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What's that noise?

When so much attention is paid to the visual art of web design and the wonderful possibilities that HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery affords, often sound design is forgotten or overlooked. 

Then again, there are few more annoying things in the online world than obtrusive sound effects or autoplaying music blaring out when you least expect it, especially when you’re likely to be listening to your own choice of music anyway.

Much like in filmmaking, the mark of good sound or scoring in web design is that you don’t necessarily notice it. The sound should complement or enhance the visual, but never upstage it.

What of those sites that make the sound as integral a part of the experience as the visual? What about the sites that say loudly and proudly “put on your headphones and turn it up loud”? Well they demand your listening pleasure.

In this article I'll be collecting some examples of sites where the sound is either an integral part of the web experience or forms the entire experience either through passive viewing, the users own manipulation or through other experimental interactive means.

The following examples come from my own research, the ever helpful and inspiring AWWWARDS.com and my own weekly round-up of internet oddities

So all that’s left to say is “put on your headphones and turn it up loud”.

Over the Hills

The inspiration for this entire article. The Over the Hills project involves endless interaction that’s subtly intuitive and some of the most pleasing real-time audio manipulation I’ve experienced online. Then just when you think it can’t get any better, you find the hidden keyboard.

Patatap

This is mind-altering, wonderful and endless fun that is most likely to keep you amused for an unsociably long amount of time.

Jam with Chrome

Pick your instrument from a vast array of options then invite friends from anywhere in the world to join you in an online jam sessions. This is genuinely one of the most completely satisfying interactive music experiences available on the internet.

Hashtag my Ass

I’ll mark this as NSFW despite the lack of nudity, violence or swearing… it’s more the sheer amount of bottom wiggling that you may not wish to explain to your colleagues who walk past your desk.

This is an incredibly effective video which links to your Instagram account and makes your images part of the album artwork contained.

 

Theremin

This is just wonderful. It's an online Theremin emulator, which you can use to recreate your own version of 'Good Vibrations', the Doctor Who theme tune or Portishead's 'Glory Box'.

George and Jonathan

As my esteemed colleague David Moth said when recommending this mind-twisting visual album from George and Jonathan, “holy hell this is a website!” He’s not wrong.

Hello Again

Beck released this phenomenal live cover of David Bowie’s 'Sound & Vision' in February 2013. The video itself is a fully immersive, interactive 360 degree, mind-bender, using multiple camera-angles which you can control and truly amazing binaural sound created by a 167 piece orchestra.

Social Soundscape

It’s the heat map you can hear. This is a audio visual representation of tweets during this year’s SXSW. Look out for the red peaks mainly centred around people who can’t find the toilet at 3am.

Sumire Uesaka

This gloriously brain melting, eye-seering Japanese music video is unlike anything you will ever see in your life. Full of parallax scrolling, multi-layered madness and blistering guitar solos.

Forgotify

Only 80% of songs available on Spotify have actually ever been played. Forgotify let’s you experience the unloved 4m. Happy to see the P. Funk All-Stars get their much deserved moment to shine. Depressed to find my own all-ocarina cover of 'Another Brick in the Wall' appear immediately after.

Serendipity

Serendipity is another Spotify experiment which finds people playing the same songs within a tenth of a second of each other.

Although it’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that two people in the world are listening to ‘Happy’ at the same time, this is nonetheless a strangely hypnotic experience, especially when something particularly obscure that you love crops up.

The Infinite Jukebox

For when your favourite song just isn’t long enough. Click below for ‘I Feel Love’, but you can upload your own.

Size - Decade

This is an incredibly generous achievement, Size Records celebrates its 10 year anniversary with 100 free downloads and a gorgeous web experience you can almost swim inside.

Happy

The world’s first 24 hour video, although due to its sheer ubiquity since December 2013 you may think you’re already living in the world’s first nine month long video.

Arcade Fire - Reflektor

Arcade Fire used Google Maps and Street View to mixed success (it was processor heavy and prone to crashing) in 2010 with their interactive video for 'We Used to Wait'. Earlier this year though, Arcade Fire tried again with this brilliant interactive video to the first single from their new album 'Reflektor' which uses your computer's webcam and your own lovely mug.

 

Synthcu.be

SynthCu.be is an interactive synthesizer built like a Rubik’s Cube. It’s a surprisingly blissful experience.

The Interactive World of The Smiths

The Interactive World of The Smiths is a detailed look at the brief period between 1982-1987 when Morrissey fronted the definitive example of British indie rock, rather than being the spiteful, bewilderingly obtuse autobiographer he is today. 

Itsumo Kawaii

This is a sweet little confection, where the choices you make determine the outcome. Can you keep your Japanese girlfriend happy despite a fairly major language barrier?

For more beautiful examples of web design from the blog, check out these 16 examples of flat design and 20 examples of persuasive ecommerce design

To find out more about any area of digital marketing, attend our Festival of Marketing event in November, a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 3 September, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (1)

Jared H.

Jared H., Web Design at Ledger Note

The real magic is in designing these browser-based applications in a way that are accessible to the most people. Taking age of browser, speed of connection, viewport size, mobile or desktop, etc... it's insane what some of these sites have achieved.

over 1 year ago

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