A Scenic Tour of the Online World

What Audible Clues Can Teach Us About Usability

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Here’s an interesting piece from HumansInvent on 5 sounds that are routinely manipulated to improve usability.

In some cases, they’re defining usability a bit too broadly, and as the comments point out, I’m not sure all of these examples are true but it’s worth thinking through some of the examples in relation to our work in the digital world.

Sounds like this rarely are part of our online toolkit these days, but there are plenty of ways we still engineer appropriate messages and feedback into our websites and applications.

The confidence-inspiring thud of a well-made car door brings to mind overall design of an app or site. Good design just looks right, and audiences pick up on it in the same way they pick up on tactile feedback in cars – even if they generally don’t articulate the reasons behind their impressions. If it feels wrong, you’ve lost their confidence, and it won’t matter that your site is PCI-compliant and 100% secure.

The Skype call static and ATM whirring sounds are also cues that things are working properly, much the same way cursor and button changes help visitors feel that the site is responding to their input. Without feedback, confidence is again lost, and your audience begins looking for alternatives.

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