While exploring the option of spending a couple weeks in Italy in a dance intensive, I visited the site of the recommended hotel: Park Hotel La Grave
In process my computer crashed and on reload Firefox reloaded all my open tabs. Then as if from no where, there was music filling the air on a constant loop. I started going through each tab scrolling up and down frantically looking for the off switch. It was no where to be found. Instead I find myself reminded of Eddie Izzard’s skit about trying to get the printer to work:
No matter where I turn. I cannot find the off switch. Finally after 10 minutes of this frustration, I find the switch at the bottom of the home page!
Don’t get me wrong, there are definite distinct advantages to using sound in the right places at the right time. Jakob Nielsen points out that sound can “enhance the user experience substantially”. He adds that testing within a game environment using the same graphics but higher and lower quality sound led users to believe that the game had better graphics when better sound was utilized. However that was a game environment not a website.
When exploring the web most users are looking for information. In this case, I was looking for the amenities, price, and any reviews on the hotel. I didn’t care whether or not the hotel had a good atmosphere. After all in a hotel you mainly sleep. You aren’t looking for a home. Thus the music only frustrated me when I couldn’t locate the module to turn it off.
If you would like to use sound to create an experience than use it wisely and place it where the user can find it. The top right or even the right rail work beautifully for this purpose. The worst thing you can do to your user is frustrate them because you will lose them as a customer. Remember you never get a second chance to make a good first impression and on the web that is even more vital.