📝 This Week in Web Design and Development

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🔇 Why is the web so quiet?

(Robin) Why is sound used so sparingly in web design today? Well, it likely has something to do with the pop-ups of yesteryear and the intense background music that would jolt us awake whenever we visited a website that used a bunch of Flash. Because of the work of a few bad apples we’ve all collectively come to the same conclusion:

Unless there’s a video playing, websites are entirely silent.

But the other day I was playing Death Stranding and clicking around the UI. Every button prompt in that game makes an audible click! that is so very satisfying and gives you feedback: yes, you have just clicked that button. I cannot imagine what this game would feel like if its UI was entirely devoid of sound. It would all feel so much less satisfying, that’s for sure.

There are interface sounds for warnings, accepting prompts, and holding a button down. There are sounds for moving down or up in a menu, for moving deeper into the interface, for cancelling back to the previous menu.

I guess it’s not just games. The latest version of iOS is mostly silent and will only provide me with audible feedback if I’m typing. So I wonder if this is a context issue — when we’re sitting in front of a TV, it’s fine that we’re being bombarded with sounds because our focus is entirely on the TV. But when we’re on our phones, whether that’s on a website or an app, then we’re likely out and about and those sounds could annoy people around us.

I wonder if this is something that we can experiment with: making small web projects that push back a little on this thing that we’ve all collectively decided to avoid. Maybe we can make the web not only work better, but sound better, too.

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