Ways Sound Can Make Products More Accessible

Ways Sound Can Make Products More Accessible

Sound design is integral to ensuring products are accessible to a massive range of people with unique needs. We see sound as a tool in the multimodal tool kit that you can use alongside visuals and haptics to create more informative, intentional experiences that can be beneficial to a large range of users.

Through intentional sound design, products can become more inclusive, providing auditory cues that guide users in their interaction with technology. This approach enhances usability for people with specific auditory, visual, or neurodivergent needs. It also improves overall user experience by offering alternative ways to receive information. Ensuring sound design is accessible involves understanding the diverse needs of users and implementing solutions that address these needs. Find out the essential ways sound can make products more accessible so that you can tailor your design to serve as many customers as possible.

Establishing an Accessible Identity

Sound design has evolved to encompass a broader spectrum of auditory experiences to achieve true inclusivity, utilizing a variety of pitches, intensities, instrumentation, and delivery methods to communicate with all users. With a more intentional approach, sound experiences should be specifically designed for each interaction and pleasant enough to not distract from the product experience. Most importantly, these sounds should reflect your brand and the emotions you want to evoke in the user.

Our case study with Hello Sense shows how we created their sound identity while building an ecosystem of sound that supports a range of customers. Creating alarms that start gently with minimal volume or complexity softly wakes light sleepers. As the alarms develop over time, they become more musical and complex to wake heavy sleepers, providing a spectrum of design that supports diverse needs.

Multimodal Design Systems

Providing feedback through multiple sensory channels can enhance accessibility for users with different needs. Certain interactions are best presented through visuals, haptics, or sound—sometimes a combination of two or three of these. Get a strong understanding of the context of the situation and use the medium that is most effective to notify or alert users so that it’s not overly weighted in sound.

Sensory-Friendly Design

Sound design should consider users with sensory sensitivities. Avoiding sudden, loud, or jarring sounds can make products more accessible to users with sensory-processing disorders or autism-spectrum disorders. Rather than using high-pitched, percussive tones, consider adding a light sweep at the beginning of sounds that ease into the peak of the sound so as not to cause alarm or fatigue.

Clear and Consistent Design

Consistency in sound design is essential for users with neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD or autism, and it also benefits the brand in terms of recognition and recall. Using clear, consistent, and predictable auditory cues helps users understand how the product works and reduces cognitive load.

User Customization

Offering users the ability to customize sound settings according to their preferences can also enhance accessibility. This might include volume control, the ability to turn off specific sounds, or the option to replace default sounds with ones that are more easily distinguishable or preferable to the user and their specific needs.

Overall, sound design can play a crucial role in making product experiences more accessible by providing additional sensory information and feedback that complements visual interfaces, making them more inclusive and usable for a wider range of users.

Expanding Your Testing Phase

The ways that sound makes products more accessible may seem straightforward at first, but you can measure your success during the testing phase. It’s critical to test products for many reasons, and one should be determining how accessible your product is.

Put your product in the hands of a range of users with different needs so that you can evaluate their experience. These evaluations offer invaluable feedback, highlighting areas where sound design can evolve from merely accessible to deeply intuitive and inclusive. Leveraging real human experiences ensures that every alert, notification, or chime genuinely enhances usability for everyone.

Start working with an audio expert today to develop products that hit your audience’s ears perfectly. At CMoore Sound, our sound design agency develops a wide range of user experiences across many products using carefully curated audio cues. Work with an expert who understands your auditory needs and can bring your vision of an accessible, quality product to life.