How To Program Your LED Signs For Maximum Effectiveness

I wanted to spend a few minutes writing about some of the principle of programming your Outdoor LED Signs effectively. Here is a short 5 point list that will keep you on the right track, if you follow all the points:

  1. Use ALL CAPS
  2. Avoid Confusing Abbreviations
  3. Make sure the message is up long enough for you to read it out loud, at your NORMAL reading rate
  4. Avoid reverse copy (this is when all the LEDs are lit except the ones which form the letters of the message)
  5. NEVER use a script font

In truth, all five of those points illustrate one of the cardinal rules of Outdoor LED Display Signs: MAXIMIZE READABILITY!

You want to make sure that a driver passing your Sign will be able to read your message at a glance. You do not want him/her to have to strain to read your message. If people can’t read your message at a glance they will stop trying, not just with that message but all future messages. Make it hard enough and you will train people to NOT read your sign and that is definately not what you want.

The absolute acid test for your messages is if people are pulling in to your business because of your sign. If you think something might be amiss our you want to be absolutely certain your message are programmed to maximize readability, hop in your car and drive up and down your street a few times and pretend you are a prospect.

Can you easily read your messages? Do the make sense? Will they be enticing to prospective customers? If you cannot answer “Yes!” to each of these questions you might need to rethink your messages.

Remember, there is no magic to LED Signs, there are only 2 things you need to do make them work:

  1. Maximize Readability
  2. Train People To Look At Your LED Sign

If you do those two things you will make money from your sign so write every message with those two things in mind. There are refinements and specific techniques for accomplishing those things. For some suggestions on the second one, read my article about making your LED Sign a community landmark or look at the Marketing with LED Signs category to the left for even more ideas.

Once you know how you need to program your messages, you need to learn what to program.  What will maximize the number of people coming in to your business? Well, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What specials am I offering?
  • What makes my business different than my competitors?
  • What are my prospective customers looking for?
  • What hidden products or services do I have that would interest people?
  • Are there alternatives to my business and if so how is my business better?

You can probably see where I am going with this, what is your Unique Selling Proposition? Were you voted the best <BLANK> in town? Do you offer free add-on services with every purchase? Do you have a price guarantee?

Tell them why they should pull in and if your reason is good enough, they will!

That is the “what” you should be programming.  Sales, Specials, Advantages. Sell YOUR sizzle and watch your profits soar.

P.S. For those who are interested, I have also set up a blog on my commercial website. So if you are looking for more information about LED Signs, check out my other blog. It will be similar to this one but I will try to make sure I do not write about the same topics in both blogs!

LED Signs For Churches

I have still been receiving questions about specific markets so I am going to take an unlikely candidate, churches, and show you how the principles I have been talking about apply to churches.

First consider why a church would want an LED Sign. In order to keep its doors open a church needs members who pay tithes and offerings. Getting those members is a lot like an ordinary business getting new customers. They have to let the community know they are there, especially the people who live within a few miles of the church. Not only do they have to let them know they are there but they need to impress upon them that THIS church is where they should go.

A churchs LED Signs help with this through appearance and communication. If the sign looks nice, elegant, and clean or in other words gives a good impression of the church, a person is more likely to give them a try.  On the other hand if the sign is old and run down people are will have a less than favorable impression of the church and will be less likely to attend.

A church also needs to ‘advertise’ its programs and events. The community needs to have a way of knowing about that special teen program, or the Wednesday night prayer meeting, or about the small group meetings. What about the special programs? The church needs a way to let the local community know about their new stop smoking workshop, or the single mothers retreat, or about the upcoming concert. If they do not have a means of getting this information out to their target market (the people who live close by) they will be missing a great opportunity to bring in new members.

LED Signs offer a fantastic way to do all of these things. They allow the church to get their ‘sales message’ out to their ‘target market’. Because they are targeting people who live nearby, these are probably people who pass by the church multiple times a day. That means they have multiple times every day to entice the same person to come in and check them out. The LED Sign on the street can become one of their biggest marketing tools.

Okay, that covers the sales messages but that is just one piece of the pie. There are at least two more ways churches can benefit from Progammable LED Signs. The first one is community messages (does this sound familiar?). One of the things people want from their church is to feel like they are somehow helping the community. The usual way people get this feeling is through the community outreach programs their church engages in. The individual may not actively participate in the programs but they feel like they are doing their part because they support the church doing the work. When the church provides free community message that benefit the community the church members will feel like they are helping the community because it is their church with the sign which is putting out the messages which help the community. You can think of this as a customer retention program. The other way community messages help is by (here is where the drum roll goes) making the LED Signs a community landmark! The non members driving by everyday will be reading those messages (sales and community) and the church will becoming etched in their brains so that when they are looking for a new church they will think of this one first.

The last way churches can benefit from LED Signs is in their fund raising and charity work. As people drive by and see the message on the LED Sign advertising a clothes drive, or the church raising money to help victims of a disaster, they might just pull in to make a donation!

I probably have not scratched the surface of how churches can benefit from LED Signs but that wasn’t my really purpose. My real purpose was to show how the basic principles behind the success of LED Signs can be applied to churches. Those basic principles are: put your message out to hundred or thousands of people every day, make your sign a community landmark so when people think **INSERT YOUR INDUSTRY HERE** they think of you, and do all of this at a low cost per view.

The key is to ask yourself what your business has to offer, why someone should pull in to your business (what is your USP), then give all those people on the street, right IN FRONT of your business, that message.

Resources For People Interested In LED Signs

I have had a few questions from people looking for information specific to their industry so I decided that instead of reinventing the wheel I will just point you to a few resources:

Let me add a few words about who is a good candidate for LED Signs. If your business is of interest to the general public, you might be a good candidate. If you have a store which sells collector stamps, or a shop that only deals with pre 1959 hot rods and accessories, or any other business that is not of interest to the general public, you probably are not a good candidate.

LED Signs work on a simple premise: They Get Your Message Out To The Thousands Of Cars On The Street.  If you sell goods or services which are on interest to a decent percentage of the people in those cars you will have a large enough target audience for the LED Signs to be effective.  If your goods or services are of interest to only 1% of the traffic, you probably do not have a large enough audience for the LED Signs to work their magic.

There are exceptions of course. If you operate on large margins or high ticket prices and one sale represents hundreds or thousands of dollars in profit, it might be worth it to spend the money to get those extra 20-30 sales per year. Manufactured housing lots are a great example of this. Not everyone is looking to buy or build a home but if they can attract just one extra sale per month, they will have paid for the monthly costs of their LED Signs and be making additional profits.

When you are trying to decide if it makes sense to invest in LED Signs ask yourself “What percentage of the traffic wants or needs what I have?” Then you will have a starting point to do the math. Let’s say there are 5000 cars passing you business everyday, if your goods are of interest to 25% of the population, there will be 1250 prospects driving by everyday. If 10% of them read your LED Signs and just 10% of those people pull in, that means there will be an additional 13 people coming into your store every day. If you have an average of $5 in profit per transaction that means you will be making an additional $65 per day or about $2,000 per month. That is the math for a business with a fairly low appeal to the general public. Imagine if that were a business like a quick lube where every single car was a prospect!

If you are looking for specifics on how LED Signs can be used most effectively in your industry, I would recommend calling 877-287-9180 to talk to one of the LED Sign experts at my company. We work with each client to teach them the basic of effective LED Sign usage (the stuff that applies to everyone) and we work with them on specifics for their business.

What Pitch Is Right For My LED Signs?

Determining the correct ‘Pitch’ of your Monochrome and Color Outdoor LED Signs can be a confusing topic. Every sales person has an opinion. Unfortunately the recommendations of a sales person can sometimes be influenced by what products are available to him and what is in stock. In other words, sometimes the recommendations of a salesman is what is best for him/her not what is best for you and your business.

I am going to give you a quick guide for determining what pitch is best for you so you will not be dependent on a salesman to determine what is best. We will need to start with what pitch is and why it is important.

What is Pitch and Why You Should Care

Simply put, the pitch is the distance from the center of one pixel to the center of an adjacent pixel. This is most commonly expressed as a measurement in Millimeters. For instance, 12mm, 34mm, 63mm, 89mm, just to name a few of the most common pitches. In a sign with a 20mm pitch, the distance from the center of one pixel to the center of the next pixel is 20mm.

Okay, that is easy enough but why should you care? There are two reasons: resolution and price.

The smaller the pitch is, the more pixels you can pack into each square foot (or meter). Here is an example. At a 20mm pitch, for a 8′ x 10′ Color LED Sign, you will have a matrix of 112 pixels high x 144 pixels wide. At a 34mm pitch you will have a matrix of 64 pixels high x 88 pixels wide.  At a 45mm pitch you will have 48 pixels high x 64 pixels wide. As you can see, when you are dealing with set size LED Sign, the smaller the pitch the more pixels you get.  That adds up to higher resolution.

You might be thinking  “Well shoot, I should just get the smallest pitch I can!” You won’t end up with a grainy sign with that philosophy but you might end up spending more than you need to! That means there is more to the equation then we have covered so far. Here is the other big consideration.

The human eye does not and cannot see every detail. When you look at an LED Billboard (the big billboards you view from 800′ – 1000′ away) your eye does not see every pixel and every LED, it fills in the blank spots to makes a complete image for you.  You are generally to far away and the sign is to big for you to pick up the fine details. On the other hand if your are standing 100′ feet away from an LED Sign you will be able to pick out more details. If the pixels are not close together (tighter pitch) you will be able to make out the gaps between pixels and the image will look very pixelated. LED Billboards have a much larger pitch (frequently around 89mm) but they are to far away for you to see the gaps.

That is where the price comes into the picture. If you do not need a tight pitch to get a good image, why pay for one? Your application and sight specific factors as well as the type of LED Sign (Monochrome or Color) will determine what the optimal pitch is for your LED Sign.

How Do You Determine The Optimal Pitch?

Determining the optimal pitch is actually a mixture of art and science. Take a look at the chart below:


This chart will give you a starting point.If you take a look at it you see that you need a character height of at least 1″ to be readable at 50″. That is the rule of thumb for determining character height based on viewing distance.

If you continue on across the chart you will see a recommended pitch. These recommendations will work for monochrome signs but when you are dealing with Color LED Signs they serve only as a starting point.  For instance, you might want your Color LED Signs to be viewed from 100′ to 300′. As you can see at the closer distance the chart recommends a 20mm pitch but at the longer distance the chart recommends a 28 mm pitch. So what do you do? That is where the art of determining pitch comes in to play. If you are unable to decide for yourself what pitch is best I would recommend you find an LED Sign expert (remember a sign salesman is not necessarily an LED Sign expert) and discuss the pros and the cons of the different pitch choices.

The last two columns on the chart deal with the speed of the traffic who will be viewing the sign. Smaller pitches generally mean smaller signs which mean less viewing time. This is important information in determining the best character height which is partially determined by the pitch.


There is no absolute standard I can give you for determining the best pitch for your LED Signs. The best I can offer is a starting point. When looking to invest in LED Signs, take a look at the chart above. It will give you a really solid starting point for sizing your LED Signs. If you talk to a salesperson who is recommending something that does not make sense based on the chart, make him or her explain why they are recommending what they are recommending. Don’t let them off easy, make sure YOU understand why they made their recommendation. Then you will be able to decide if they are looking out for you or for themself.

Color LED Signs For Car Dealers, A Perfect Fit

Car Dealerships are one of the industries where I recommend Full Color Outdoor LED Signs. This is because they can sell their products with pictures and videos instead of words. A video of a convertible driving down the coast will evoke an emotional response from anyone who is interested in a convertible. In fact, they will probably be mentally picturing themselves driving that convertible down the coast!

Another advantage to car dealers is they can advertise their exact inventory. Car dealers put the cars they are ‘pushing’ or trying to get off the lot out by the street. Why is this? Because they want all the people in all those cars who are driving by their lots to see those cars. They know the cars by the street will sell the quickest. The problem is there is only so much space by the street. LED Signs allow them to advertise an unlimited number of cars. When they sell one all they have to do is take its advertising frame off of the LED Sign.

Take a look at this video of a Color LED Sign at a car dealership. Do you understand the power this has for the dealer?

Back when I was a traveling salesman I would take a trailer with LED Signs mounted on it and set it up at a business in the town I was working in. That business could advertise on the LED Sign and I got a local demo location. I noticed that when I did this at car lots, the inventory would go quickly. Why? Because they were advertising their specific inventory. When someone saw a car advertised that they were interested in, they would pull in. People can’t read the sticker price in the window of a car but they sure can read it in big bright letters and numbers on an LED Sign!

If your business, like car dealers, can sell using images and video you should consider investing in Color LED Signs. The question to ask yourself is “When selling my product is a picture worth a thousand words or does it take a thousand words to sell my product?”

Restrictions On LED Signs, How Short Is To Short?

I just read an article which said that LED Signs are now allowed in Minooka, IL ( However, the village has placed restrictions on the programming to limit how often frames can change, animations are not allowed, no flashing, no blinking, no scrolling. Is it still financially worthwhile to have an LED Sign in Minooka?

I would answer that question with a loud YES! That probably won’t surprise anyone as I am in the LED Sign business but I do have good reasons. Let me explain.

LED Sign Showing Time And Temperature

LED Sign Showing Time And Temperature

LED Signs have only one purpose: To Make You Money. Anything else they do is just a means to that end.

They accomplish this goal by by getting drivers to read timely, relevant, targeted sales messages on the displays.

The purpose of the animations, flashing blinking, scrolling on programmable LED Signs is to get people to look at the sign where they will read those messages. Whether you are trying to put up an animation which will keep people looking and asking “what will they do next” or just trying to make your sign stand out from the crowd, all that animation on the sign is just to get attention.

Are animations, flashing, etc. the only way to get attention for your sign? NO!!!

If you use a careful mix of time/temperature messages, community messages, and sales messages you can still get people to read your sign. Remember, most of the people who are driving past your business live in your community. They probably pass your sign on a regular basis. They only have to notice your sign once and if you have given them information they want or need, they will look each time they pass by.

In the case of Minooka they also placed a 5 second minimum on the interval between frames. If this is the case in your city as well, it is okay. You just need to carefully consider how many lines of text and how many characters per line you will need to display an entire message in one frame.  That is still 12 messages per minute and 720 message per hour.

In an environment like Minooka it is even more important to keep your LED Sign content fresh. Make sure there is new information on your sign at least once a day and preferrably twice a day.

If your city has even longer intervals between changes you will want to take a look at Outdoor Color LED Signs and consider if using images might help your LED Signs effectiveness.

Sometimes you have to be creative but LED Signs make sense.

Why Knowing The LED Density Is Important When Purchasing LED Signs

This is a follow up to my article on comparing quotes for LED Signs. In that article I mentioned there were technical reasons why it is better to have more LEDs in each pixel. In this article I am going to explain a few of those reasons.

Reason #1

LEDs have a unique degredation pattern. They lose approximately 20% of their brightness in the first 2,000 hours of use. After that the loss of brightness slows down to the point where they will last for approximately 100,000 hours total. This is true for all LEDs, there is no way around it, so don’t be fooled by talk of ‘special’ LEDs.

That means that Outdoor Electronic LED Signs which are rated at 5,000 NITs  will drop to approximately 4,000 NITs in the first 3 months.

For those of you who do not know,  a NIT is a  measurement of brightness, in North America the sun average sunlight is rated at approximately 5,000 NITs.  So, an LED sign must be at least that bright to compete with direct sunlight. For the sake of comparison, a computer monitor will range from 250-500 NITs which is why it is hard to see your laptop screen outside during the day.

The more LEDs there are in each pixel, the higher the LED Density is, the brighter the sign will be.

It is better to have an LED Sign with a high LED Density. This will help help to maintain the brightness level of your sign.

Reason #2

One way companies who use lower LED Densities compensate for this lower brightness is to ‘overpower’ the LEDs. This means they put more electricity into each LED to make it brighter. This increases the degredation rate of the LEDs shortening their lifespan.

If an LED Sign has more LEDs in each pixel there will be no need to overpower the LEDs which will not only reduce the amount of electricity your sign uses but will help to preserve your LEDs and their brightness.


When you are shopping around to find LED Signs to invest in, make sure you select one with a high LED Density.  Also, make sure the sign you are looking to investing in is rated at 5,000+ NITs. This will help to protect your investment and insure you get the maximum benefit possible for the entire life of your LED Signs.

How To Do An Accurate Comparison Of The Price Of LED Signs

You have gotten a few different bids for Outdoor Monochrome LED Signs. You have compared the technical information for them all and narrowed it down to 2 bids. You have checked the references for both companies and they are more or less equal. What do you do now to decide between the two? How can you tell which is the better value?

What you need at this point is a way to compare the two LED Signs in an apples to apples way. How you do this is by comparing the cost per LED.

The true cost of LED Signs is in the LEDs. The cost of the cabinet containing the LEDs, the circuit boards, and the power supplies are negligible. What you need to compare is how much you will be paying per LED.

The math to do this is very simple so follow along with me.

Let assume you are getting a sign with a 34mm pitch and a matrix of 24×80. The pitch is the distance from the center of one pixel to the center of an adjacent pixel. If you are not familiar with the term ‘pixel’ let me explain it really quick.

A pixel is a cluster of LEDs which when lit create a discreet point on your sign. Take a look at the picture below. You can see the individual points that make up the letters. Those points are pixels.

Pixels In An LED Sign

Pixels In An LED Sign

The number of LEDs per pixel varies with the pitch size. If your 2 bids are for signs with different pitches you need to find out why they are different and why the company quoted the pitch they did. The correct pitch to use is determined primarily by the distance people will be viewing your display from.

The matrix is simply how many pixel tall by how many pixels wide your sign is on each side. For instance if you look at the above picture, you can count that the sign is 16 pixels tall.

Now, back to our example. Look at each bid and determine how many LEDs there are in each pixel. If that information is not on the bid, call the company and ask them for it.

The number of LEDs in a pixel at the 34mm size will range from 3 to 8 LEDs. Let’s assume one bid is for a sign with 4 LEDs and the other is for a sign with 8 LEDs. Our research is done, let’s do the math.

Bid #1

This bid is for a sign with 4 LEDs per pixel. At 24×80 there are 1,920 pixels PER SIDE making it a total of 3,840 pixels in the sign. At 4 LEDs per pixels there are 15,360 LEDs in the sign. If the quote is for $20,000 the cost per LED is $1.30 (Total Price divided by Total LEDs).

Bid #2

This sign will have the same number of pixels but let’s say there are 8 LEDs per pixel. That means there are a total of 30,720 LEDs in the sign. Now, let’s say the price is a bit higher at $25,000. That makes the price per LED $0.81.


Even at the slightly higher price, Bid #2 is a better value. There are also technical reasons why you would want the sign with the higher number of LEDs in each pixel but on a purely price basis the second bid is the better value by a whopping $0.49 per LED.

So, when looking at bids make sure you look at the true value which is in the price per LED.

LED Sign Resources

Today is going to be a quick post with some links to websites with more information on LED Signs.

If you read these you will get more information on LED Signs. Some of the information is commercial in nature but all of the information is useful in deciding whether or not to invest in LED Signs.

If you have any questions reagrding LED Signs you can always reach me via email at keith at

The 3 Ways LED Signs Are Manufactured – And Why You Should Care

In a nutshell here how you make LED Signs:

  1. Make a circuit board to control the LEDs
  2. Connect The LEDs to the circuit board
  3. Provide Electricity

Obviously there is more to making LED Signs. But those technical details are common to ALL LED Signs. In this article we are focusing on the the differences in manufacturing as that is the critical information someone looking to invest in LED Signs needs to know.

The 3 different manufacturing methods all stem from one issue: Protecting the sign from the elements.

Each of the three methods has its advatanges and disadvantages. If you understand these you will be able to make a much more informed purchasing decision.

Method #1

The first way to manufacture LED Signs is to solder the LEDs directly to a circuit board.  Then an Acrylic or Plastic face is placed over the sign the seal it and protect the circuit boards. Take a look at this illustration to get an idea of what this would look like:

LED Sign Using A Soldering & A Faceshield

LED Sign Using A Soldering & A Faceshield

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this method as I just posted an article titled Faceshields, An LED Sign Saver? last friday. You can click the link if you missed the post and would like more information. Let me just provide a quick recap here:

  • This is cheapest way to manufacture LED Signs
  • These savings are rarely if ever passed on to the consumer
  • The faceshield creates glare which reduces the visibility of the LED Sign during the day
  • In my opinion, the effectiveness of the faceshield in weatherproofing the sign is questionable.
  • If there is a problem with an LED an entire circuit board must be replaced which leads to a ‘quilting’ effect in the LED Sign because the newer section is brighter
  • I do NOT recommend this manufacturing method

Method #2

Method #2 is a step up from the shield method. In this method the LEDs are still soldered directly to a circuit board BUT the entire face is weatherproofed. Take a look at this illustration:

LED Sign With Soldered LEDs & Fully Sealed Face

LED Sign With Soldered LEDs & Fully Sealed Face

This method is far superior to using a faceshield. For one thing you instantly eliminate the glare created by the faceshield increasing the visibility of your LED Signs. Also, this method of weatherproofing seems to be much more effective. If you knew which brands to look for you could drive around your town during a storm and you would find very few signs made this way having any problems.

There is however still a drawback to this method.

If there is aproblem with any of the LEDs an entire circuit board must be replaced. Again, this leads to a quilting effect on your LED Sign with the newer LEDs being brighter than the older ones.

Method #3

With the third, and last, method the LEDs are placed in a sealed, removeable pixel which has pins which plug into the circuit board. The face over the circuit board is also sealed. Look at this illustration:

LD Sign With Removeable Pixels

LED Sign With Removeable Pixels

Obviously there is no faceshield with this method which eliminates the glare issue. Again, if you knew which brands to look for and you drove around your town during a storm you find no weatherproofing issues with this method.

One of the big advantages of this manufacturing method is the elimination of the ‘quilting’ problem. If one of the LEDs has a problem you simply pop out that pixel and pop in a replacement. You don’t even have to turn off the sign to do this! That means instead of an enitr circuit board sized section being brighter, only the LEDs in the newer Pixel will be brighter.

This is, in my opinion, the best method of manufacturing. LED Signs. It has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of the other methods.

If you would like to read more about LED Sign technology check out this link.