Build a product and the users will come they say. Sadly, that statement is deceiving. The users might come as a result of a marketing blitz, but for them to stay on and use the product and recommend it to others, they need to enjoy using the product.
Gamification beyond points, badges & awards
When designing a system, consider the social engagement verbs that you want to use to describe desired user behaviors. It is known that male users prefer competition, while female users like to collaborate. So identify your target audience, list the actions you want them to perform and then design features or flows around it.
Do you want the user to ‘Express’, ‘Compete’, ‘Explore’ or ‘Collaborate’?
Product Usage Lifecycle
Product Usage Lifecycle is another important aspect to consider while designing the system. What actions do you want the users to perform at the onboarding stage will be different from ongoing use and the passionate use phase. Needs of the users at each stage are different and therefore your goal must accordingly change as well.
Our approach when building products and adding features is to first look at Benefits, Ease of Use and then maybe the Positive Emotion it evokes. What if we turned that around? How about building virality into the product by delighting customers when they use your product? You’d save a few marketing dollars for sure. Intuit uses this approach to build their products. (Design for Delight)
Coming back to gamification, progress mechanics that involve points, badges, & leaderboards is the last step in game design. Having built a gamified product, I can tell you this is the easiest step, and therefore very tempting to do it first. Even here, one can dig deeper behind what I call the 1st layer of gamification, to identify patterns for reward schedules that tap into intrinsic motivation.
Another game design concept is the use of the MDA Framework – Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics. Keep an eye on how much importance you pay to each and in what order.
Gamification, unfortunately is a much-abused word that has to come to signify trivial use of points, awards & badges. Gamification done right will provide better user engagement at every phase of product use. But it is also tougher and intellectually more challenging.