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In an online flash project, I need a way to inform users that they need to make sure that their system audio is on and/or that its volume is up.

I am thinking about using a speaker icon, but since the user needs to check their system audio, which is outside of the flash module, this element will not be clickable. Does anyone have an idea how to prevent the user from trying to click the element within flash module?

Now, there isn't going to be much space for it, as it will be horizontally about 200px wide and 50px high, so presenting the system tray volume slider which is vertical on both Windows and OSX won't work for me.

I am also considering placing the following text on the pre-loader, but I'm afraid that it may go unnoticed:

"For the best experience, please make sure that your system audio is on and/or that its volume is up."

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Assuming that 1) you can detect when the sound is not at an audible level, and 2) the user really really needs it, I would say that this is one of the few situations where a modal window is justified. If it makes no sense to continue the task without audio, pause the whole thing and make a big fat overlay "Please turn up the volume before proceeding". –  Rumi P. Feb 13 at 16:03
    
Detecting volume level is an interesting idea - I am not sure though if this is feasible from flash. Will check this out but should there be any other ideas - I will be glad to know them. –  Dominik Oslizlo Feb 13 at 16:14
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Ask the user to perform a simple task which requires them to have the sound enabled? That would allow them to opt-in to sound. You should probably also allow the user to declare they are unable/unwilling to use sound at that moment. –  RedSirius Feb 13 at 17:08
    
I know that apps like Spotify can tell if you have your machine on mute - because it doesn't allow you to skip adverts with the sound down, it waits until you increase the volume before playing the ads. Not sure if any of that technology is detailed anywhere, nor whether it'll even be usable on Flash or other web-based content, but the technology itself does exist. –  JonW Feb 13 at 17:30
    
Yes, the technology exists, but web applications are sandboxed, while Spotify app can communicate at the level of OS API. This will not work in this case, I'm affraid. So, it brings it back to notifying user the proper way. So far I have come up with this idea of presenting the proper communicate on the preloader, with a slight animation of volume increase (a classic speaker icon with representation of sound waves for increasing volume), looped. The nature of the app will be purely audible, so users will finaly notice it (but I want them to know it before :)). –  Dominik Oslizlo Feb 13 at 21:20

2 Answers 2

The best idea I have come up with is to:

  • show looped animation of a speaker icon in the preloader - as animated, it won't show a click affordance, I believe, it will work more like a visual cue, instead.
  • after fully loaded, the screen will not progress automatically to the main view, but user will need to click [Begin] - but only if the load time is shorter than some time, e.g. 7-8s - this is just to make sure user will be a ble to read the information.
  • after this time, the application will automatically switch to the main view.

I have also rephrased the information shown to the user to start with what I want user to do, so it reads:

"Turn up system volume (why?) for best experience."

enter image description here

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Is sound optional? The wording you've chosen makes it appear that I can still have a functional (if sub-optimal) experience without any sound. –  RedSirius Feb 14 at 10:59
    
Kinda. It can be used without sound, yet sound is the main experience here. There is also visual feedback. So sub-optimal in this case means really sub-sub-optimal... –  Dominik Oslizlo Feb 14 at 11:06
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You don't need to answer why. Just tell people what to do. They'll mindlessly do it. They're trying to answer the question "What do I do next?" This is why you don't say "please" on the web. –  Tyler Langan Feb 16 at 16:29

Signify audio is playing using some sort of animation. Maybe sound waves coming out of a speaker is appropriate. People scan webpages starting from the top left, going down to the bottom, and finally up to the top right.

If system audio is critical, perhaps a link with high information "scent." I'm not an expert on the best label to use here. Maybe a hyperlink that says "Audio Not Working?" I imagine that'd be appropriate near the animated speaker.

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Great idea, yet it assumes user knows it's an audio app. So it's more about preventing no-audio problem. In my case, it's a micro-application which needs to attract user from the very beginning or it will be skipped by user (btw, it'll be presented on FB timeline). So it's more about feature discovery, clear information "Hey, I'm an audio app, turn up system volume!". It's a bit like iPad games saying "Use headphones for best experience." Headphones icon does not show click-to-switch affordance, though, so it's safe to use, while my application needs sound in general, not headphones. –  Dominik Oslizlo Feb 14 at 8:45

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