Immersive App Sound Design: Bring Your Customers Into Your World

In the 1900s, a scientist by the name of Ivan Pavlov discovered classical conditioning. His observations proved that you could trigger a physiological response from an animal without the related or required signal. For his experiments, he used the salivary glands in dogs. Sound played a vital role in his discoveries. Before feeding the dogs, he would play the sound of a metronome. Eventually, they started to salivate after hearing the metronome without the presence of food. Why is this relevant? Well, humans have a somewhat similar brain response and are susceptible to classical conditioning. Any noise coming from an app has the potential to make or break its success. It goes a lot deeper than you'd think. Find out why and how, sound design for apps is essential to earn and keep users interested, down below.

The Pillars for Any Great App

Applications, like many things, are a product of a combination of variables executed well. Each component is a piece of a puzzle that's incomplete without the others. If even one of these is out of place, it can ruin the result entirely. Take a look at the vital parts of any app and where sound fits into the picture.

Visual Appeal

An application's looks are responsible for a lot of the attention and potential users they can attain. Studies show that McDonald's, Burger King, and other fast-food restaurants chose their theme and coloration intentionally. This is true for businesses like Facebook, as well. Yellow and red can induce hunger. Blue, on the other hand, provides a mix of relaxation and subconscious stimulation. If you ever find yourself stuck browsing your social media feeds, appearance is somewhat at fault.


Customers want a product or service to function properly in the world of applications, every second matters. That's why every tap needs immediate feedback. Loading screens and delays will always result in a frustrated userbase.

Functions and Features

The capabilities of an application are the foundation. They're, essentially, the reason for their existence. Without functions or features, there's no app. If it can answer a question, or solve a problem, then designers have somewhere to start.


Sound design is the glue that holds all the pieces together. Silent films are fantastic, but try to imagine experiencing the film Titanic without sound. Now transfer that scenario to applications. Just as with haptic feedback, pings and whistles can add weight to an app. This can also extend to unique features built into applications. Even loading screens can benefit from a catchy tune playing in the background. The truth is, good sound design is hard work. However, it's worth the investment. A lot rests on the shoulders of innocent bells, whistles, pops, and background tunes.

Notification Sound
Notification Sounds Are Important For Your App!

The Power of Sound

Of the five senses, smell is the most powerful. A familiar scent can bring back memories from years ago. Perfume, smoke from a fireplace, and even an apple pie in the oven can recreate experiences on the spot. Modern devices don't have a way to engage users with smell, yet. The next best thing, though, is sound. There's always that one song you can't get out of your head, or frustration after hours of hearing those birds outside your window. Sound has an impact. In a way, soundwaves produced by an app are its way of talking to the user. Sometimes it communicates an important action, like a reminder, with a soft ping. While not too romantic or impressive, this language creates a connection with the user.

The Five Senses
Hearing is the most powerful part of our five senses after smell.

While Designing

However silly it might seem, comparing an app's sounds to a language is a good idea. When you're designing the different noises it might make, you're personifying it in a way. This is your chance to engage the user through an app; you have to take it seriously and make it count. An application is like an actor in this case. You have to decide what voice fits its appearance. Is it soft and friendly? Or would a loud and harsh racket better match its purpose? You're building this project from the ground up. This is why a team of sound designers can make all the difference. They can engage with the app and guide you to what makes sense.

Why Store Assets Don't Work

If an iPhone ringtone goes off in the background, you immediately know that it's an Apple device. You're probably hearing it as you read right now. If it plays on the radio or in a movie, the Apple logo pops into your head. You've unconsciously made a connection between a sound and a brand. This is achieved through well thought out brand and sound association. Audio store assets don't offer either of these qualities. While this is a great example, take a deeper look ahead at why sound packs isn't always as effective.

Sound Packs

Sound packs are great, just not for an app looking to take off in popularity. They have their uses, for sure, but the limitations heavily outweigh the benefits. Skipping a time and monetary investment in sound design for pre-fabricated effects is a mistake. The negatives heavily outweigh the positives. Here's a look at the good and bad of sound packs.

The Good

Buying pre-made sounds comes with a few perks. For one, they're easy to find. There are plenty of websites that organize them in neat categories. The purchasing process is simple and, generally, they're relatively affordable. There's a catch, of course, but more on that in the next section. Finally, the sound files you can afford are usually easy to integrate into any app. This is true even after the development phase.

The Bad

No matter where you buy a pack, if you aren't engaged with sound designers, the files aren't tailored for your app. They're generic and fit the bill for common functions like message notification sounds or phone calls. AOL has a place in the history books, in part, because of the famous words "you've got mail." If it had been a ping, the company would've been long forgotten by now. Essentially, if sounds aren't built with your app in mind, they won't make a unique connection. Another reason to hesitate before purchasing a sound pack is personal taste. If you only enjoy three out of the ten you bought, too bad. You don't get to change your mind and swap a few out for others, in a majority of the cases. The catch that comes with affordability is a big one. Most low-quality sound files have reasonable price tags. You'll run into a brick wall, though, when you start browsing the high-quality section. What's worse is that some sellers aren't willing to hand over rights to their files. You can use them, but not exclusively. If you have the budget for better sounds, spend on a designer instead.

App Feedback

An often overlooked part of app development involves feedback. It's how the application reacts to the user. Visual and audio elements are key for responsiveness. Feedback, at least where sound design is concerned, should react to a user, lead to another action, and provoke a second reaction. This chain of events ensures that the user is always the final step in terms of observation. It might seem a bit confusing, at first. Consider this example. If you unlock almost any phone, there are multiple steps. First, you click or tap a button or the screen. This usually comes with a sound and small vibration. Next, you enter your password or drag a finger in a pattern. Finally, after letting go, the phone will unlock with a deep and solid clicking sound. The user is always on the receiving end of a chain of interactions. The app should do the same via sound and, sometimes, vibration.

Sound Design and Function

Maybe you've heard the familiar sound of the hiss of a bottle being opened and the subsequent clinks of the cap bouncing on a solid floor. It's a quirky tone, but does it mean anything for your application? Probably not. The most important part of sound design is connecting it to function. Just like in Pavlov's experiments with classic conditioning, this nexus can maintain interest and heighten the value that your app can provide. Even the tech giant Apple talks a lot about the importance of sound design for apps.

Make Some Noise

If you want to thrust your app into the marketplace to a standing ovation, you need to invest in sound design. Developers behind applications that make it to the top never cut UX sound effects or music out of their budgets. They're necessary for success. Consider pushing doubts aside every time you receive a message on your phone. Try to understand the thought process behind Facebook's unique clicking sounds for emojis or Twitter's bird chirp for every tweet. Don't overlook the importance of sound design. Get in touch with a professional sound designer today and make some noise!