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Is there any positive reason why someone might implement an auto-playing audio feature onto a webpage? I seem to see it all the time, especially on band pages and so on. The frustrating thing is trying to find the little 'flash player' box to mute or pause the track (if they've bothered to include that function) to stop it as soon as I can.

It's especially annoying when browsing in multiple tabs and you're unsure which page is playing it, or if it disrupts whatever you're do it - listening to music or at work etc.

Is there any scenario where auto-playing audio would be considered good UX and not downright annoying?

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I was about to write an answer but then I realized "Because they're stupid" isn't the most objective position to take. Even though it's correct. –  Ben Brocka Nov 11 '11 at 15:26
    
Maybe: "How to implement auto-playing music elements on webpages?" –  jberger Nov 11 '11 at 17:13
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@jberger with a neutral tone and specific question this certainly isn't unsalvageable –  Ben Brocka Nov 11 '11 at 18:03
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closed as not a real question by Alex Feinman, Charles Boyung, Ben Brocka, Rahul Nov 11 '11 at 15:42

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6 Answers

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The only time it makes sense from a UX point of view is when the action is specifically to play media.

I'll use YouTube as an example: if you see a video in a list and click on it, it takes you to the player page where it starts playing automatically. This actually makes sense from a UX point of view, as the action desired is to play the media. Without auto-playing, after you've just clicked the video, you have to click play. The source of the audio is also quite obvious, as the media player control is front and center.

That said, a site like YouTube can easily get away with this since it's well known that YouTube plays videos. If the entry point to the page doesn't make it obvious you're going to play media, you shouldn't auto-play.

Likewise, when viewing the page, the audio source should be immediately obvious: for example, having a tiny low-contrast speaker icon in the corner of the page doesn't cut it.

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In my opinion it isn't positive and I think the majority may encourage to have a play button so the user chooses to play the audio.

Music websites do it all the time, because they want to push their latest track or to set the mood, but you can do that visually and take the user to the appropriate place for a track listening.

Is there any scenario where auto-playing audio would be considered good UX and not downright annoying?

The only scenario that I think is ok, is when you just have one (big, filling the page, for instance) element (let's say an eCard). But even then a stop/resume button is mandatory, and even better is a way to store the user's choice (maybe a cookie) for later viewing.

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Those web masters need to do some user testing. I'm sure 95 out of 100 people will say "It's Annoying".

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They do it for the same reason they use blinking text and scrolling marquees, and for the same reason they (probably) garnish every document with garish, oversized WordArt (remember that?): because they think it's different and impressive. Wrongly.

As for your general question - I can think of no circumstance where music is acceptable on web pages. Users aren't familiar with music on the silent web and find it startling, jarring and distracting. They'll leave off page goals to pursue a mute control or, worse yet, the close button.

The only exception might be individual sounds in web applications. Many OSes already use pleasant, unintrusive sounds to signify certain kinds of event. Depending on the context, these might become acceptable to users with time. But I'd want to do some very thorough testing first.

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It's annoying. It's bad UX. Don't do it.

I suspect that the reason some websites still do that is that they want to show off how cool their audio is and are worried that you might not find it yourself.

Auto playing is a form of opt out. You should always give people the control of what they want to do / happen. Always make actions an opt in.

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The only case I can think of where it would be appropriate is if your site is www.examplesofreallybadux.com. To really hit the point home use anything by Chad Morgan as the track.

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