Every day we are surrounded by the digital world, impacting our routines, and our entertainment, among many other things in our daily lives. UI sounds are a significant part of these interactions, they are the sounds created by our devices signaling notifications, alerts, etc.
It’s important to realize how integrated into our lives these interactions are, for sometimes these sounds become so blended in our surrounding environment that we don’t pay them any additional thought other than their function to signal us. UI sounds not only include notification systems, but also things like ambient or decorative sounds to more reactive ones like feedback sounds.
Sound can give expression to interactions and reinforce specific functionality
Feedback sounds happen when users interact with something on an application or device. For example, the small sounds in iMessage when you react to a specific text message. Feedback sounds act as an audio cue to an action a user may have taken, it essentially is confirming the action while also creating an enjoyable process in confirming that action. They are also referred to as “earcons”, and are important when designers are trying to communicate a real-life feeling or characteristic to an action. An example of this would be the shutter sound your smartphone camera makes, it mimics the functional sounds a camera makes to add to that familiar and real-life action as we take photos. A smartphone doesn’t need this added sound, but by adding it we can link this interaction to the physical one.
Feedback sounds function best when applied to interactions like information, actions, or events. When designers utilize these sounds that mimic real-life actions, it creates a satisfying aspect of the interactive experience.
When using sound as decoration designers can convey an emotional association with their users. Decorative sounds should be used in a few moments of interaction, especially when trying to create an individual voice for a brand or product. Well-designed sound decoration can leave a lasting impression on your users, and allow them to freely associate those sounds with your brand or product without having to consciously reinforce the idea. It’s important to not overuse decorative sounds, which can tire your audience and they may end up resenting the sound associated. Sound decoration can add an expressive or playful moment.
The sound itself can vary to attract the focus of the ear, using rhythmic, tonal, and frequency variation. Notification sounds call to the user's attention and primarily play a huge part in drawing your users in. The pings or beeps your device makes when you receive a message or action on a post are examples of notification sounds we commonly interact with every day. These notification sounds are an essential part of our daily lives communicating through our devices.
When designing with notification sounds it’s crucial to pick a quick tone or a gratifying sound that your users don’t get overwhelmed by. As these sounds are so frequent, we want to make them short and suitable to be repeated throughout the day without becoming irritating or redundant.
Hero sounds are used to express a sense of success, accomplishment, or reward. The idea behind hero sounds is to create a gratifying experience when users make a purchase or complete something. For example, a user is downloading an application from your site and once your item is completely downloaded there is an accompanying chime or ping to signify it’s completed, this is a hero sound. They often highlight the completion of interactive actions and can indicate key moments of your product’s purpose.
When utilizing hero sounds, you are allowing your users to shift from your site to others without having to constantly check when your progress is complete. The convenience of this permits users to simultaneously browse adding an efficiency aspect. Hero sounds are a great way to incentivize interaction on your site or application.
Ringtones, Alarms, & Timers
Ringtones can be a playful part of alerting your users, you can allow users to enter their towns and adjust personal preferences to suit their needs or add their unique sound. Alarms and timers rely on sound almost entirely in their functions to provide for their users. All three heavily rely on sound to service users, for without sound we are unable to react or interact with our device at these moments.
Understanding the different types of sound design in UI is a crucial part of elevating your site or application. You can utilize each method we provided of sound design to set your brand apart from the rest. While sounds in UI are typically overlooked, the benefit of these seemingly small details is hard to ignore. Benefits such as furthering brand identity, providing minuscule moments of reward, or subconsciously being a part of your users everyday experience. Whether users are aware of the different sounds they interact with daily or not, regardless sounds in UI are an integrated part of what they’re experiencing online.
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