The Use of Audio on the Web

Feb 27th 2017

Ever present and all encompassing, sound is one of the most sparingly found avenues of information delivery on the web. People like hearing sounds that invoke feelings or even just sounds that simply give information. They enhance the experience of a website when used correctly, but incorrectly they can be the fastest way to get someone off your website.

Picture a student at home: researching on a purchase, casually listening to music, headphones on. They open up multiple websites searching for the best deal on the brand new Thing Stuff 7SP while chatting with 3 people. Multitasking on the task of multitasking. In the middle of this information binge, their listening experience gets interrupted by the latest Top 40 pop song because somebody thought it would be appealing. Automatically playing upon entry and more intruding than Kramer to an unlocked door.

All art is subjective and music is no exception.

The chances of everyone liking that one song are very slim and even if they do, they most likely didn’t want to hear it at the time. On a desktop, that sound would simply play on its own (by default) and contest whatever sound is already ongoing at the volume of its own accord. On mobile, it stops all sound and takes the spotlight away without any prior notice. In both cases, it takes control away from the user when the user is supposed to have control. To get back that control, they get rid of what took it: your website. Tab closed, potential customer lost.

On the web, people expect text, images, and having to scroll for content on the average website. The expectation of only being engaged on two of the five senses: sight and touch. Touch only being considered on touch platforms that function by it. Unless they know beforehand (ex. going to a website that they know will contain video content), people don’t expect to hear much of anything nor do they want to. For mobile users, you’re also if your presentation is worth eating up a chunk of their phone bill in the current state of data plans and the mobile phone industry. In the process of possibly costing the user money, you’ve also slowed down the delivery of the content that the user originally came for and have worn their patience even thinner if it even remains at this point.

Annoyed visitors, increased bounce rate, slower website, and a song/sound that with either become dated quickly or mind numbing to you and anyone browsing beyond the first page. Don’t introduce audio if it wasn’t invited.