Why Background Music Makes Your Website Suck

Picture this: I’m merrily working away on my laptop at the library, filling some time in between meetings, when suddenly, without any warning, my computer speakers start blaring some cheesy eighties pop. Instinctively I check to see if I’ve triggered my iTunes, but wait… I don’t have any Cindy Lauper in my music library. So where the heck is the music coming from? As the librarian shakes her head in disapproval, I scramble to punch the mute button on my Mac and regain my composure. After a few seconds of embarrassment, I realize the source of my musical time warp – it was coming from the last website I’d been viewing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love music. It’s the soundtrack of our lives after all. But I absolutely, positively can’t stand background music on websites. I don’t care if it’s Sinatra or the Beastie Boys, it makes my ears bleed. But why you say, music adds an extra sensory experience to my website and makes it more appealing to my online visitors. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but that hot jam that’s playing in the background is actually driving customers away from your website, and bothering librarians the world over. Don’t believe me? Here are four fantastic reasons why you should never, ever have background music playing on your website.

#1 – It Scares the Bejezus Out of People

No one expects music to start streaming when they visit a website, unless of course it’s a band’s website or a MySpace profile. So when your site starts to pump out the tunes, it can be a little disarming. The natural reaction to to make it stop. In my case, I hit the mute button, but just as many people will close the window on your website… never to return again. Scaring potential clients away is definitely a marketing no-no, so why add an element to your website that raises your bounce rate?

#2 – It’s Annoying

I tend to play my own music when I’m working, (unless of course, I’m at the library). So if ever I surf over to a website that has it’s own music, it results in a horrible mishmash of noise. And let’s be honest, if you’ve decided to play music on your website, chances are it’s terrible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s mind-numbing elevator music, futuristic techno, or pop from the 80′s, it’s bad, it’s tacky, and it’s unprofessional.

#3 – It Messes With Your Website’s Functionality

Having music playing on your website decreases the site’s performance, especially on slower machines. And let’s not forget about the annoying little glitch that happens every time you click and surf to a different page on the site. Oh yes, the music stops, and then starts again – EVERY TIME YOU CLICK! It’s enough to drive a person absolutely bat crazy.

#4 – There’s a Reason Why Your Competitors Don’t Have Music

You know what that reason is? It’s because having music on your website is a bad idea. Putting music on your site doesn’t make it revolutionary or cutting edge. It makes it dated and immature. Website designers thought background music was cool in the mid-nineties, and even then it was only for about 20 seconds.

When you visit a website with background music do you instantly surf away? It’s ok, you’re not alone. Put offenders to shame by sharing their link in the comments below…

13 thoughts on “Why Background Music Makes Your Website Suck

  1. Excellent post & it scares the hell out of me too! That made me laugh, I’m glad it’s not just me! I had someone sending me Carpenters songs on Twitter links, come on!! Get real, I might be getting on now but grew up with the Clash, The Cure and Joy Division!! Great post, made me smile and agree a lot!! Thank you! Regards, Peter

  2. I agree 200% on this! I can’t count how many times I’ve had people ask to put music on their home page and I’ve had to try my hardest to explain just how bad of an idea this is. Music, Flash intros and obscure pointless animation should all be banned from the Internet. :)

  3. I think you hit a nerve here! I totally agree with you. I have been doing a lot of research on photography websites before beginning my own (still tweaking) and I think photographers just may be the worse offenders of the bunch. I get that they want to create a total sensory adventure via their website, but resist! Especially those sites that change the music with every category or gallery that you click on! And your #2 is bang on – most of us listen to our own music when surfing/studying/researching – you don’t have to provide us with YOUR soundtrack of YOUR life!
    Whew – I feel better. Thank you ;-)

  4. It’s not just music. Those walk-in characters who start delivering a sales pitch are just as bad. Any sound that I did not initiate (by clicking a “play” button, for instance) is a quick trip to the BACK button.

  5. Photographer websites are big offenders. I like when photographers have multimedia on their site, but I would definitely prefer a play button instead of an auto-start… spilling coffee all over my keyboard because your video caught me off guard does not make me want to hire you. I also find the restaurant websites are big offenders too.

  6. Nothing worse than forcing your visitors to scramble for the back button or worse the big X. It amazes me how many people still put music on their website and think it’s ok. If I have to click away from your site because it startled me, there is a high chance i’m not coming back. Don’t risk it, lose the music.

  7. Absolutely, number one most annoying thing on the web. You don’t see this too often anymore (thank goodness!) but when it does happen, I’m gone from that site never to return.

  8. I remember I opened a browser window to a web site, but then switch to another application before the web site had fully loaded.

    All of a sudden some music began blaring in the background, and caused me to jump about ten feet in the air. I had to go through the open windows on my computer to find where the noise was coming from – the newly opened web page.

    I still don’t understand why people choose to do this, especially with all the information online about not having background music playing. I don’t usually stick around to read the site if they choose to have music playing.

  9. I’ve been flirting with the idea of adding music to my quirky little niche blog, so I REALLY needed this wake-up call! Thanks for that! And come to think of it, anytime I’m on the web I’ve also got CNN going on the tv. Wouldn’t want that interrupted, either.

  10. I completely agree. Websites should always provide a good user experience. Maybe some people enjoy the music. But it’s likely that most of them don’t and will click away from your site just to get it to stop.

  11. I’ll be the iconoclast here. The 800 lb gorilla in the room.
    I maintain about a dozen websites. Three of the sites I have put together contain a snippet of sound when the page opens. I admit one was my own idea, but the other two are the customers who insist on it. I think in some situations / some sites. it does enhance the experience, but having said that, visiting these sites, you should be expecting loud and bold to start with. I tend to discourage customers from loading their front page with any multimedia, but, I also don’t have my speakers on when I’m browsing. (headphones make a great alternative especially when you just lay them beside your keyboard)
    Personally, my biggest peeve is with retail sites where pop up sales people start to interrogate me as to what they can help me buy, and the sites where same guy has been knocking on my screen to tell me he can help me find what I’m looking for.
    Another major peeve is the sites with the flash into and especially when I have to go searching for the “skip” button.
    Of all the things that annoy me, I would say that a short audio clip is the least of my complaints.

  12. It would be useful if you had research to back this up. We have been doing a series of studies on hotel and soft drink (Pepsi) websites testing the effects of music and generally find it enhances user experience. So, maybe it just annoys website designers?

    If anyone here has access to some sites we could test (which have background music), would appreciate the contact. Kirk_Wakefield@baylor.edu

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