Web Design Workshop: What's That Sound?

Did you hear that? Why is this site taking so long to load? What the heck is going on?

If you have asked those questions, then most likely you have visited a website that includes music as a part of its design. The owner of the website probably loves that song and wants to share it with everyone. If you have a favorite song and want to have it play automatically when people visit your site then I have one contraction, two words, and an exclamation point for you: Don’t do it!

Well, maybe that was a little harsh, but let me explain the meaning behind my meanness. Imagine someone checking the internet from a library or work computer, clicking a link to your site, and having heads turn as sound unexpectedly erupts. The person who just got embarrasssed (or even in trouble with the boss!) will probably close the browser to stop the noise and never return to your site.

For everyone else, music that automatically plays upon visiting a site can cause problems such as the dreaded “slow load” and irritation followed by a rash. Okay, so I exaggerated on the rash part, but the other two can happen.

The slow-load problem happens when the web site designer instructs the music to play ‘on load’. That means that while your browser is pulling down all the info (the graphics, text, pages, etc.) for the site, it’s also trying to get the info for the music file and play it. It’s just too much to load at the same time, and usually causes a jam. In turn, this causes the site to load slowly or even not appear at all for a few seconds.

A few seconds may not seem like a long time (one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…), but when you’re waiting for a site to load, it can feel like forever. If a person is waiting for your site to load and nothing is appearing, then they may think that something is wrong with your site and just go somewhere else.

If you really want to have music on your site, give the viewer an option to listen to it or not. Provide a link that allows them to listen to the music if they choose. This way, the site will load quickly. If they choose to listen to your music, they will click the link to hear it. Everyone will live happily ever after 🙂

~ Kim Ganues

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