What is the point of sound notification?

Sound notifications are audible alerts produced by electronic devices and applications to notify users of events or information. They have become extremely common, with the average smartphone user receiving around 63.5 notifications per day (Sounds Amazing! (The Science Of Push Notification Noises)). Sound notifications are used for everything from new text messages and app updates to calendar reminders and low battery warnings. They provide an important audio cue to grab a user’s attention when a visual display may not be noticed.

Alert Users

One of the main purposes of sound notifications is to alert users to something that requires their attention (https://support.google.com/accessibility/android/answer/10092548?hl=en). The auditory cue grabs the user’s focus even if they are not actively looking at their device’s screen. This allows notifications to function as effective alerts and reminders.

Sound cues cut through background noise and divert the user’s attention towards checking the notification, acting as an alarm system for incoming messages or updates. They alert users that their attention is required for something urgent or timely. Without sound notifications, users might miss important alerts if their device is out of sight.

Provide Feedback

Sound notifications play a key role in providing feedback to users about important events and actions happening on their devices. As Google notes, sound alerts can “notify you of important household sounds around you” (https://blog.google/products/android/new-sound-notifications-on-android/). When a notification sound plays, it confirms to the user that something has happened that requires their attention.

Material design guidelines explain how “Sound can provide feedback or add decoration to a user experience when applied to strategic moments. Sound as feedback confirms and reinforces a user action, connecting the interface response to user input” (https://m2.material.io/design/sound/applying-sound-to-ui.html). The feedback provided by notification sounds helps reassure users that their input and actions have been registered by the device.

Enhance UX

Sound enhances the overall user experience of apps and devices in various ways. As Sid points out in their article The influence of sound design in UX, sound improves usability by guiding users through experiences with confidence. It provides reassurance if something unexpected happens, creating a sense of continuity. Sound effects and audio feedback also make experiences feel more realistic and immersive.

According to the Toptal article Sound Advice: A Quick Guide to Designing UX Sounds, audio cues help users understand when an action has been initiated or completed. The right sounds speed up interactions by reducing the need for visual confirmation. Audio feedback also enhances accessibility for visually impaired users. Overall, sound creates a satisfying and intuitive UX when applied thoughtfully.

Brand Recognition

Unique sounds help establish brand identity and increase brand recognition. As explained in UI Audio and Brand Identity: Elevating User Experience, custom sounds and audio cues in digital interfaces create distinctive sonic branding that people associate with a particular brand. For example, the sounds from an iPhone – like the lock/unlock click or keyboard taps – are distinctly Apple. These memorable sounds help users quickly identify when they are interacting with an Apple product without even looking. This aids brand recall and recognition.

According to The Impact of Sonic Branding on Brand Recognition, audio is processed in different parts of the brain than visuals. Unique sounds take advantage of this neurological processing to imprint the brand deeply in users’ minds. Distinct notification sounds like the Twitter bird chirp or Facebook’s “pops” help users instantly recognize those brands. Studies show that congruent audio cues improve consumers’ ability to recognize logos and other brand identifiers.

Accessibility

Sound notifications are especially important for accommodating users with visual impairments. Tools like Sound Notifications in Android can identify sounds around the user and provide alerts and descriptions to notify those who are deaf or hard of hearing (source). This allows visually impaired users to be aware of important audio cues in their environment that they may not be able to see.

Sound notifications can also provide critical feedback for users as they navigate apps and screens. Features like TalkBack on Android will read screen contents aloud to help blind or low vision users (source). Enabling sound notifications ensures important alerts are conveyed to users who cannot see visual notifications.

Overall, sound notifications are a key accessibility feature that allows users with visual impairments to use apps and devices successfully.

Establish Routine

Consistent sounds can help establish habits and routines in our daily lives. According to How the Brain Makes and Breaks Habits, repeating a cue like a sound can trigger the brain to carry out an associated routine. The brain begins to crave the reward that results from that routine, reinforcing the habit loop. For example, hearing your morning alarm may cue you to get out of bed, shower, and make coffee. The reward of starting your day then motivates you to continue this routine.

Research shows it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new habit to form, depending on the person and activity. But consistent cues like sounds make it easier to cement routines. As noted in The Anatomy of a Habit, auditory reminders are powerful triggers for habit loops. So whether it’s a morning alarm or the sound of a messaging app, intentional sounds can help create and sustain the habits you want in your life.

Reinforce Goals

Sound notifications can be used to reinforce goals or desired behaviors. According to research, “Sound can be a reinforcing stimulus used to guide flexible behavior—as such, its meaning is often dependent on contextual cues” (Neurobiology of Sensation and Reward). For example, a notification sound when you receive a new email could reinforce the goal of staying on top of communications. The sound provides positive feedback that your desired behavior of frequently checking email is paying off.

Apps like fitness trackers use custom notification sounds to reinforce exercise and movement goals. When you reach daily step goals, the sound provides a reward. Over time, this associates the sound with accomplishing goals, reinforcing the motivation to keep being active. Gamification apps also leverage sound cues to indicate progression towards objectives. The strategic use of audio notifications helps strengthen the association between certain behaviors and rewards.

Limit Distractions

Custom sounds can effectively reduce the distraction caused by default system sounds or loud ringtone sounds, according to research. Sound of silence: Does Muting Notifications Reduce Phone … notes the importance of sound types and distraction levels. Using custom sounds rather than default ones means “uses will feel less distracted”. This aligns with the goal of limiting disruptions while still receiving alerts.

Conclusion

In summary, the purpose of sound notification is to provide feedback, enhance engagement and productiveness, alert users to critical updates, and help develop product recognition and brand awareness. Designing purposeful sound notifications based on these core principles is essential to ensure a positive user experience. As technology increasingly weaves itself into our daily lives, intentional sound design helps limit distractions while still keeping users informed. The thoughtful incorporation of audible cues, tones, and alerts makes the technology we engage with everyday more accessible, effective, and human-centered.

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