Exploring sound in user experience design


Personal note

"Sound" was a very fascinating topic, where I learnt about many industries/disciplines e.g. retail, marketing, game design etc. utilising this element to create user experiences that we subconsciously process. It made me consider how our everyday interaction with "things" can be affected by the environment it was used in e.g. physical vs digital. This project also affected my career interest to be more strategy and content-first focused. As a special note, I also had the opportunity to attend my very first business trip with my colleague.

Overview

When designing user experiences, it is common for designers to focus on visuals when creating interactions. As technology continues to grow rapidly, more sophisticated products are entering the market and creating new experiences for consumers. These products are allowing us to use our 5 human senses to interact with its multimodal interfaces (e.g. voice, touch, gesture etc.), therefore creating a multisensory experience.

Sharing our research with the community

Our goal was to create a presentation about sound in user experience design within 3 months. This research project was commissioned by Kapital Media UK for Brand Week Istanbul. It was later presented at UX Playground (Skills Matter in London and webinar), Istanbul Bilgi University (industrial design department) and Berlin Design Week.

The following are key areas we focused on for our research:

Team

Natalie H. Man, UX Designer, Freelance
Chakib Labidi, UX Consultant and UX Playground founder
Jasmina Jambresic, UX Designer, News UK

Sound is everywhere

For this exploratory project, sound is an overwhelmingly complex topic. Before we started our research, I created a mind map in Miro to capture our questions and thoughts. This helped us to consider the following:

Miro mind map

Mind map of our ideas for Sound in Miro.

After reviewing the mind map, we conducted our research and documented our findings in Google Docs. For each link found, I would categorise them e.g. environment, game design, brands, music etc., and provide a summary to highlight any relevant details. This summary was useful for our team’s progress updates and also as a good reference for our work later on.

Google Doc research

Our shared Google Docs file with our research organised into categories.

We also considered our hobbies and interest, in relation to sound impacting our experiences. Jasmina shared a short diary of her travels in London and her hometown in Bosnia. Chakib also shared short video clips of his travels showing the sounds he hears at different places e.g. security gate at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and a traffic light crossing in Madrid.

As an analysis activity, I found it very interesting to distinguish sounds that are either man-made or natural. I realised that for any environment or activity, all sounds are constantly competing for our attention. We are all subconsciously choosing what sounds to process for our decision making and navigating the environment.

Jasmina's diary

Jasmina describes that she hears more "natural" sounds in Sarajevo compared to London, which she found to be "too much and unnecessary".

Creating the presentation

We created a high level content structure based on our research with the following considerations:

We had numerous meetings to review the content structure before agreeing on a final version for creating the content. This process taught me to always take note of any personal questions/thoughts, which was very useful for creating the content structure and providing a focus on what needs to be achieved (and also generally good for writing).

Different versions of our content structure

We have created a few versions of the content structure, each with variations of research we want to cover.

Whilst working on the content structure, I noticed that our previous research in Google Docs became inefficient in finding what we need due to the large number of links we collected. With the shortlisted links, I created a Google Sheet file to reference these research with additional details and analysis. Eventually, we added a "speakers notes" column, which will be used by the speaker during the presentation.

Shortlisted research in Google Sheet

Google Sheet referencing the shortlisted research links with columns e.g. what, how, why, source etc. to describe its relevance to the topic.

Speakers notes to be used in the slides

The "Speakers notes" column was used for helping the speaker to plan their talking points for a specific slide.

Once we had the final content structure, we created a separate Google Docs file and focused on shortlisting what research to use and gathering assets for creating the presentation in Keynote. This was very effective in saving time and helping us to prioritise tasks to finish the presentation. Additionally, it was also useful to have many content to work with as it was easier to reduce content instead of not having enough to present with.

Final content structure

The final content structure with shortlisted research links and image/video assets for creating the presentation.

Content in Keynote presentation

Keynote presentation using the content and assets.

Presenting to the public

The research was presented at:

Q&A after the presentation at Skills Matter in London

Q&A after the presentation (Skills Matter in London).

Community tweets from the event at Skills Matter in London

Community tweets from the event at Skills Matter in London.

Chakib presenting at Brand Week Istanbul

Chakib talking about brands using sound in their products (Brand Week Istanbul).

Chakib presenting to lecturers and students at Istanbul Bilgi University

Chakib explaining how our shopping behaviour changes when we hear Christmas music during Christmas (department of Industrial Design, Istanbul Bilgi University).

Berlin Design Week - DESIGNING VOICES 2021

Chakib delivering the presentation at Berlin Design Week online (Starting at 19:04)