The engaging UX of silent discos

One fateful day, I tagged along to a cousin’s friend’s birthday celebration at a Silent Disco. For those new to Silent Discos, it’s like going to a dance party but instead of everyone hearing music through speakers, the DJs stream music into Bluetooth headphones we all wear. To an outsider looking in, it looks like a bizarre group of people wearing headphones and moving asynchronously to a quiet room, often times singing terribly off key.

As a plus one of a plus one, I was not important, so I could disappear into the experience. Next thing I knew, I found myself swept away in an inescapable state of flow. From that day forward, I was hooked.

As a UX researcher, I couldn’t help but wonder, what makes Silent Discos so engaging? Besides, the music, of course. It turns out Silent Discos get a number of the UX principles incredibly right.

If you haven’t been to a silent disco, each user is given a headset. The headset allows you to flip between DJ channels. Many silent discos offer 3 distinct DJs. A common set up is to have a DJ for Hip Hop, Rock/House and Reggaeton. So unlike most outdoor musical experiences, like a concert or club, I can actually control what I listen to. I can hop around to fit my shifting mood.

I can also control the volume, creating a perfect sonic bubble that fits my exact preferences for a soundscape.

On top of being able to select between 3 DJs, my headset changes color to reflect my choice. It turns green, red or blue.

A collection of headphones lit in red, green and blue colors.

Now begins the fun.

Because you’re on the dance floor, you can see everyone else’s choices too. More system feedback! Now, I can see who’s on my sound wave. So when I’m belting my heart out to a house version of “Rolling in the Deep” I know exactly who to approach so we can sing together. The visual feedback helps new connections form.

Categorized as UX Tagged

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