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I'm having a rather Oatmealesque experience with a particular client's website. The latest 'feature' they have requested is that background music play automatically when the site loads. What should I say to gently convince them that this is a bad idea?

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13  
If they want music, give them music. –  kirk.burleson May 29 '11 at 13:42
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@kirk Some instinctive humane response is preventing me letting them do that to themselves. –  fredley May 29 '11 at 13:44
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@kirk - If I let the quality and decisions of my work be absolutely dictated by my clients, I'd be working in the food services industry right now. –  whaley May 29 '11 at 13:48
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Oh my, I hate background-music. It's why I muted midi-output, don't load flash automatically and set all mp3's to download rather than to play. Even though that really causes quite some inconvenience (since it also limits legitimate sounds) but it's still the better option. And if some sound does break through my defenses, I hit 'back' first and will actively try to find an alternative site to provide the service/information I was looking for. –  Inca May 29 '11 at 15:53
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For the next meeting(s), put your mobile on the table and start playing "eye of the tiger" on the speaker on repeat, if they ask why just say that you want some background music to "set the mood". Perhaps they'll get the point (but probably not :) SNL Dancing boys style head bobbing and dramatical gestures in cue to the music optional. If your name is Glen, use the starbucks version for even more epicness –  konrad May 30 '11 at 10:42
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8 Answers

up vote 30 down vote accepted

I would introduce them to A/B testing. Then A/B test this feature.

If you're not familiar with it, https://www.google.com/analytics/siteopt/splash?hl=en can set it up for free. Alternately http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/ and http://www.optimizely.com/ are easier to use. Or you could learn the nuts and bolts of it, for example from the tutorial I did at OSCON a few years back, http://elem.com/~btilly/effective-ab-testing/.

Odds are good that the A/B test will tell them what you already know. If the A/B test doesn't tell them that, then they may be one of the small minority of websites where this feature actually makes sense.

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+1000. This is the answer. IF the client won't listen to reason and authority, perhaps they will listen to numbers. When the auto-play-music version of the site has an average time on site of 2 seconds and a bounce rate of 99%, perhaps they'll pay attention. Sites that auto-play ANYTHING trigger my Back-button reflex. –  Steven A. Lowe May 29 '11 at 17:20
    
Some sites still have flash intros... Obviously some people just don't listen to reason and the numbers. –  mattnz May 29 '11 at 21:29
    
And maybe setup a session with users (if possible with the client watching and listening through a 2-way mirror, observing users' reactions to the music) - this option is more expensive though and not needed of the A/B tests return the results you would expect –  ssbrewster Oct 8 '12 at 12:36
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If I were you, I would send an email with a few articles written by usability experts explaining the problem.

Use the subject line "Suggestions about background music". Make it neutral and friendly.

If they insist, put in the background music.

Client is king, but you have the right to decline any further collaboration if it really hurts you.

Update: few links as requested:

http://completeusability.com/regrettable-background-music/
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/481181/web-usability-background-music
http://www.fronterix.com/articles/usability.php

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This client is extremely unlikely to read articles, but maybe a few good quotes/examples would help. –  fredley May 29 '11 at 13:49
    
@fredley Perhaps a subject line that gently/politely nudges the client to read the articles? Such as 'Why, if any, so few sites have background music and how they are liked by their users'? –  vpit3833 May 29 '11 at 13:54
    
Right up there with sites that have an animated person leap out, wave their arms around and start to extol the virtues of the product or service being sold. ~Shudder~. –  quickly_now May 29 '11 at 23:31
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Just speak is the only language they understand -> "buzzwords"

just respond thus:

"You want to put background music really? haha that's soo 90's!"

Watch them, immediately drop it like a lead balloon.

I've done this countless times, it works because NO-ONE want's to "think" they are behind the curve.

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I think your best bet is to advise them on exactly why music is a bad idea..

ie, Different people have different tastes, takes longer to load, etc..

But ultimately, if they still insist, I would go ahead and do as they ask. They are the client and your job is to advise, the choice is ultimately theirs.

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Reload the page a couple of times and navigate around to hear the music restart over and over.

This usually helps...

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Go with the really simple, "If you want music I will be happy to give it to you, but I think its a bad idea for this reason ." and then give them a few articles about it.

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That is what I did several time in the past. Giving advice as a specialist, but, if after my advice, the customer still want the feature, I make it. After all, the customer is paying. –  deadalnix Oct 8 '12 at 12:32
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Imagine that you are listening for your favorite online radio, and have a dozen of tabs open in your browser. Then, suddently, a weird music starts on the background and you don't know where is it coming from so that you could turn it off and continue listening for the radio. You then shut down the whole browser and become angry. Describe this use case to your client.

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For one thing i would show them that picture :)

You could give them a list of reasons such as it's annoying, not all browsers might support it if you code it in flash vs html5 web player and it would slow down the loading of the website. Most of all it's not a modern thing to do.

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That picture is unlikely to go down well with this particular client... :-) –  fredley May 29 '11 at 13:40
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