Feedback is a pretty big part of what sound does. But despite that, we’re not often taught interaction design during our training as composers or sound designers.
A big part of designing an interactive experience is deciding what kind of feedback you want to give for each interaction opportunity. Do you want to encourage or discourage an action? Do you need to lead a user toward something? Do you want the user to feel good about doing something? Feedback is central to all of this.
There’s one particular type of feedback that gets a lot of attention–particularly in situations where you have a particular action in mind for a user–juicy feedback. It’s been defined a lot of ways, usually tailored to the application.
Brown and Longanecker describe it as:
…that overwhelming experience you receive whenever you pass a milestone, like clearing a level in Peggle.
David Rose says juicy feedback:
…comes from game design when a small action produces a surprisingly large reaction.
Others focus on different elements of the idea, but the common bit is that it’s a reaction that’s “larger than life”. That is, the feedback you’re getting is bigger than what you’d expect if the interaction wasn’t important. In sound terms, if you click a UI button and you get an innocuous click sound, that’s a regular old button. But if you get horns and whistles and a fanfare, that’s probably a button the designer wants you to feel good about clicking (such as the “buy our stuff” button). It’s not usually so crass, but you get the idea.
An example of this in the wild was called out by Richard: “Killzone Shadow Fall’s LSR44 in sniper mode would progressively roll of the low end as you charge a shot, so you can sense when you’re fully charged by listening, and it also makes the shot fired sound amazing when it drops the whole frequency range back in.”
Other examples include finishing move sounds in a bunch of fighting games, opening chests in all of the Zelda franchise, and all the level complete sounds you’ve heard over the years. The common thread is that there’s a thing the game’s designers really want you to feel good about, and so there’s usually a really big visual and sonic payoff for it. It keeps you coming back.
But with that comes a lot of careful consideration of where to put juicy feedback. As we know in the sound world, dynamic range is important. If every interaction has a big payoff, how does the user know which ones were important? If I had to make a guess, I’d say roughly 10% of your interactions are important enough to warrant really juicy feedback. And the rest should blend in enough to make those other interactions stand out.
I’m sure there are UX researchers out there who have done this research and can pin a real number to it. If you’ve seen that research, please do share in the comments! But until then, I’d recommend the usual–lots of play testing and careful observation of how people respond to the feedback you’re giving them. Through that, you can at least develop an intuition for how to apply it. And maybe you can go the extra mile for the rest of us and take down some real numbers!
“As has come before; many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…Please bear with us as we traverse the abstract canals of audio musings.” -Designing Sound