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How To: Successfully Implement Gamification in UX Design

Successful video games are, by definition, addictive. They engage players with compelling emotional triggers, a sense of progress, and social interaction – qualities that have spawned criticism from concerned researchers and parents all over the world.

However, these very same aspects are now being adopted by savvy developers into their websites and apps, a widely used tactic known as gamification. Gamification aims to increase user interaction and sustain retention by encouraging the same addictive behaviours responsible for the widespread popularity of gaming in contemporary culture. Throughout the years, this concept has evolved into gamifying frequent flier miles, store loyalty cards, and limited edition products to encourage repeat business.

While it can function as an immensely effective method of increasing website traffic, app downloads, and product sales, poorly implemented gamification will instead frustrate users and distract from the core service. Here are a few cases of brands capitalizing on game design practices to set their company apart and keep users interested in their service.

Gamifying customer loyalty

A core element of game design is rewarding players for regular interaction. Incorporated into other products, this positive reinforcement can take the form of point systems, trophies, titles, and premium features. Retailers, such as Starbucks, are now offering a gamified reward program based on their offline stamp card model.

Image courtesy of Starbucks on iOS.

In the past, loyal customers would accumulate stamps and trade them in for free products at regular intervals. At its core, these rewards have hardly changed – but elements of UX design have been integrated in order to make the system more convenient and compelling. Points are quickly loaded and progress is more accurately tracked, increasing the likelihood that clients will drop by a store to take advantage of their rewards. Visually, the interface has also been gamified with a display of the current level and amount needed to reach the next tier, compelling users to purchase products and fill the progress bar.

Gamifying motivation

Another aspect of gamification is the practice of sustaining user engagement with the promise of achieving an important goal. FitBit is an example of an app that capitalizes on motivation to retain involvement with the service.

Image courtesy of Fitbit on iOS.

Users can track stats like stamina, endurance, and competitiveness, which in turn makes their goals more tangible and keeps the rewards compelling. Fitbit also leverages powerful motivators, such as the ability to challenge friends to beat personal bests, resulting in an addictive loop that rewards players for what they want to achieve.

Gamifying productivity

Video games are inherently satisfying because they offer to-do lists, usually in the form of quests, that present rewards upon completion. This system makes players feel like they are on their way to achieving their goals, fueling the desire to maintain productivity until all of the tasks have been finished. This same principle can be effectively applied to completing everyday tasks and projects, no matter their size or scope. Creating to-do lists makes it possible to measure daily progress, effectively delegate tasks, and organize schedules according to time-sensitive deadlines – but they can be made without the use of an app or website. That’s why apps like Habitica cleverly integrate gamification to reinforce the sense of accomplishment associated with productivity.

Image courtesy of Habitica on Google Play.

Habitica is a task management application that takes the form of a role-playing game, with elements such as avatars, locked reward systems, and cooperative boss battles. Users track their habits and manage their goals alongside a supportive social network, winning rewards when they check off tasks to help stay motivated and inspired. These features make it easy to have fun while accomplishing important goals, thereby helping users stay motivated, accountable, and organized.

Successful ways to integrate gamification into your UX

As the cases above have indicated, the best results come from designing experiences that effectively engage users and encourage frequent use of the service. This can be accomplished with visually compelling design, satisfying rewards, and a strong understanding of your user base.

To properly integrate gamification into your UX, ensure that you:

  • Design a simple yet stimulating interface that is intuitive and representative of the product
  • Implement a range of interesting and achievable goals to work toward
  • Offer an attainable rewards system that is satisfying to complete
  • Provide occasional discounts or bonuses to reinforce the potential value of the service

Common product design pitfalls to avoid

Despite the increasingly commonplace practice of merging game design elements with UX, not all integrations are successful. Introducing gamification into a product can sometimes have the unintended effect of creating complexity that distracts from the core service and alienates potential users. If you’re looking to adopt gamification into your next project, it’s important to keep the target audience in mind and design an experience that correlates with their interests and motivations.

To successfully leverage gamification in your UX, consider the following:

  • Recognize what users are trying to accomplish and how gamification can help them get there
  • Determine how you intend your consumers to interact with the product
  • Segment your user base in order to identify the approach with the highest appeal
  • Avoid incorporating elements just because a competitor included them
  • Listen to feedback and be willing to experiment to find the best approach
  • Resist the urge to design for players and focus instead on what’s right for your audience

Finally, in order to avoid poorly implemented gamification, concentrate on how you can add genuine value that supports your users as they navigate your service – rather than provide distractions that overshadow the rest of the experience. If you’re interested in capitalizing on gamification to promote your product but don’t know where to start, look no further. The experts at Gilmedia can give your business the boost it needs with fully customizable interactive features that will optimize your users’ experience and keep them engaged for longer. Call us today at (647) 478-5858 or drop us a line.


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