Written by Thomas Blade, Senior Google Specialist
Synopsis: Chrome Sign Builder is great for a limited number of screens, a tech savvy administrator, and static content
If you’re a newcomer to the world of digital signage, Google’s Chrome Sign Builder may seem like a God-send. What’s not to like about a free, seemingly easy tool that lets you schedule content in a google calendar interface?
First off, the name itself is a bit of a misnomer. The word “Builder” could lead one to assume the tool helps create your digital signage solution from foundation to shingles. For the sake of argument, replace the word “builder” with the word “scheduler” and it’s more accurate.
What you’ll likely discover next is that the Chrome Sign Builder has no content management functionality. As stated above, it’s a content scheduler. And, a clunky one at that. For example: Yes, the interface is the google calendar we are all familiar with. However, you’ll only see a partial google link to your content file.
At quick glance, there is no way of telling which content file is scheduled.
Changing content is also extremely time consuming (compared to other digital signage solutions). It’s great if you are only posting content using Google Slides. Hosted video links via YouTube can be uploaded as well, however timing the video loop gets tricky and often leads to blank screens while the video reloads.
Another potential problem is that if you have any gaps in your content scheduling, your customers/viewers 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. Aware of the drawback, Google explains a work-around with a best practice.
While we are on the subject of content, you should also know that any and all content you post is public. To use Chrome Sign Builder, all 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 with no less than 11-steps) just to deploy it.
Digital signage should be easy. This is not a plug and play solution.
It’s hard to argue, from a penny-pinching perspective, with free. BUT, while Chrome Sign Builder may be the poor man’s answer to a rudimentary digital signage solution, it’s definitely not the layman’s solution.
The administrator/end user has to be comfortable with technology, able to create and organize 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 most impact their bottom line. So, while Chrome Sign Builder is a nice fit for those with no budget, know that you’ll be investing dollars somewhere like in your administrator’s time/productivity and, depending on your use case, in lost revenue if it’s not managed well.
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 digital signage content management solutions
- you manage less than 5 screens and have no plans to grow that number
- you are comfortable with the fact that it could all one day disappear. Like most free platforms and software, Google has no responsibility to keep it up and functioning. In fact, at the time of publishing this blog post, the last update/release was version 1.0.4 in September of 2016
- you are technical enough to understand and deal with the cumbersome interface
- your content is fairly static and you don’t have a need to update or make changes in a fast, real-time, or flexible manner.
- you’re ok with your content living publicly on the internet
- you only will ever want to post content using Google Slides. It works really, really well with Google Slides
In a nutshell, if your digital signage needs even slightly surpass the above bullets, or if you are small company with plans to intelligently engage and strategically grow your digital signage footprint, I would do a little more homework on readily available solutions that will best meet your needs.