What, why, & how: Importance of sound in UX design
Sound is an important part of user experience design which most UX designers tend to overlook. You can’t really blame them either.
Because when we discuss websites and mobile apps, we normally consider how they look, not how they sound. The design industry has always focussed more on the visual experience and less on the auditory experience. However, depending on the product under consideration, audio can be just as valuable to the overall user experience as visuals.
Since the earliest days of the command-line, user interfaces have used sound effects in the form of simple audible beeps, to warn of errors. And now, apps such as Facebook and Twitter use well thought out sounds for notifications and alerts.
Why is sound an integral part of good UX?
Intelligent implementation of sound can yield great joy to the users, making for a more wholesome user experience beyond visual appeal. All that it takes is to put agreeable sounds in the right places.
Some of the most instantly recognizable sounds such as the boot-up sound of Windows 95 or the original PlayStation One console have helped turn those products into timeless classics. And arguably, it has also contributed to their long-term success.
How sound can improve user experience?
Every interaction, achievement unlocked, and notification can be improved with sound effects. They can solidify the mood of the experience, and communicate the detail more quickly to a user. In other words, sounds can help convey that something was done, an additional way to acknowledge the user’s actions. A way to state "Yes, your input was accepted."
A distinct warning tone will signal a low battery warning before the user notices the flashing LED. A soothing bell or satisfying click when pressing a button (such as in Facebook Messenger) can be gratifying and make the act more delightful. The delicate pop sound when you pull down on Twitter to refresh results is another case in point.
Even the most basic websites can profit from user feedback and meaningful signals through sound. In your project, for instance, sounds can form part of a reward system in finishing tasks. As the user completes steps of, say, signup or onboarding process, a friendly chime rings as the progress bar fills up, or as the user achieves certain goals.
These short-term incentives help in making the user work towards a larger goal. Audio feedback helps complement visual feedback. Buttons that make pleasant little noises when clicked are usually more fun to click.
In some cases, sounds can help highlight something in a visually packed landscape. And as already mentioned, In time-sensitive applications, they can communicate something faster than visuals might alone.
Here are some resources to find sounds for your projects:
- Freesound – A shared database of Creative Commons-licensed sounds. You are free to browse, download, and share sounds.
- SoundJay – A free library of sound effects you are permitted to use on your website, free of charge and royalty-free in your projects.
- Premium Beat – A high quality curated royalty-free music library by Shutterstock, organised by instruments, mood, and genre.
- Audio Jungle – Another huge library of royalty-free sounds and audio tracks from just $1.
A reliable audio library for today’s internet-based digital products. It has good documentation to get started instantly. Plus, it includes a broad range of file support, automatic caching, spatial audio for 3D experiences, use of audio sprites, and has no dependencies.
Including a sense into an experience, especially sound, produces a more robust connection and a more immersive interface between the user and the product. Sound is a means for the user to feel connected to what’s happening in the app.
As we move toward technologies away from the display, speech and gesture interfaces are becoming more and more reliant on audio input and feedback. Assistant software and tools such as Alexa and Siri give audio feedback powered by impressive artificial intelligence.
Audio prompts and speech recognition can additionally be used to build a better experience for people with disabilities or learning difficulties. With ever-increasing support and demand, now is the time to put the power of audio to work in your digital products, through sublime sound design.
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Chintan Bhatt is the founder & chief designer at YourUXTeam.com, a company that works with startups, software firms and design agencies across user testing, high-level UX design, gorgeous UI design, and interactive & motion prototyping to design products that are...