When I wrote this article on Flash, I realized that I should add that audio is another reason Flash isn’t good for every site. But there’s enough on the audio subject to cover in a separate post, and it is not always a Flash issue. So here it is.
Some people really want sound on their own sites. They want music playing, or sound effects when people mouse over navigation buttons, or a person who pops up and speaks about their business.
Most web surfer hate this. Seriously.
How many here surf with their own music playing on their computer, or playing elsewhere in the room? And whether you do or do not, how jarring is it to hit a website blaring some other music or having some person chatting about how great their product or service is?
And how often do you love hearing this and hang around and listen?
That’s the case for most surfers. Personally, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been merrily surfing along only to be jarred out of my groove by some other sound. Which leads to a loud “ACK!!” from me and a leap to my Back button. I’m outta there!
This is not to say there should never be audio on a site. A lot of the audio problems have more to do with implementation rather than the fact that it is there.
For example, rather than some soundtrack blaring away when your visitor arrives, how about an attractive button and/or text encouraging them to come listen to what you want to share? Then they can click Play and adjust their volume. Good web practices include letting users control their online experience as much as possible.
The main thing to remember is to keep it optional. Audio should not be pushed on your visitors. Its not like your place of business where you may have muzak playing softly: you have no control over the volume on their computer.
Audio is great for musician’s sites. It can also be a nice way to put a face to a business, government or nonprofit site. So the second thing to remember is to ask yourself two things:
1. Will this audio enhance the user experience, or detract from it?
2. If it does enhance or hurt, HOW does it do so?
Be honest when you think on those. Just because you think a certain song is lovely and can’t think of any reason anyone in the world someone would dislike it, trust me, someone somewhere will. And wouldn’t it just stink if that had been your big sale?
A final point about audio: you can not slap up any recording you find online or from your CD collection. If you are going to use someone’s work on your site, you must get explicit (written) permission from them to do so. Many artists will even have a license you can purchase. There are websites devoted to providing audio for websites.
And think twice about playing something on your personal site too. Audio works just like visual art and written works: you must abide by copyright law. So if you are going to try and get the rights to use a certain audio piece on your site, make sure you budget for that. You can make your own audio too, but that too can cost money. You want to make sure it comes across as professional and not an amateurish work. If you sound amateur, your potential customers may decide you are too.