Web Usability - Background Music
I personally loathe background music on a website. My client has opposite feelings on the subject. I added music because the customer is always right, though I'd like to revisit the subject with them.
Almost everyone would agree that it is annoying and wastes precious bandwidth but are there any usability studies or a recommendation for someone esteemed in the profession that can provide a valid argument against background music?
Metrics. You'll never be able to convince a business person with an emotional answer.
If you investigate the situation empirically you'll be able to give them something irrefutable.
I would would try an experiment: (get google analytics)
- have one site with the music as-is, measure the bounce rate,etc
- have an identical site without music, measure the bounce rate,etc
Have the server randomly serve up the different pages for a couple weeks (until you get a significant data) and see what happens.
Maybe we're wrong (I hate music too). I hope your customer is wrong, but who knows.
You could also add a survey link and try to get people to answer that as well (but without an incentive that might not work)
Stats can be your friend here :)
Usability is not the only concern. Consider the following scenarios:
1 - Someone browses to the site while at work in a shared office, and now all of their co-workers think "Gee, he's wasting time".
2 - Someone browses to the site while in a room with a sleeping baby, and now they have to spend an hour getting him/her back to sleep.
3 - Someone browses to the site while they are listening to their own music, and now they hear a cacaphony of shrieks until one source is muted.
Also, consider that any benefit gained from the music on your website will be totally lost on anyone who has their speakers muted. So your audience can be divided between:
A - People who cannot hear the music
B - People who can hear it, but do not like it
C - People who can hear it, and do like it
I would not care to estimate the percentages associated with each of these groups, but keep in mind that category "B" is actively offended by your website. To take a line from the hippocratic oath, one rule of web design should be "do no harm".
I would also:
(calculate the size of the audio file(s)*the number of hits*months)/cost of GB per month
Then tell them how much money they are wasting.
Basically, it boils down to this:
- Audio on websites is a bad idea. No one likes it.
- Try to educate your client that it is a bad idea. (It's annoying, different levels of sound can cause problems, yadda yadda) Mention that most users don't take sites seriously if they use sound. It's a very '99 thing to do.
- If you client does not budge, (politely) remind him/her that they are paying you for your expertise as an internet professional. You are the expert on the web, and they have hired you to give your expertise.
- If they still won't budge, keep the sound and make sure they are happy. The bottom line is keeping the client happy.
Music also interferes with screen reader users. I'm a blind computer user and nothing annoys me more then having music start playing and drowned out my speech program that's trying to read the site. Nothing will make me close a website quicker then unwanted audio.
It took a bit but I found a site that talks about usability on web sites.
They have a video on the right hand side of this page:
It shows why audio ads are not a good idea on websites.
Hope this helps.
Just make sure that there is a way to turn it off. It really depends on the type of Website, because multimedia-heavy sites (i.e. sites for Movies or Games) can benefit from it, but if I'm listening to some of my own music, I definitely want a way to turn it off.
Oh and please, no crappy MIDI-Files that people already hated in 1993 when they were novel.
This is a tough one -- and what's amazing is that at the moment, I have a client who's demanding the exact same thing.
Personally I don't know of any usability studies addressing this topic specifically, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence out there from users complaining about the intrusiveness or outright corniness of unrequested background music. * That said, clients still ask for it. Best you can do is try to explain the situation to them, try to gather a few good examples of people complaining about it from the Web at large, build a case, and hope the client goes for it.
In my case, she completely agrees that it's potentially annoying, understands it cuts against the grain of user expectations and politeness, but wants it anyway. So I'm building it. Whaddyagonnado.
* Indeed, you could probably use this thread as evidence! Good luck.
Consider taking a different path with the client. Ask them what the purpose for the music is...
If it is to install a particular feeling or mood with the visitor of the site, consider taking them through all the points mentioned in answers here and discuss how that may violate the intended for the music. Then you will be able to talk to the client about different ways to instill the same "ambience" to the website without resorting to music. This is really a design issue and not usability.
If the background music/sound was to convey some information, then it is a usability issue as people who for technological or biological reasons cannot hear the sound at the correct volume will miss out on that. Therefore the site is not as usable as it should be.
Unfortunately, as a service provider of sorts, all we can do is cringe and give the customer what they want - after documenting your disapproval both commented in the code and in writing to the client, of course.
Pardon me, but i have a different opinion about loading music in the website. With all due respect I have for the answer posters of this thread.
I see visits to e-commerce websites like going to a shopping complex. Where you have a cart, varieties of products, checkout counters and background music to make your stay as comfortable and interesting as possible.
There's a whole psychological reason as to what certain slow paced music can do to certain parts of the brain. Some studies even suggested that certain music play a role in motivating customers to purchase more items. Check this site
This can definitely be a plus point in a website. Of course it depends on what kind of website it is. However, a slow and non-vocal music shouldn't necessarily disrupt one's attention; rather it might have the opposite effect.
My justification is that when a potential customer visits a site, he is only using one of his senses while browsing through the pages. His eyes! I'm saying why not allow him (if he wants) to use his sense of hearing that would encourage him (not only through the means of displaying fancy texts, design and animations that looks nice to the eyes) but also to capture his attention through music (allowing him to be more in touch with the site).
Its obviously not possible to trigger his sense of smell and taste. But why limit it to only the eyes. Why not use the ears too!
Whether you choose to put music into your site or not, MichaelStum's post about having an option to turn off the music is highly essential.
Of course in the end its all about the amount of traffic that comes to your website. For this matter, @Cbrulak's idea of using Google Analytics would be a realistic approach for different individuals.