We've all been there...
You're sitting at your desk at work, you've just opened up your 127th tab on your computer, and you're desperately trying to sift through the endless Google search results. Finally, you think you've hit the jackpot. You begin inhaling faster than usual in anticipation as you click the link to a new website. A smile slowly begins to spread across your face. Seconds feel like hours but at last, it loads.
Suddenly, a huge burst of music begins to bellow out of your speakers making you jump unexpectedly . You start to scramble around, hitting everything on your keyboard at once, cycling through your endless stream of tabs while everyone in your office lock their eyes on you and shake their heads. What happened?
Then you realise.
The website had an auto-playing feature.
Beware of the Bounce
We've seen that scenario play out countless times. But auto-playing items and widgets aren't just a source of personal frustration, they are also a source of incredibly high 'bounce rates'. This isn't a phrase for how many bounces you can complete with a basketball in a minute (although if you're interested, my personal best is 46). It's actually a common term used when analysing website traffic; it describes the percentage of visitors that are leaving your site from a single page, without exploring other pages first. This is not to be confused with an 'exit rate' that provides the percentage of visitors leaving from a specific page in general.
Selling yourself and your business can be tricky, and sometimes you need to provide examples of your work in different forms, but including an auto-playing video, musical piece or widget can make your bounce rate soar. This can be damaging as it is important to keep visitors interested in you and what you can provide.
The main problem with auto-playing devices is that it instantly bombards the visitor with something they never intended to have. It's like walking into a bar and having a stranger yell at you like a drill sergeant before they even tell you their name. We usually prefer to have a choice about whether we watch/ listen/ get-distracted-when-we-should-be-working by something or not by our own accord.
We often prefer the freedom of exploring a site for our own specific needs, which can be difficult when something is being forced upon you regardless of whether you're interested in it or not. It can generate an instant bad first impression through the annoyance caused by the simple act of not being able to press the play button ourselves. With countless ways of accessing online resources, auto-playing features also produce the problem of not knowing how or where you are visiting the site, making you sometimes ill-prepared for a blast of music to push through your speakers.
The solution? It's simple really - reducing your bounce rate means that conversion and engagement figures for your site will increase, with carefully checking how auto-play features are utilised on your site being one of the many ways this can be achieved.
We would recommend ensuring that features like these add a little bit extra to your site, rather than taking away from it. Music pieces should have a clear play button, enabling the user to press it when they are ready. Allowing visuals to lead videos rather than sound will also ensure that you can provide an extra element of information and professionalism that isn't so intrusive.