There was a time when music was on just about every website. The reason for that was that it was a new and exciting idea. Internet speeds had only just grown to a speed where having a whole track of music stream from a site was possible, and so every web designer and his wife thought it would be a good idea to make use of that.
And in theory music in a website design is a cool concept – as music can perfectly create a particular mood or style by playing over the top. If you want your website to evoke feelings of futurism and excitement, then a space-age techno soundtrack replete with bleeps and swooshes could definitely accomplish that. Meanwhile if you wanted your website to create a feeling of calm and relaxation – which could certainly help to keep someone on your page if they enjoyed that – then having a kind of ‘new world’ soundtrack or the sounds of the forest would be a great way to accomplish that too.
In theory this way you can help to set a scene, turn your website into a sensory experience, and generally create a site that will be more memorable.
There are of course problems with including music and sound in your web design however. Perhaps the biggest issue is that it can surprise people and thereby play when they weren’t prepared for it – for instance when they’re browsing while riding in the quiet zone on the train – or more commonly when they have their own music playing in the background which then results in a clash of noise that can cause anyone to quickly navigate away from your site.
Then there’s the fact that your music is always going to be a subjective matter – some people will like it, some people will not. As such if you hope to include music in your site you’re certain to alienate at least some people (though that of course is always going to be a risk to some degree).
Similarly your music will quickly become repetitive – meaning that if someone is going to be spending a long amount of time on any one page they are going to have to hear the same thing over and over – which isn’t going to be nice for them. And then finally of course there are also the bandwidth and loading speeds to consider.
Managing Sound on Your Site
So is music on a website a lost cause and something better avoided entirely? Well perhaps not always. You see in a small number of cases the strengths can still outweigh the benefits. I was looking at booking a hotel spa the other day, and the website had a beautiful flash design with lots of calming music. In a way I thought it was old fashioned – but I can’t deny that it also put me in the mood for that particular holiday. In this case then, when you are trying to make someone make an emotional impulse to buy something, you might well want to consider using all the tools at your disposal – including music. The fact that the site was low on content also ensured it was more supplementary and less relaxing.
Similarly I have seen sites that use smaller snippets of sound in a good way – buzzes on MouseOvers for instance and little trumpeting introductions. They’re kitsch but memorable and because they’re so short they don’t really interfere.
How to Use Sound Yourself
So if you’re going to use sound yourself then make sure it is appropriate for your particular site – and consider strongly all the negative points. Meanwhile look for ways to make it as unobtrusive as possible – keep file sizes short, music relatively low key, and always provide an option to mute it. Finally, make sure the music you choose is good but also that you have the rights to it – if necessary use a sound editing tool like Musagi to compose your own tracks.
Patrick is blogger and works as web design professional. He also loves to share tips related to web designing/seo via his blog to help newcomers in field.