Turn the Music Off. My Campaign for a Quieter Website Experience.

One of my biggest pet peeves when visiting a website is auto-play music. There is nothing more annoying than when I come to a site and some song starts blasting. I then have to fumble around trying to find the right icon that turns it off. And they’re always so cute. Sound bars rising up and down. Record players playing. A musical note throbbing. Etc. Then you have to hover over the darn thing just right to keep the player controls activated. If you’re one angstrom off, the stupid thing disappears.

And don’t get me started on websites that have the auto-play feature on EVERY PAGE. I turn the darn thing off on the home page, then I go to another page and…IT STARTS UP AGAIN! Argh! Stop the insanity people. It does not make your site more “cool.” It makes it more annoying. Most of your clients will be just as annoyed as I am. And heaven forbid if you’re marketing to brides who do a lot of their web surfing at work. What do you think they’re going to do when they get to your site and the woofers and tweeters start bumpin’! Can you say “BACK BUTTON?”

Look. I get it. You want to create a mood. An experience. You want to delight all the senses. (I hate to think what some of you would do if “smell-a-vision” existed on computers). I understand the reasoning. But the benefits are far, far outweighed by the annoyance (IMHO).

If you absolutely have to have music on your site, here’s my suggestions on how to implement it.

  1. Set default to OFF: then have the “on” button be something intriguing like “Wanna hear some sultry sounds.” or “The DJ’s in da house.” Or maybe just “Play music.” Give me the OPTION to turn on the music.
  2. Make it easy to find: don’t hide the on/off switch for your website music in the lower right-hand corner, where, by the way, a lot of computers have “hot spots” that activate things like Apple’s Expose. Put it somewhere easy to find.
  3. Keep it down: whether or not you have the music auto-play, keep it down please. Set the volume to a level that doesn’t violate the city audio ordinance, thank you.
  4. Keep it legal: lastly, use music you have the rights to use. Sites like Triple Scoop Music offer thousands of songs you can legally use on your site.

We all know the value of a first impression. And I know you think you’re creating a good one when you have a song play as soon as someone lands on your site. Maybe now and then, yes, someone will clique with your eclectic music choice. But I bet most of the time, people are just scrambling for that off button.

What are some other annoying website practices you’ve come across?

17 thoughts on “Turn the Music Off. My Campaign for a Quieter Website Experience.

  1. Totally agree with you Ron! However, music does make the experience a bit more enjoyable. It’s the exact reason they have slow music in Grocery stores, to make you shop longer. In that case though, you HAVE to get the groceries, so you have no choice. And that, is what this day in age is all about, choice.

    Instead of no music, have the music on the site, but instead start of barely playing. Barely noticeable. It then because the visitors decision to turn up the music, putting them into control.

    So, I don’t vote for no music, just soft music.

    CEO | Spilled Milk Designs

    1. Hey Nick. I hear ya. (no pun intended). As I suggested, if you have to put it on your site, keep it low. Most of the time they’re not. Also, the store experience is a little different than the website experience. I guess it’s a matter of expectations. I agree that music CAN make it more enjoyable, I guess in my experience that has rarely been the case. πŸ™‚

      1. hah! missed that line! Yeah as photographers and industry vendors we’re hard on ourselves, sometimes too much. We have to keep in mind that “we” are not the clients, and they most likely have a completely different perspective on situations that are flagged as “enjoyable.”

        Great stuff as always Ron!

  2. Ron, I couldn’t agree with you more. I hate those sites with the music and you are dead on in all you said. I don’t think it’s so much people planning their sites to have the music. I really think it’s all those template sites from places like ###domain.com (you know the company). Yes they are nice looking sites but the music component is built into the template and everyone thinks they have use that option when they purchase the template.

    So the companies that have the sites have 2 things against them in my opinion.

    1. The music is annoying.
    2. The sites all look the same as the next photog/videog site you click on. How does that separate you and the brand you work so hard to create. To have a unique brand you can’t look, and sound, like everyone else. You have to be unique and those sites are neither.

    Those sites are one of my biggest pet peeves too. Thanks for starting this movement. If you need a fan club president in the midwest I’m on board.

    1. Can you really not turn those features off in those templates? Anyway, would love to have you as the midwest fan club prez. πŸ™‚

      1. I’m sure you could turn them off but my guess is they just load content and find a song cause it asks for it. They don’t think to turn it off or disable. They paid for it all ….. shouldn’t they use it all. πŸ™‚

  3. AMEN BROTHER! I designed my wife’s photography site before she decided to make the switch to video with me… we used a template that had auto-play music… yeah, turned that option off. I don’t there was a default off setting.. I do like a little music in the background but I like to be “in control” of it. I work my corporate job during the day and it doesn’t work well to have loud music suddenly blast out from my cube! I do agree that there is a draw for a consumer to spend more time “shopping/browsing” when there is the right music playing… but I expect to hear music playing in a store.. I don’t expect music on a webpage… and there is a chance someone will just close it and move on to the next result on Google if they are greeted with music, especially if they can’t figure out how to turn it off.

    You could do a similar post regarding the promo/welcome video on the home page that is on Auto-play! Another pet-peeve of mine! I am a big boy and I can press play myself πŸ™‚ Or the the “50 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER” pop-up that appears suddenly right in the middle of the page with the hidden close button.

    Thanks for covering this Ron!

    1. The auto-play video is one I forgot to mention. Thanks Dan. Yes. That’s equally annoying to me. Especially if I’m not ready for it.

  4. Another idea…someone once told me they liked having a video play on the start of their homepage but they dropped the levels of the audio and also created a slow fade up for the audio on the video. That way it starts quiet and slowly ramps up thus giving the office “time waster” sufficient time to grab the speakers and lower the volume. Thought that was a reasonably fair trade off.

  5. So this means, if they are watching our clips at work they don’t have the audio up when actually watching the clips? What’s the diff from music on the website to music on the clips. These girls aren’t stupid, they know to have the volume low when searching the web. Beside, I bet 90% of them do this at lunch/break time. Music on a site sets the feel, tone & branding of that company. You say it can’t help, I think it can if used tastefully. This is a small thing in the big picture, but we like set the tone of our company from the first impression…as you know you only get that chance once.;)

    1. Thanks for commenting Steve. I know these girls aren’t stupid. Maybe she’s surfing with the volume down. Maybe not. But my main point is essentially better safe than sorry. And as I pointed out, if one is going to have music, having it quiet and unobtrusive is the better way. Sounds like that’s how you guys do it. That’s great. But I’ve come across way too many that DON’T do it like that. It was the whole inspiration for the blog post. I was on a site and every page started with music. Very annoying.

      Also, fwiw, many of my blog readers aren’t videographers, so clients coming to their sites may not be expecting to listen to anything.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. I think I have great taste in music, which I usually listen to via iTunes while I surf the web. Nothing more annoying than having a cacophony of competing sounds come through my speakers.

  7. I admit to having music on my site when I first rebranded. That lasted all of one week. Even though it was a beautiful instrumental track (IMHO), I felt that it would be a big turnoff to a potential client websurfing at work and having to scramble for a mute button (should the boss be around). My biggest pet peeve is going to sites where a corner ad starts playing (unprovoked, of course). With the various schemes of media players, there isn’t always a standardized way to mute them (short of on your keyboard). It just leaves a bad impression as well.

  8. Ron, I too agree with you about the music being an annoyance. When the sites do have music they could at least have good music. Knowing that good music means different things to different people, the wrong choice of music could turn the visitor off immediately.

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