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  • Michael Spencer

Soundings: engaging web sounds…3% do it well, and as for the remaining 97%…

Reported in today’s Financial Times, Sound Strategies has examined over 450 websites, focusing on global corporate, brand and product sites, plus international travel, leisure, entertainment and media sites.  Intriguingly, Andrew Peggie found that less than 3% of companies are using sound effectively on the web.  These findings are now informing the development of, as a learning resource for the other 97%, plus the bespoke consultancy that Sound Strategies offers to its corporate clients.

“The one thing that we don’t normally associate with the web is sound, even though it is a vital part of everyday communication.  As musician Andrew Peggie puts it: “the web is a silent place. …Only 12 sites showed excellent examples of ‘considered and effective’ usage.  He believes sound is often an afterthought on websites:  “Web designers have very strong visual backgrounds, so they don’t have the same awareness of how music can work as they do with the visual elements.”

FT journalist, Kim Thomas posed the question: Does sound matter?  Web users commonly want to find information quickly. Does adding sound to a website increase its appeal or get in the way? What do you think?

Among other findings from the research, some 47% of the sites examined included audio of some sort. However, only 27% used integrated sound or easy-to-find audio and video.

We found that effective use of sound (music, speech, sound effects) on a website:

  1. ‘humanises’ the product, brand or organisation by increasing the visitor’s emotional engagement with the site

  2. ensures visitors spend longer on a page than they would if it had no audio elements

  3. converts convergent users (looking for specific information) to divergent users (willing to explore other areas of the site).

People remember sites with sound more easily than those without and well-designed and synchronised audio can turn people on to a site and its message or contents. But they also remember the bad experiences more clearly…

We also found that almost 60% of the music used fell into a bland techno-ambient category which had little connection with the site contents or more importantly the corporate image.

In designing the research, we developed a multi-strand qualitative assessment tool for evaluating all types of audio on websites, enabling aspects such as musical originality, audio quality, fit with images, enhancement of the brand/company image, accessibility and visitor experience to be weighted into an overall web audio rating score.

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