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I'm currently designing a custom full-screen video player for a client, who has provided an Adobe Illustrator high-fidelity interface mock-up. The concept is as minimalist as possible. Their mock-up (notably) lacks a volume control, showing only a play, separate pause, and seek/progress bar:

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

While they seem to have left the volume control out by accident, owing to the extremely minimalist design, I wonder if it's not actually a great idea:

  • On my iPad (which a purported 70% of their target audience will be using), I would never use an inline player's volume control: I would just change the device's main volume with side buttons.
  • On my desktop and laptop, I use the system volume keys on my keyboard to change volume.

In any event, I alter the system volume; the only time I ever alter an audio source's volume directly is when I'm programming, have music playing in the background and want it quieter than system alerts.

I am not the average user, but I don't expect my reactions to be so removed from normal as to break the interface.

The provided video content has sound, but is promotional in nature and never more than a few minutes. Since the video player is by design always full-viewport, I don't imagine many users will put the video on and return to another task, which is where altering the system volume would become problematic.

So, can I more or less safely do away with the inline volume control in this scenario?

As a compromise, could I add a mute button?

UPDATE: The client came back to us with a request to add 'the volume slider that they forgot'. Still, it was an interesting thought experiment.

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On desktop setting volume by the app can be very important; some youtube videos are LOUD and some are quiet, and one might be listening to multiple audio sources at once. It's different on the iPad where sound should only be 1 app + notifications –  Ben Brocka Apr 24 '12 at 18:13
    
I guess you've got Apple hardware for desktop/laptop as well? Not all PCs offer direct access keys for volume up/down, for many you'd need to press the fn key or something. Then software volume can be more important. –  greenforest Apr 24 '12 at 18:43
    
@user12999 Nope, Hewlett-Packard with Windows 7, and nearly all the desktops I've seen made since 2006 have "multimedia keyboards" with integrated volume keys. However, if it's not a natural reaction for a 'regular' Windows user, that's important for me to know! –  msanford Apr 24 '12 at 19:01
    
@BenBrocka That thought had crossed my mind, as well. I could also always set a default volume...though that is a bad solution. –  msanford Apr 24 '12 at 19:03
    
Define default volume, I have excellent hearing (aka as sensitive ears) and what might work for me would be too low for someone else –  Mervin Johnsingh Apr 24 '12 at 19:24
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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Worst case scenario though is someone visiting the site, having the video blast them to kingdom come, and the user leaving the site never to return. That's probably rather unlikely if 70% of visits will be coming from iPads.

If you want to keep things minimal than a big volume slider would kind of junk up the bottom bar but you could make the volume button toggle through 4 settings (corresponding to the sound wave arcs) ranging from mute to 33%, 66%, and 100%.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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+1 I'd certainly run from such a site. Speaker button that when clicked shows the slider is what many mainstream video/audio players seem to do. –  Marjan Venema Apr 25 '12 at 6:37
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Don't forget that audio volume is logarithmic, not linear... 100%, 50%, 25%, 12.5%, 0 would provide a better audible scale. –  Myrddin Emrys Apr 25 '12 at 13:24
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Volume is a needed feature, and implemented properly should not create much noise. It is a very standard feature both in placement, interaction and presentation and as such shouldn't necessitate calling undue attention to itself. It will be more distracting to leave it off in many cases.

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On my iPad (which a purported 70% of their target audience will be using), I would never use an inline player's volume control: I would just change the device's main volume with side buttons.

I often use my iPad with a stand or smart cover, in these instances I will sooner use an on-screen volume control than the side buttons as they are much more comfortable to access.

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Corin, that's a good point. –  msanford Apr 25 '12 at 14:55
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I do not believe that this is a good idea. At the very least, please test it with real users before you deploy. I believe you will find that there are more people than you think who use the volume control directly on the player. Some use cases are:

  • Inconsistent or erratic content volume requires multiple adjustments.

  • Balancing the video volume with that of another audio source, such as music.

  • Muting annoying segments, such as commercials.

Notably, I would look at the extremely popular video providers: YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, Hulu, and TED. Every single one provides a player volume control. Even if you think all of their user research was wrong, users will expect consistency and be surprised and upset if your player does not match their expectations of having a volume control.

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I agree that consistency may be paramount in this situation. Indeed, I had considered that all video players I've ever seen have volume controls. We know what the video production will be like -- particularly that the volume is normalized. Still, it's the first few seconds that could be most problematic. –  msanford Apr 24 '12 at 20:41
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