Google’s Chrome Sign Builder is free, but is it a good option for digital signage? Turns out it’s much more complicated than it looks. Be sure you do your homework first.
Chrome Sign Builder is great for a tech-savvy administrators
If you’re new to the world of digital signage, Google’s Chrome Sign Builder may seem like a great application to test the waters of content management. What’s not to like about a free, seemingly easy tool that lets you schedule content in a google calendar interface?
First, the term “Builder is a bit of a misnomer, as it suggests the tool helps create your digital signage solution from foundation to shingles. Replace the word “builder” with “scheduler” and it’s more accurate.
A true, robust digital signage content management system (CMS) does much more than schedule content. It allows users to create content, collaborate on content, and share it (in real-time or on a scheduled basis) to any number of screens, anywhere in the world.
Chrome Sign Builder does not contain content management functionality. As mentioned above, it’s a content scheduler. And a clunky one at that. The interface is the Google Calendar we’re all familiar with, however, you’ll only see a partial Google link to your content file.
Changing content is significantly time-consuming in comparison to true digital signage solutions. If you only plan to post content using Google Slides it works well enough. Hosted video links via YouTube can be uploaded, too, but timing the video loop gets tricky and often leads to blank screens while the video reloads.
And if you have any gaps in your content scheduling, your audience will see the “no content scheduled” auto-message bouncing around the screen like Atari’s Pong.
Probably not the customer experience you’re hoping for. Google, aware of the drawback, provides a workaround.
While we’re on the subject of content, you should also know that all the content you post will be public. To use Chrome Sign Builder, content needs to be web-accessible (which you create via Publish mode), so anyone with the URL will have access to it. Not a big deal if you don’t care who can potentially see your images and messaging.
Where’s the Easy Button?
In addition to the above calendar view challenges, deploying it requires a two-part process (which Google explains in great detail with no less than 11-steps) just to deploy it.
Digital signage should be easy. Chrome Sign Builder is not a plug and play solution.
Skykit, which runs on Chrome and Android, makes it easy to upload just about any type of content – images, video, slides, web sites, feeds, and more. Users can lay out screens and kiosks using Skykit’s templates, or you can customize your own.
Skykit was built by one of the largest Google Cloud Platform software development teams in North America. It’s native to the cloud and infinitely scalable. So whether you’re new to digital signage or it’s old hat, you’ll appreciate the built-in simplicity that makes Skykit so intuitive.
From a budget perspective, it’s hard to compete with free. BUT, while Chrome Sign Builder may look like the beginner’s answer to a rudimentary digital signage solution, it’s definitely not the layman’s solution.
For instance, the administrator/end-user must be comfortable with technology in terms of creating and organizing multiple configuration files and be able to manage content schedules weeks to months in advance. In our experience, enterprise customers want to spend money in ways that positively impact their bottom lines. So, while Chrome Sign Builder is a nice fit for those with no budget, know that you’ll be investing dollars somewhere, e.g. your administrator’s time/productivity, and potentially in lost revenue, if the application is not managed well.
Skykit has plans and pricing to meet the needs of small businesses as well as the larger demands of an enterprise. We even have special pricing for school districts and non-profits.
Ideal Users for Chrome Sign Builder
Chrome Sign Builder will work for you if:
- You need a proof of concept for when you’re ready to purchase a true digital signage content management system
- You manage fewer than five screens and have no plans to grow that number
- You’re comfortable with the possibility that it could become unavailable. Like most free platforms and software, Google has no responsibility to keep it up and functioning.
- You’re technical enough to understand a cumbersome interface
- Your content is fairly static and you don’t need to make updates in a fast, real-time, or flexible manner
- You’re ok with your content living publicly on the internet
- You only want to post content using Google Slides. It works really, really well with Google Slides.
Whether you’re a small company just getting to know digital signage or a large enterprise that’s already using it, you need the ability to engage your audience with dynamic content. Skykit has a plan that can help you strategically grow your digital signage footprint. Do you know any sites that could benefit from Chrome sign builder?
If you’re looking for more info, check out our post on using Chromecast for Digital Signage!
Last updated: 02/14/2020