10

I'm developing an application and I am thinking of spending time to add audio feedback when users click on buttons, switches tabs/screens, etc. In my mind it will enhance the user experience as it provides clearer feedback and it helps the user understand what is happening. It can provide a pleasant soundscape with your application - provided they are subtle, gentle sound cues that doesn't get annoying (perhaps provide many variations of the same sound).

I've noticed that there is in general a lack of audio feedback when interacting with application UIs. On the other hand, in video games there is usually both visual and audio feedback when clicking on buttons, etc.

So I'm curious as of why there is this lack of audio feedback in applications. Why are applications so silent? And I also notice a lack of interest in audio in general - hardly anyone talks about this (I had trouble finding anything online that discusses this). Is it simply that audio get forgotten and is deemed unimportant? Has it been to technically cumbersome to implement? If we are to provide excellent user-experiences why are we not using audio feedback more in applications?

EDIT: My question is similar to Why is sound sparingly used on websites? and although some answers there are relevant, I'm asking about sound in applications specifically, and there are slightly different concerns.

  • 4
    A similar question has been asked about websites, but I believe the answers are still relevant. – maxathousand Sep 26 '16 at 19:04
  • 1
    I say go for it! As long as you build in the option to turn it off. – MonkeyZeus Sep 26 '16 at 20:35
  • Buttons with auditory feedback for adding drama already exist. They come with helpful assistance too. – Evil Closet Monkey Sep 26 '16 at 20:59
  • Your question and your comments below are actually addressing two very different things. Auditory queues for every user interaction with a mouse cursor, versus auditory queues for some system confirmation feedback. These are very different. Which is the intention here? – Evil Closet Monkey Sep 26 '16 at 22:53
  • My intention is add auditory cues to enhance the experience, if that means all interaction, certain actions or none at all is up for discussion. – Pking Sep 27 '16 at 7:56
8

You can't count on sound being on, it isn't accessible to every user, and it can be distracting and downright annoying for apps used over long periods.

These reasons make it time consuming and somewhat expensive to get right. If you have to choose between a new feature and some kind of branding you're not sure is ever going to be noticed most often companies choose the feature.

That's not to say there isn't an opportunity to do this right and bolster your brand, but rather that sound mostly makes market sense for apps with limited feature sets that need to set themselves apart, communication tools whose main interaction with you is notifications, and games, where sound boosts entertainment value.

  • I'm not sure I buy the annoying argument fully. I realize that sound can get incredible annoying, intrusive, etc. and we all know this from the myspace pages that blasted some midi-rendition of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. But I've not encountered a single application that used sounds that has gotten on my nerves (not encountered many at all to be honest). If it's used sparingly and subtly, e.g. giving me a little sound when I press a keyboard command (e.g ctrl-s) letting me know the command registered, I think would help elevate the experience a bit. Those little things add up. – Pking Sep 26 '16 at 19:57
  • 2
    @Pking Doesn't get annoying to you, but if I'm trying to relax and someone near me is tap, tap, tapping away because they didn't turn their sound off before they text it gets incredibly annoying. Combine that with other beeps, boops, ding-dongs, and wooshes as messages come and go that person is lucky I don't throw their phone out the window. – DasBeasto Sep 26 '16 at 20:21
  • 1
    I don't want a sound to tell me some command registered, that's a base level of capability I expect no matter what. Keyboard wiring was solved eons ago. Additionally, for many of us, when we are working, we are clicking on things or issuing keyboard commands on the order of one per second or faster. Beeps and boops for that is one thing for movies, but having silence your application will fill its users with rage, or fill your transaction history with chargebacks. – whatsisname Sep 27 '16 at 2:31
  • I'd be annoyed if the sound was loud and repetitive, and used too often, but would you say there are any legitimate uses for sound in applications? You seem to argue that because some sounds are annoying, we shouldn't bother with sound at all. – Pking Sep 27 '16 at 8:08
4

I can think of a couple good reasons off hand.

It would be annoying to be using software at work and constantly getting little clicks and confirmation dings when you are listening to music at the same time or something. Or if you have a clueless co-worker who has their speakers on... jesus.

Loading all those audio clips takes time, audio is not really a light amount of data. Even for tiny clips.

OS's sometimes also have 'click' sounds built in, so the web apps' would just muddle that.

It's incredibly non-standard. And it's hard to see how it might work its way into the industry. So i doubt it will ever be conventional to have your own clicky sounds.

The user doesn't expect it.

Unless your app has an audio theme to it i strongly advise against implementing any noise into your app.

  • 1
    Regarding it being non-standard. It's somewhat more common in mobile apps - on my phone I get pings on push notifications, when unlocking it, pushing back/home button, etc. In desktop application it could be subtle sounds when something is recorded/submitted, e.g. when pressing CTRL-S for save you might not be sure if you pressed correctly and wonder "did my save register?". – Pking Sep 26 '16 at 19:21
  • 1
    @Pking: when I go to hit ctrl+s, I do it correctly 99.999% of the time. Don't make me listen to a sound every time in case of the 1 out of a million times I don't. – whatsisname Sep 27 '16 at 2:33
0

Some operating systems already have system-level user interface sounds as a preference (which is off by default)

Mac OS 9 and OS X are two such operating systems. When this preference is turned on, a sound effect is played when a user clicks buttons, uses a scroll bar, navigates through the menu, or does similar operations. Since the default is to have this setting off, applications are silent.

An application that uses standard Mac UI elements, but displays sounds even when the preference is turned off, is not respecting the user's desires.

You noted that video games often do have sound effects. One reason for this is that because they do not use Mac UI elements, so they can't take advantage of the system preference.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.