Average people are assaulted by a barrage of stimuli in each of their waking day. Some of these stimuli catch their attention, but in many cases are filtered out as unimportant, useless and extraneous. This filtering process is psychologically important to defend ourselves against constant stream of information. As web designers, it is their job to cut through those random, meaningless white noises in our life to penetrate the consciousness of targeted audience.
As many of us have seen, audio is used as powerful feedback mechanism to let users interact with common everyday devices such as TVs, mobile phones and radio. There are many subtleties involved with using audio in web design to bring non-intrusive, usual experiences.
Audio is an amazing tool for improving web accessibility. Smartphones, tablets and personal computers offer accessibility options that allow richer user experience with audio and gestural input and output. When used properly, audio can bring websites to life and web designers may need to work closely with audio engineers to establish proper experience.
If web designers want audio to have a stronger part in the design, there are a few considerations to make. Audio can work as non-verbal communication and choosing the right is important. When adding sound for incoming messages from other users logged in the same website, web designers can think of the tune that notifies that a text message has arrived. The sound can subconsciously encourage action, with increased pitch and intensity to create a sense of urgency.
Compared to verbal prompts, sounds are less intrusive and shorter. Facebook uses a soft tune to indicate notifications and incoming messages. However, only so much information can be integrated in a brief tune and when needed words are better way for communicating an idea. For this reason, Facebook also implements non-intrusive pop-ups at the left bottom corner of the screen.
Website users should be able to intuitively understand what a sound means. Designing sounds for web purposes can be complex and audio engineers need to consider direction of the sound, duration, loudness, timbre and pitch to create a perfect sound. Designers also need to consider specific user-related characteristics, both physical and emotion. They shouldn’t overload users with too much audio-based information. A few websites use actors with personality and voice that fit their brands and products.
As a conclusion, when designing websites with audio, it is important to make sure that sounds don’t distract or interfere.