The 5 Rules on Using Audio on Your Website for Better User Experience

Are you looking to implement audio on your website? Designers and website owners have been looking for the best ways to use sound effectively since the advent of the web. Some attempts (such as audio interactions in games) have been very successful while some (autoplay music in websites) have been terrible for the user experience.

With the web becoming a more interactive place, sound can find good use and improve overall experience especially for gaming websites or interactive social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

However, playing audio on your website is, in general, a bad idea as it annoys your users more often than not. Nonetheless, you can still play audio and make for a great user experience by following the following rules:

Rule #1: Match the Sound to Your Brand Identity and Design

Audio made to match the design and identity of your website will improve the user experience and even make for better engagement. For instance, you can play appropriate audio for a finance audience if most of your audience is composed of professional finance persons. For instance, websites such as Forbes provide an option to play a finance-related video on the top right hand of the screen rather than a newsy video that a website such as CNN typically plays.

Sounds can also be a way to create and instill a sense of brand identity. For instance, the Intel Inside Chime or the Nokia Ringtone are great for making the user know that they are on the right website. While it is not necessary, having a unique web sound can server to reinforce brand identity very well.

Rule #2: Do not Play Annoying Audio

Audio more often than not is extremely irritating. Sometimes it can be that it’s too repetitive or maybe the audio itself is just terrible. Thankfully you do not have to subject your users to terrible and repetitive audio as you can:

  • Avoid needless repetitions.
  • Ensure that your audios have pleasant timbre and are harmonic.
  • Make the sound shorter. Half a second is good. Definitely, never go for more than one second.

Rule #3: Always Enhance the Overall User Experience

Before adding any audio to your website you need to ask yourself it is adding to the overall experience. Many website users will prefer to have websites that are silent, and hence you need to be cautious not to annoy them or act like you do not care.

Nonetheless, there are some instances where audio content would be great for enhancing user experience. For instance, adding audio in the form of video tutorials, webinars, interviews, and conference presentations can be great for the users.

Rule #4: Offer the Audio as a Download

Since there will be people who need your audio and those that do not, offer those that need it the option to download it. You can always use a free webm to mp3 converter so that when users click the link to download they can save in MP3.

This is easy to implement as all you need to do is upload the audio file to your CMS. Offering downloadable audio files enhances the user experience as the users can listen to the audio on their morning or evening commute, in the gym or anywhere else.

Rule #5: Do not be Intrusive

Audio is inherently very intrusive, as a user can easily ignore a banner add or popup but never audio. A user has to listen to audio even if they are looking at something else or even if they are on another tab.

This makes a bad user experience as they may be listening to their own music while your notifications, alerts and background music make for an unpleasant jumble. It is even worse when the audio auto plays just by the user opening the page. It is even worse when the user may be in an environment such as public transport or a library, where they do not want to draw attention to themselves.

The best way to use audio so as not to be intrusive is to have the user select whether their audios should play automatically when they visit the website. It will also be great if the audio stops playing once the user scrolls past the video or audio and is looking at other content. Websites such as Facebook have implemented this with great success.

Conclusion

Audio can be good for enhancing user experience but could also destroy it if you are not careful in how you employ it. The best thing to do when you intend to play audio on your website is to make sure that you give a good user experience. By following these rules, you can be sure that you will provide a great user experience and make your website a great place for most visitors.

What other rules do you use successfully with audio? Lets continue the conversation in the comments below.

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