Using audio players on websites

My two cents on using audio on websites. Also, by popular demand, I've thrown in a list of audio players for when you need one.


by Adam Griffith30 March 2009

A lot of people are looking to use audio on their websites. There aren't too many great resources around to show you what to use. I've put together a list of audio players to put on your website (below). But first, allow me to indulge myself and have a little rant about the dos and donts of audio players on websites.

The Golden Rule

All signs point to this: don't use audio on a website unless there is a specific purpose for it. Let's say your business is providing musical entertainment for functions. In that case, audio on your website is probably appropriate, and wont be intrusive. Or you might want to reinforce the text content of a blog post or news item with a soundbite relating to what you're talking about. If you have a good reason (like these), then audio can add a lot to your website and you're less likely to offend your visitors.

But... but why?

If sound isn't a vital part of what you're trying to get across, don't use it. Audio on a website for no apparent reason can annoy visitors in a number of ways in one fell swoop. Think of the minefield you're stepping into (not an exhaustive list):
  1. If a visitor has the sound turned up too loud you will blast them (and not all visitors will think to check first).
  2. Poor sound quality reflects really badly on your website and, in turn, on you.
  3. Audio files playing simultaneously for many visitors at once can amount to a pretty penny in extra bandwidth charges.
  4. Page weight goes up with audio files, making the site slower for visitors. Visitors usually have to wait for their browser to download the audio before the page will display, whether they end up playing the audio or not.

Best practice: don't force something on your users

Audio players set to play automatically (ie. as opposed to the visitor playing the audio voluntarily) are even more problematic. Your visitors can run into any of the problems already mentioned, only to be compounded now by the surprise factor.

Audio player controls are located in a different place on every site too - it takes time to find the controls and be able to stop the onslaught if it's unwelcome. Don't make your visitors resort to leaving the site just to make the madness stop.

The Train Wreck...

Then, of course, there are sites that use audio when you roll over the menu items... This is a public forum, however, so I'll leave that well alone.

That being said, here are some great audio players for putting audio on your site:

Our picks

Flash nifties

Not free, but very good - we use Flash Nifties for most audio player sites.

Wordpress Audio Player

The Wordpress player is pretty good AND it's open source.


Looks great and works well - SoundCloud has a free option, and well graded pricing on packages.
Added to this list Friday 4 Dec 2009

And the rest

Pupu Player


XSPF Music Player



Google Reader

Google Video




See them in action

I've listed some of our own examples so you can check out what players look like and how they function:

Will update this soon, when we launch a site currently being developed that features a Wordpress player.

  1. Ralph Carr Management (Flash nifties)

  2. The Cat Empire (custom Flash)

  3. Swingin' Both Ways - Melbourne Jazz Duo (Flash nifties)

  4. Extraordinary Acts (Flash nifties)

  5. Wordpress audio player

If there are other good audio players out there that I've missed let me know in the comments and I'll update the list.
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