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I'm currently designing some web pages that are to be viewed solely on a large screen TV display in a venue. A lot of this data is text driven to show everyone the schedule (think airport flight listings).

I'm struggling to find any resources online with best practices for web design on large screens like TVs where the user will likely be several feet away and have no control over the device. Most of the resources I've found talk about designing for large screens but they assume large monitors hooked up to an input device.

I have a full screen carousel prototype working that slides through multiple screens of data.

Some specific questions I have...

1) What's the best font size? 2) Is light text on a dark background easier to read from a short distance or is dark text on a light background better? 3) What's the optimal slide time to cycle through content?

Any other pointers for designing for large screens and tvs would be greatly appreciated.

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This sounds less like 'web design' and more about 'kiosk' or 'wayfinding/signage' design. Perhaps use those as your search terms. –  DA01 Apr 3 at 21:49
    
I thought so too but searching for "kiosk" stuff is all about software to run on a kiosk machine. Also kiosks tend to imply that the user has control of the content with an input device. I really just want best practices on web design for a tv screen where the user has no input ... ux.stackexchange.com/questions/16734/… is a good start but not exactly what I'm looking for. –  abrudtkuhl Apr 3 at 21:52
    
"Digital signage" is the term you are looking for. –  Grant Apr 4 at 0:00
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2 Answers 2

1) What's the best font size?

As big as possible. The best way to test this would be to get details of the installation. Then print out screens, put them on the wall, and step back to the distance that most users would view it in person.

2) Is light text on a dark background easier to read from a short distance or is dark text on a light background better?

Probably more important than what is light vs. dark is the overall contrast. Edward Tufte has some tips on that.

3) What's the optimal slide time to cycle through content?

Depends on the content, the amount of content, and the needs of the viewer.

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Thanks for your input. I have an issue because the bigger the font size the more slides I need to have to spread out the content (which is 99% text in a tabular view). I think having more slides hurts the user experience because someone standing there may have to wait 120 seconds for the slide that pertains to them to come back. I'm sure there's a good balance in there somewhere. –  abrudtkuhl Apr 3 at 21:56
    
For sure. You'll have to weigh the readability of the font size with the time it takes to show the pertinent data to the user. –  DA01 Apr 3 at 22:00
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1) What's the best font size?

You need to not just think about font size, but the font itself, since some fonts are more readable than others, especially at a distance. Some fonts are also easier on the eyes when printed (serif fonts) instead of when displayed on-screen (sans serif fonts), with other fonts having the opposite quality (more readable when displayed than printed). This link has some relevant pointers: fonts for display boards. For example, it says that at 5 feet (1.5 m) the minimum comfortable font size is 32 points.

2) Is light text on a dark background easier to read from a short distance or is dark text on a light background better?

As mentioned in another answer, contrast is more important than light or dark text. However, the ambient light in the area you have your display in is an important factor. So, if you want the info-board to stand out, you make the background contrast with the ambient lighting (dark room = bright background, dark letters) if you want it to blend in with the environment to preserve a certain sense of the room's style, then you would make the background blend with the ambient lighting (dark room = dark background, bright letters). It's a choice you will have to make depending on the effect you desire.

3) What's the optimal slide time to cycle through content?

Use an average person's reading speed, calculate the amount of text per line, then add a small amount to allow for the time it takes for your eyes to scan to the right place to start reading. So if an average person reads at 180 wpm (3 words per second) and you have 10 words of text per line (roughly 4 seconds) you can add something like 2 seconds for scanning speed, and then you get 6 seconds to cycle to the next line. Adapt your calculation if you are cycling entire pages (as opposed to one line at a time).

Hope that helps.

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