Monday, April 19, 2010

Website Etiquette Rule #1 - Don't Play Sound Without the Visitor's Approval

So, you're at work. You're on your computer taking care of something. Maybe you're copying something, or you're loading something, or whatever it is, you have a few extra seconds, so you decide to take a quick look at the headlines on one of your bookmarked websites.

All of a sudden, the speakers from your computer (which you forgot to mute), blare some kind of something or other, and everyone in the entire office is looking at you.

Immediately they assume that you're slacking off and not doing any work. And that's not true. You're just patiently waiting for a computer process to finish, and you decided to do a quick relaxation-multitask, but regardless, it's too late, you're busted. And it's all thanks to that unwarranted and unapproved sound from the website you so loyally decided to visit.

I remember the days a while back when websites would have this panic button that you could click, and your webpage would change into an image of a report in Microsoft Excel or Word, and that gave the impression that you were actually doing work. This was because companies knew that if you were browsing the web, you weren’t doing work, and though they still gave access, they disapproved of personal surfing during work hours.

These days it's more accepted, as what can you do? And companies seem to have an honour system where they trust that you'll use the web reasonably, and still complete your work on time. Don't get me wrong, I know of many places where you still can't browse the web, and if you do, they keep a close eye out. But I think there are fewer of those these days and more of the honour system type.

Anyway, regardless of whether they allow it or not, there's still a stigma of your boss coming to your desk behind you without you not knowing, and as soon as they say something, you jump, because you know you've been busted and they leave feeling like you don't have enough work.

I think it goes to say that though web surfing is informally accepted, it is one of those things where if it happens without being seen, that works out best for everyone involved.

So, given that this is the current situation, having some kind of sound play, whether it be theme music for a website, or an advertisement pitch (#1 Offence that should be punishable by immediate DELETION of website), or a story video immediately playing, or whatever, that sound -though I'm sure not intended to be screwing the trusting and loyal visitor- does do exactly that, screw the visitor. And this is something that all legitimate online resources should keep in mind when creating content for online viewers.

Now, there are many many other "website etiquette" rules that we can go over. But today I’ve decided to focus on this rule, one of the most important rules of them all.

The most recent "website sound" offence that I found was when I visited the Globe and Mail website, and was unexpectedly slapped with an advertising pitch from a certain financial institution (I'll stay away from names, for obvious reasons). Now yes, it was a “rollover” prompt to kick off the sound, but still, I consider that exactly the same. I can't count the number of times I've accidentally rolled over one of those ads by accident, and I have no choice as to whether I should allow the sound or not. Luckily there was a button that I could press to stop the sound, which isn't always the case, and you're put into that horror situation where you're searching in panic to stop the sound, and inevitably have to close the browser when all hope is lost.

I have to say that I was almost offended that a website of a serious legitimate news organization like the Globe, actually permitted for that to happen to its readers. Hopefully they'll fix that soon, but seriously, if you're looking for a loyal online following, you have to at least give them that much respect; they're already accepting the appearance of ADs all over the webpage. The Globe should know better.

Anyway, you'll never be bombarded with unapproved sound on this website (and if that ever does happen to you via one of my ad companies, just let me know and I'll take care of that immediately).

So, am I wrong about this? Has this happened to you? If so, did it happen at work? Did you get screwed for it? Let the jackandcokewithalime readers know.


(Image: by Dan Paluska on flickr


IshDunThinkSo said...

I completely agree.
a simple on/off icon that can be turned on at the users discretion should be commonplace.

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