“In a busy setting, do animation and sound in particular distract viewers from absorbing your messages, or do they help to draw attention? How much is too much?”
We use animation and transitions liberally to help draw attention to our displays, but there is certainly a point where it can become a distraction or have a negative impact on the target. It is always important to consider the content on the display when deciding what kind of automation and the frequency of change. On a digital menu board, for example, too frequent changes to the content can be a distraction and a dis-satisfier if the person viewing the DMB is unable to fully absorb the menu content. Having to wait while an animation or transition takes place can lead to longer than needed dwell times and cause operational disruption. Animation that does not change the core menu content, such as food or drink animated accent images can be helpful in emphasizing certain menu items. In other instances where content is not intended to have long dwell times, or the content is quickly and easily comprehended, animation and transitions can be useful eye catchers and keep viewers interested in viewing even more images. Sound can be done very well with targeted directional speakers, but I would use it only in specific circumstances where it can provide specific and additional value to a captured audience.