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I have come up with a task of creating ear-cons for a website I am currently working on. I have never worked in the music / sound industry so I think this could be a challenge!

What things should I take into account when creating these?

Which software would I be best off using?

Why use certain sounds?

I am trying to learn what I can specifically targeted towards the web, however it seems to be a hidden art form. I understand some stuff, and have read a great amount online. However what I am after is advise, advise on where to look - how to learn - and what to do.

Thanks for any help / advise you may be able to give on this. There is no right or wrong answer as this is more of an advise question :)

[EDIT] - This is aimed at notification sounds mainly and any UX sounds that may be required.

  • Personally, my favorite sound for a website is silence. Most people use multiple sites and tabs at the same time. If a website starts making unnecessary sound, I am likely to simply close it and not come back. – AJ Henderson Nov 11 '14 at 15:44
  • In my opinion websites should NOT make any noise - however in the odd case that it is required you want to make sure it is done right – JustSteveKing Nov 11 '14 at 15:46
  • I would argue part of sound design is knowing when the most appropriate sound is no sound. Silence is a valid selection. Without some guiding principal as to what the sound is trying to accomplish, I'm not sure how you could even begin to design it and without any case I can think of where a website should make a sound (outside of videos or intentionally played music), I can't think of any tips that would be meaningful. – AJ Henderson Nov 11 '14 at 15:49
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    Thank you for your honesty :) this is aiming at notifications, UX sounds that would translate between the web and mobile app. Tying together the sound and design so you feel at home on either. – JustSteveKing Nov 11 '14 at 15:51
  • Ah, yeah, notification sounds are probably another valid case. Might be worth updating that more specifically in your question as I think that's a key detail. – AJ Henderson Nov 11 '14 at 15:52
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Don't.

At the risk of losing rep, I'm going to go against policy and instead try to dissuade you from embarking on this challenge.

All usability experts agree that websites should make no sounds. It makes for poor website UX. Period.

Notifications should be handled visually only. Or, send the user a notification email and hope their email makes a noise when new messages arrive!

If you really want a reason to make notification sounds, program an app, and put them in there.

Negative Nancy aside, I'll take a stab at answering your questions.

What things should I take into account when creating these?

As with all design, aesthetics would be good to take into account. The world doesn't need any more beautiful/ugly sounds, depending on your POV. Remember, there is no accounting for taste, so at the very least, keep it simple!

Take into account your target demographic - for instance, as people age, their high end frequency hearing drops off. If you only want younglings to hear your sounds, keep it above 15K... :p

I would also take into account the huge catalog of notification sounds that already exist. Do you really need to roll your own? Are you certain you'll actually create something unique? Let us not reinvent the wheel. I found a version of ICQ's Uh Oh notification and use that in my messaging app. IMO nothing is better but I believe that opinion has attributed to it good memories (another thing to take into account).

Which software would I be best off using?

I would use software that has sound generation built in. Unless you plan on recording everything from scratch via a microphone, it would behoove you to get something with as wide a palette as possible. If you're on the Mac, I recommend Logic Pro X, as it has built into it a vast number of sound generating devices & effects.

Why use certain sounds?

Again, it depends on aesthetics. Sound can be mystical. Jarring can turn people off from your notifications. Soothing ones can help them look forward to hearing from you.

Or are you trying to wake people up?

Take some time and investigate what companies like Apple use for their notification sounds. They spend a great deal of R&D on these aesthetic decisions which you can use to your advantage by seeing what makes them tick. What do they have in common? How long are they? What kind of effects do they use? Are they electronic or organic in nature?

Since you are outside the sound/music industry, I recommend apprenticing with someone who does sound design for a living. Or intern at a local recording studio. Immerse yourself in that which interests you and it will invariably rub off.

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