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Sonic Branding – Enhancing the Web UX to an Ultimate High!
Design is not just limited to visuals, it goes much beyond that. It encompasses all the sensory and intellectual experiences you provide to your users, be they visual, auditory or anything else. A lot has been done and said about enhancing UX in terms of visual and intellectual experiences, but the auditory experience has not been explored much so far. The reason behind this could be the fact that, in spite of the immense potential UX sounds hold in invoking feelings they have a reputation of being annoying.
Sounds if used correctly can help identify actions, give feedback to actions and build brand recall and connect. But you need to study your brand and users to measure the effectiveness of sounds because, if sounds are uncalled for or ignore user preferences they’ll negatively impact conversions and profitability.
Some of the areas where you can use sonic branding
1. Task Completion
On completion of important tasks like downloads, form submissions or purchase orders a sound can be played. This should only be done for significant tasks and not each small step as that may get annoying.
2. Sonic logos
A unique tune or sound that is associated with your brand, they are your brand’s audio identity just like your logo is its visual identity. You can use these on your website for brand recall; do give users the option to mute them though.
If you have games on your site or you are a gaming site you can add to the interactivity of the game with sounds. But do not play sounds on the home page and always provide the quintessential mute button, as a rule.
Important information like notifications for live chat messages, errors, warnings, system alerts, etc can have a unique sound allotted to them.
5. Web pages aimed at children
Children have short attention spans and sounds can help in keeping them engaged and interested. But again providing the mute button is essential as children might be using your site with parents or other adults who may get annoyed with the sounds unlike the children.
Best practices for effective sonic branding
Now that we have come to terms with the fact that sounds can enhance site UX considerably in certain areas, let’s see what best practices should be followed to use them effectively.
1. Be consistent
Like any other brand element there needs to be consistency within sounds so that people can recall them and associate them with your brand. The same rule applies to sounds used for functionalities like notifications, task completions, etc. as not being consistent can cause confusion.
2. Be considerate
Never start audio along with the site home page itself, a user mostly likely doesn’t have a headphone on when using your website, the user might even be in a public place or office. If you have even slightly loud sounds keep the audio mute before informing users about it.
3. Be cautious
Use sounds wisely, the music you like might not be your users’ choice so study your brand and users for coherence with your choice of sounds. If possible provide users with the option of customizing sounds.
4. Follow conventions
Use natural sounds that users would expect from a function. For instance, turning a page should sound like a page flip. Keeping UX sounds as natural and real as possible is the key to enhancing UX.
5. Respect copyrights & trademarks
Do not use copyrighted or trademarked music and sounds without proper permissions or you’ll land into deep trouble.
6. Let users set preferences and respect them
Let users have complete control to mute, decrease or increase volume and once such preferences are set respect them completely. Also ensure that you have included apt visual stimuli so that users with hearing impairments or users who mute audio experience a great UX.
You can incorporate some nifty sound effects in your websites using the links mentioned in this article – http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/55-great-websites-to-download-free-sound-effects/.
Sonic branding is an amazing tool for creating top of the mind brand recall for your site and its services, if used judiciously. Just like companies have jingles accompanying their logos for recall you can have sonic branding on your website.
What’s your take on sonic branding? Let us know through your comments.
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