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Designing with Sound : Page 4

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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Reader Considerations
You need to think about the person who is viewing your page—where will they be and what type of equipment they have. Remember—your audience is your most important design consideration.

Reader's Environment
Think about where your reader will be when they check out your site:

  • Will they be at home?
  • Will they be in a cybercafe?
  • Will they be in the office or cube?

Sound has different effects in different environments. While most Web pages sit quietly on a readers screen, sound-enhanced sites scream out "I'm here!" This may startle a reader at home, but for a reader at work, it may prove to be embarrassing. If your reader is checking out your page while in the office, a loud announcement such as:

"Welcome to surfers world. Suurffffffs Up!" might be an unpleasant surprise—especially if the Web surfer hoped to check out the waves quietly (and invisibly) during a lull in the work day.



Many people don't expect to hear sound blasting forth from their computers—but they might expect it with WebTV. If you know you'll have some readers working on a corporate PC and others on WebTV, consider incorporating a JavaScripted browser detection routine to deliver a sound-enhanced version that takes advantage of WebTV's excellent sound playback capabilities, and another that delivers a version more appropriate for the PC in a group setting.

Reader's Equipment
We know that you, the creator of this fine sound enhanced page, have the world's greatest computer, the best speakers in the world and your own personal T1 line, but that doesn't mean that your computer and your equipment are the only ones you need to consider.

  • Think about what platform your user will use to view the page, and test your sound files appropriately. PCs and Macs play sound differently, so be sure to test sound files on both. Also, different sound files can yield different results.

  • If you're using midi files, what sort of midi interpreter is your reader likely to have? Think about what kind of plug-ins, if any, your readers are likely to have installed for playing back sound. Always incorporate a way for your readers to get any plug-in you're using.
  • Also think about the type of speakers your readers have on their computer. Test sound files on computers with built-in speakers that came with the computer, as well as high-end professional speakers.

Reader Expectations
Think about who your reader is and what type of sound you think they expect. If you're addressing musicians, you'll make different sound decisions than if you're addressing Joe Consumer.

Bandwidth
Bandwidth impacts both sound and the quality at which that sound can be delivered. In reality, any connection speed lower than 28.8 can feel painful for anything but very, very small sound files.

You know those home pages where 15 separate pictures, at 60kb a piece are scattered about the index page? The page takes forever to download, and it usually isn't worth the wait. You can easily make the same sort of mistake with sound files. Don't.

If you know your target audience has T1 connections, your sound decisions will be different than if your target audience consists of dial-up users on 14.4 modems. But as a general rule, keep your file sizes as small as you can, without dramatically effecting the sound quality.





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