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Quiet, Please! (Why We Discourage Autoplay Sounds On Websites)

Like photos, contact forms and maps, music and videos on your site can be great “enhancer” features. When placing music on a site, you have the option as to whether to have the website automatically play the music, or play the music only when the user clicks the “play” button.

While you should always be looking for ways to make your site more dynamic and engaging, it’s important to be mindful of changes that might provoke a negative reaction. Sometimes, what seems like a good idea at first turns out to be counterproductive. Consider, for instance, some arguments against autoplaying music…

* It’s making a lot of assumptions: forcing autoplay on anyone who checks out your website assumes at least the following:
1) That the browser has the required capability to play the files without crashing.
2) That the person on your site has your taste in music.
3) That this person is not already listening to music (and here, consider how many people listen to music on the computer while they surf the web)
4) That the person is in a situation where nobody else will be disturbed by the sudden noise. In reality, the sound may disturb coworkers, bosses, or other people on a bus or library.

If your website causes browser problems, garbles someone’s in-progress musical experience, disturbs people working nearby, or causes them any grief, they’ll immediately close the website, likely never to return again.

* If this was a good idea, it would be industry standard. Think of a major business you like and respect and go to their website. Does music play? Is there a sudden greeting from the founder? Probably not. Google and Amazon spend a lot of time researching what works and what doesn’t. If music embedded on a website set to automatically play worked, these companies would have it. They don’t.

About a decade ago, many websites started adding autoplay sounds, only to learn this is not a good idea. Certain companies still try: an ad company started adding autoplay commercials on entertainment websites, only to have the fans of those websites boycotting the products being advertised. While some websites do still have autoplay content, these are media-centric sites such as YouTube where the viewer is clicking to a link, expecting to hear music and/or watch videos.

* Experts don’t recommend it. It’s not even that most experts don’t use it, it’s pretty much unanimous. In fact, when researching the topic, I couldn’t find anything in support of automatic sounds on a website. Most writing on the subject was written as if anyone reading already agreed and just needed some help explaining to clients why the idea is so bad. For instance, the article: “How to Convince a Client their Site Doesn’t Need Music”. While the article does say that music business websites are an exception, it uses strong language about the idea, and features the quote “Users expect web pages to contain useful information, not carry a tune.”

However, as a former music reviewer, I’d note that most music industry sites don’t have automatic play. Most bands, record labels, etc. have many options to listen to songs and videos, but they give an option.

Remember, your website is a tool. Both for you to promote your business, and for a potential client uses to learn about your business. The more useful and user-friendly this tool is, the more it will be used.


Rich M – CoachingWebsites Listings and Support
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