I am programming an embedded system and, as a safety feature, when a message (to which the user has to react) is displayed on the screen, a (monotone) beeper can be triggered.

As we have 3 different tipes of messages (questions/warnings/errors) that are already differentiated by color (green/yellow/red), I am evaluating to apply a similar distinction to the beeper by implementing 3 different sequences.

Are there studies or references on which kind of sequences (e.g., long vs short beeps, intermittent beeps) are more user-friendly in such a situation, i.e. sequences that will alert the user that a green/yellow/red message is being displayed?

I am obviously assuming that such "better" sequences exist at all, if they do not I understand that I will have to come up with my own definitions

  • 1
    There are many research studies and guidelines on auditory display design. For example, this research investigates the relationship between the frequency of a beeps and perceived urgency. Search for 'auditory display', tones, and 'human factors'. – user1757436 Jun 21 '15 at 19:05
  • @user1757436 please consider turning this comment into a more detailed question, it is exactly what I am after! – Federico Jun 21 '15 at 19:34

I am working on a similar language for vibrating alerts.

Because of the limitations of a vibration-based alert compared to visual or audible alerts, I decided to use the urgent/important matrix to inform the alerts I used. This reduced the number of alerts required to just four: important AND urgent, important NOT urgent, NOT important AND urgent, NOT important NOT urgent.

The important AND urgent alerts require an insistent vibration pattern to convey both the urgency and importance of the alert. For this I used a loop of four short bursts and one long burst that repeats until the alert is cancelled. The short bursts convey the urgency and importance while the long burst is a "safety net" to help attract the user's attention in case they may have missed the short bursts.

On the other end of the scale, the NOT important NOT urgent alerts were represented by two short bursts run only once - short and sweet, doesn't demand attention and can easily be ignored as it doesn't repeat.

I know it's not the exact answer to your question but I hope it helped in some way.

  • By the way: I'm also a sound designer so please feel free to PM me if you need any more in depth help with this – Andrew Martin Jun 18 '15 at 10:57
  • It's a good place where to start from, thanks for the input. – Federico Jun 18 '15 at 11:21

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