You may have heard the term Gamification being thrown around a great deal in recent years. I would consider the Gamification of an application a key component of the overall User Experience in that good gaming mechanics lead to a pleasant experience and continued application use. If your application features repetitive functionality, Gamification may assist in keeping the user engaged and coming back for more. It may also contribute to a more competitive/active social environment within your application’s community. Any company wanting to create a public facing application with hopes of engaging it's audience should consider moving in this direction.
App Audience – Every application has a target audience and identifying and catering to this audience is key to a successful User Experience and Gamification. Your audience may be diverse or it may be a specific target demographic. It is important to evaluate your target audience’s expectations and preferences and reflect those within your design.
Core Functionality – Whether it’s the ability to search for locations or share activities, your application should have core functionality that is attracting your user base. Adding a game mechanic should not hinder the core functionality in any way, and this cannot be emphasized enough. Once you’ve identified your apps specific features, you can define goals that will then drive a reward system.
Goals & Rewards – What are you wanting to encourage within your application? If you are wanting a function to be done multiple times, you may want to set a reward for every few times that action is completed. If you want to encourage app users to be social, you may offer rewards when they share something. The difficulty with setting goals and rewards is identifying the tiers at which the rewards will be given. Does the user receive a reward for doing that function once or do they have to perform it multiple times?
The example below shows how the application may have three specific features (desired actions) that we’re wanting to encourage the users to perform. The feature that has the highest repeatability also has the largest number of badges and the feature that has the lowest estimated repeatability has the smaller number of badges.
Go through the exercise of listing out features (ex: login, check-in at location, report activity, share photo…) and predict the repeatability of those features to determine the number of rewards needed. This exercise may also help determine what reward type(s) to use.
A high value reward may be more appealing than a larger number of badges, so Action#3 may reward the user with a discount/prize as to encourage more users to perform that feature.
Reward Types – However you implement the rewards, they should be appealing to your audience and not hinder the use of the core functionality. Multiple combinations of the following reward strategies allow you to cater your application to your audience.
- Badging- A very common reward system for mobile apps where users are awarded custom badges (images) that represent the goals they achieved (ex: I check-in at a gas station and am awarded a “Lvl 1 Visitor Badge”, I check into the same gas station a few days later and am awarded a “Lvl 2 Visitor Badge”)
- Leveling- Another common reward system where users achieve a status based off of progress towards a goal. A user would start at a beginner level, and through accruing points, they would unlock the next level. (ex. A first time user is “Beginner”. They can level up by performing set functionality and accruing points.)
- New Features/Privileges- Unlock an app feature or privilege based off of reaching a goal. (ex. A user may be able to share more content after they have shared 20 basic posts)
- Prizes & Discounts- This reward would probably be hidden from the user. They could be awarded a prize or discount based off of unlocking a badge, new level, or at random. (ex. The app company can award discounts or prizes to encourage users to try and achieve particular badges, levels, or overall activity.)
Effective integration of Gamification should add a degree of fun, competitiveness, and achievement to your mobile application while maintaining the integrity of the core functionality. I hope these tips help in your future application endeavors.