't have to be a graphic designer in order to program your sign. You've got things right there at your disposal where you can throw up a graphic, you can add the text over it. Tell me a little bit, too, about some of the animation capabilities and the things that people can do to really make their sings pop.
Shay: Sure. The sign has the flexibility to do any — take any of the graphics that we've pre-programmed and make them your own, just to editing them through the software. But that you can also create bringing your own content if you want to — if you have even just a simple Photoshop or even a simple digital camera editing program on your computer, you can do that. The software itself does not have a large editing capability feature built into it, because we wanted to keep it simple and easy and let you do your editing outside the program and just bring all the content in. The bringing it in and overlaying things on it, you can take a background of clouds or image that's pixel configured correctly from Google if you wanted to, and bring it in and put something on top of it.
You mentioned a second ago doing overlays and things of that sort. That's a pretty big popular item to do. It just takes time to do it. With the programming the scheduling if you've got the time to sit down and actually do it, you can really be over the top with some of the sign, even still keep it tasteful so that doesn't disrupt the community or the neighborhood that you might be residing in. But the software allows for someone as basic as 'I just want to point click' to someone from a graphic design standpoint, that 'I want to create my own content'. Any ... literally any skill level in between there can program through SignCommand. It's the hyper-versatile program.
Major Benefits of Using SignCommand
John: Those are a great features, and what are some of the other biggest benefits of using SignCommand?
Shay: The best would be the remote access that's doing the most popular thing in my hand with my customer base, and I know it has been from my colleagues ... as well as the ability to be able to do this literally from anywhere. I tell them you can do it from in your bunny slippers or from Tahiti. It doesn't really matter where you are. If you have internet access you're able to program your sign. There's only two factors that play into this and that's ... there's three. The sign has to have power. Design has to have an internet source connected to it. If the power and internet go down to sign, it doesn't do any good to have remote access. But that's a very rare occasion.
The best possible situation as everybody is online and you can log in from your phone, you can log in from a tablet, iPad, Mac, PC, Linux it doesn't matter. If you have internet access your programming your sign. That ability to do that from anywhere and without the restriction of an app or being able to load a program onto a machine is somewhat invaluable in what we're doing now going forward. Because there are so few companies out there with something even close to this that it's kind of setting us apart from the pack, which is obviously ... that's a nice thing as well.
The ease of use is the second feature that I find the best and then you get the most feedback from is the learning curve is very small. I trained my wife to do this on a laptop in a hotel room on a whim. I just threw my laptop and said 'watch these four videos', and then she got excited because she could grab graphics and throw stuff on there and she was doing way more than I knew how to do and about 10 or 15 minutes. She says that she repels technology, that's how [crosstalk] cell phone in. She's right because she is not very tech savvy and doesn't ever want to be.
But I was able to help get her started without having a sign available or attached to it, but she was able to [at] least do it through all the previews that are available to be able to input information and take stuff out and edit it. I was having her schedule and do some of the more finesse editing that's in there as far as programming and the time and how long you want things to stay on the displays and the little details that most schools just don't touch because they're already default and the default works well for them. But she was able to do most of that within, again, the first four videos of the 19 or 20 that we have on our website. That was pretty neat. That leads me into the third one.
The third feature is that you have this video training that is ongoing. You can call in and do your training live with someone. But having the ability to kind of do it on your own at your own pace without the worry of an appointment, then they're all labeled ... a nice coded, it kind of starts at the beginner level how to get started and all the way down to what we suggest when you get to our video editor to bring in your own content. It's simple. They are three or four minutes long, they're straight to the point. They're catchy, nice little graphics with them, but having that ability to be able to do that and train multiple people has proven to be a huge feature for the schools, especially from an IT standpoint, because they ... they don't have time to mess with the sign. That doesn't keep the school running. Having the school with some flexibility be able to do that on their own time at their own pace without IT people having to stop what they're doing to do it, it has proven to be very viable.
Cloud Collaboration Simplifies Process
John: Sure. I mentioned that remote access feature is just so important, too. Especially like you mentioned earlier for schools and like maybe a snow day, where somebody doesn't have to try to drive through the snow to get to the school in order to change the message on the sign and let people know that there's no school that day. They can just do it in their bunny slippers, like you said, from home and just put up a message and say, hey 'no school today' and that's it.
Shay: Yes. The software allows for a cloud collaboration. Every school gets five users, each of those users are literally dumping information into this play file bucket through the software and everybody gets to share them. I can go in and see what Jenny and John and Bill and Sue did, and now all five of us are collaborating as a team with all the stuff that we would like to see on the sign. As the weeks go on, the day goes on, you can grab things out of this bucket. The nice thing about having this programming being cell phone ready or mobile ready is that [it] formats the page that you can go and do that fairly easily through any interface even on a small little screen like in this cell phone portrait or landscape.
I was playing with it the other night just to kind of see for myself what some of the new features might have been that have been dropped on there and just in the last month or so, there are always [things] being updated. But I was able to go on and see my cloud and my cloud has stuff from a year and half ago when I was on their programming for the very first time when it came out. I forgot about that stuff. Its literally — it's all there for me. I just grab what I want and I can send it from my phone. I attempted to do a program from my phone, it's doable. Better interfaces and tablet size are bigger, but it can absolutely be done from the phone which is on the fly. So you're sitting at home, the snow starts going, you get the notice that schools are closing early, and you're like 'oh, I forgot about that' or it's over the weekend, 'I forgot about the thing on Monday'. You can throw that information onto the sign from your house and 30 seconds later it's on there and everybody driving around sees it. It's very, very fast. I mean it's obviously as fast as your internet, but it is more instantaneous than to get in the car and driving over there and messing with letters and things of that sort, like the old school signs.
How to Utilize the Collaboration Feature
John: Do you find people use that collaboration feature a lot in terms of having different divisions of your company or your church or a school, where say maybe the athletics department wants to put up a message about the game that's coming up on Saturday. But the theater department wants to put up a message about the upcoming show that's next week or something like that. Each of those divisions are or sections of the school or church or company, can submit the slides that they want to have on there and then maybe have a central person who's deciding what the schedule is going to be for those, is that how people are using it?
Shay: That's exactly right. I have a couple of examples of that. I've got a very large high school in California that uses their sign that way. They have the ASD department for their student council type group. They have the activities department that runs the prom and homecomings and things. They have the athletic director who wants his stuff, the principal want their stuff, theater arts manager she wants her things. They all have their own files within the cloud and in that cloud, they dump all their stuff as they think about it throughout the day and throughout the week and put up their fill up their little buckets inside the big bucket.
Then the principal of activities at that particular school has the overriding; she's the only one who they've all agreed, she's the only one who's going to actually push the information to the sign. She goes into the buckets, they send her emails and texts. 'Please pull this, this, this, this, this' and then she just grabbed that out of the buckets and sent it. But they are collaborating from the standpoint of input, she's the pusher. She just is able to send it out there. It works out really, really well. Another school did something where they did by the month.
He set up 12 monthly calendars or 12 monthly buckets inside the cloud so that anything is happening on the calendar gets put into the month that it pertain to rather than just a massive amount of information like a messy desktop, it's much more organized this way. Now he goes into that month, and what's happening this week in that month he's got all categorized and dated. He's very, very organized more than any that I've ever seen, but it really worked well for them. Because there's no guessing. Everything that's available for this week, five day period of school week, it's right there in front of them.
Which of those do you want on the sign? You can put them all on there, you put the ones that are just important and it all depends on what that event might be. He has finessed it down to where it is very, very analytical and it's very clean, it's very pretty, and he's happy. It makes his life a lot easier because he's the guy that does — like the principal, he's the pusher. Pushed that information out there just like you would a text and just make sure the sign has what it's supposed to have and not just a bunch of random information that doesn't make a lot of sense. It's much more organized for him that way.
Customer Challenges with SignCommand
John: What is what are some of the challenges that customers face when they're using SignCommand?
Shay: Couple that have come up and they tie into the first two questions too. But creating your own content has been the most challenging thing that I've heard from my customers, and that is because you take time. If you're going to bring in a graphic that you're ... your bulldog or your church logo or your business logo ... it has to be formatted correctly, sized correctly so that when it pops up on there it doesn't spread out to the width of the screen. It needs to be adjusted and adjusted accordingly so that the pixels are correct so it has the right resolution and some of that is just not something that laypeople understand or know.
I can fumble through it myself. I'm not very privy on how to do that. We give you some instruction through the training videos, and our tech support guys can help you. Or, we actually even have something set up to our graphics arts department, where for $20 or $30 they can send us what they want and we'll create it for them. Or for $50, we'll create an animated video version of it for them three or four-second clips. We can do that for them that way because that...that is a frustration point, 'I want my bulldog', or 'I want my church logo on some of your standard graphics that you might have in there'.
It's just not... it's not as easy to do that without a little bit of training and knowledge and again comes back to time and not all of them have the time to do that and it can be frustrating. There is plenty of content there to put on it, but doing it themselves is a little tricky. The learning curve is very low and short, but it is still a learning curve. Some of them just expect to be able to pick it up and text like you would a brand new phone and you do have to go through some of the training. That's been another one of those things that's somewhat of a sticking point at times — that they have to take the time out of their day to go through and watch four-minute videos and there's 20 of them.
Within an hour you can have the whole training system and at least have seen it not maybe not be proficient at it, but you have at least seen it. It can be a little bit of a sticking point and something that we do get feedback on and some of our surveys that I wish it was easier to get started. If you think about 20 minutes to learn a computer program versus, you know, weeks to figure out all the details of my phone, my brain just carry with me every day. It's very, very simple. I've seen a lot of software that are out there in the market and this is the simplest to use, but it does take time. You do have to play with it to be able to use it.
If you don't — or not continue in it, you lose some of the bells and whistles, but it's not as easy as riding a bike and you always know how to ride a bike. You do have to play with it. I mentioned I was in my phone the other day. There were some things in there that I didn't remember seeing before. Made some changes made some tweaks and now it's kind of crazy, but it is nice that you can do all that. But it does sometimes cause some people to go, 'oh I wish it were a little bit faster or a little bit easier right out of the box'. It's as easy as it can be and still be a big piece of technology.
John: But the good news is that you do have those training videos, they are available to people and you do have support as well. So if people need a little extra help then you can jump in and help them.
Shay: That's correct. We are there when they need us.
John: All right, well Shay I really appreciate you speaking with me today about SignComand.
Shay: My pleasure, John.