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Designing with Sound

If you're reading this, you've probably decided you want to use sound in your site. So now's the time to start thinking about sound as a design element and how your design can affect you and your readers.


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n this section, we discuss sound as a design element, and we explore some of the issues and considerations regarding sound on your Web site.

  • The Audio Experience considers audio as part of the experience of your Web site.

  • Different Sounds for Different Sites explains why you need to consider the type of site, before you consider the type of sound for the site.

  • Creator Considerations discusses what you need to think about when incorporating audio into your site.

  • Reader Considerations discusses how to design for different types of users.

The Audio Experience

What would Halloween be without the music?



Think about the last time you watched a horror movie. People in horror movies are always doing stupid things—like walking down the steps to a dark cellar, right after they watched something run down there, or opening a door that mysteriously slammed shut a few minutes ago.

The next time you rent a horror movie, turn the volume down on your TV. Chances are those once frightening or suspenseful scenes will seem silly at best.

Much of the suspense and drama for horror movies—in fact, all movies—is derived from the background music. We anticipate the danger after we hear squeaky doors slamming in a movie, making an automatic association with creepy sounds.

Sound imparts atmosphere. And its influence can be everything from the only redeemable quality in a movie to a subtle background enhancement.

This goes for Web sites as well. Sound imparts a whole new level, and a whole different atmosphere.

When you type, you hear the clicking of each key as you press down on it. When you hit a button in the elevator, you also hear a clicking noise. Without these sounds, you wonder, "Did I press that? Did I type that word?" Every time you turn your computer on, you hear a welcome sound. Sounds let us know that something happened. With Web sites, sounds can let readers know that they clicked on a link, or that they came to the right page.

Sound can help describe your content, or intensify the meaning of your Web page. Think about how much impact a site on poetry could be if you heard the author actually reciting their poetry. Sometimes poetry takes on a whole new meaning once it's spoken. Imagine putting a picture of your newborn baby on a homepage devoted especially to her—and listening to her coo as you mouseover the picture.

What would a Web site on a musician be like if you couldn't hear any of their music? Adding sound clips to a site on musicians helps readers understand who the musicians are and what type of music they play.

Some sites seem boring or bland without a lot of sound—and others work with a simple audio logo, or sounds when you click on links. Sounds can add drama and experience to Web sites. Adding powerful sounds to powerful graphics can intensify a readers experience and help readers grasp what you're trying to say.

 



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