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  • Writer's pictureMarcilio Bezerra

How Do User Experience UX and Gamification Come Together?

User Experience and Gamificaiton

Gamification has become one of the biggest UX design trends, with many looking to make their apps, websites, digital products more fun and more exciting to use. Thanks to this strategic technique, consumers find entertainment in even the most monotonous of processes.  


But how exactly do user experience and gamification come together? More importantly, how can gaming elements be used to improve a particular product? This article takes a deep dive into gamification and the different advantages it brings to the user experience UX.  


What is Gamification?


In the simplest of terms, gamification is a technique that incorporates game mechanics into non-game products. Not only does this result in a more intuitive system, but it also renders the experience more positive for consumers.  


Many mistakenly believe that gamification is about transforming the user interface of a mobile app into a game. This is a misconception. Gamification incorporates game elements or mechanics into a product to incentivize consumers to engage more.  


Gamification is seen in a lot of mobile apps these days. For instance, the task management app Todoist rewards users with karma points for finishing a task, while the US-based PNC Bank introduced the “Punch the Pig” feature  that allows consumers to easily transfer more money to their savings account by tapping on a piggy bank.  


From healthcare to financial services, companies from all kinds of industries have seen the incredible value that gamification brings, which is why many of them have begun to introduce it to their mobile apps and digital products.  


How is Gamification Incorporated into User Experience?


Companies and UX designers use a wide variety of game elements to improve both mobile and web experiences. Besides increasing user engagement, doing so also enables them to build brand loyalty and retain consumers.  


Here are a few examples of game elements in user experience and how you can incorporate them into your own mobile or web products.  


Badges and Stickers


Often seen in video games, badges and stickers reward users for amassing a certain number of points or when they reach a particular milestone. While this nifty feature seems insignificant, it leaves consumers with a feeling of satisfaction as their achievement is more tangible and easier to see.  


For example, users of the software development app Codeacademy Go feel more motivated to take courses since they receive a badge upon completion.  


Leaderboards


Competition is one of the most popular game elements in UX design, mainly because people find the possibility of becoming number one appealing.  


Arguably one of the most popular digital products that uses the leaderboard feature is the language learning app Duolingo , which bases points on the number of courses that users accomplish.  


Challenges


In video games, challenges are regarded as opportunities to improve and go beyond one’s limits. It’s the same thing in mobile apps, most of which use this game element to turn mundane tasks into an adventurous and exciting activity. It also motivates consumers to explore the product more, which increases both user engagement and customer loyalty.  


This feature was introduced by the wearable fitness tracker Fitbit , which enables users to compete with their friends in various sports-related challenges. 


Points and In-App Currency


Many companies have found that offering points or in-app currency boost engagement on their digital products. These are usually earned whenever the user progresses or achieves a certain goal.  


For instance, Reddit – the self-proclaimed ”front page of the Internet ” – makes use of a point system that indicates the quality of the user’s post and their overall contribution to a particular community forum. This increases the platform’s engagement levels since users are incentivized to post more and ensure that their content is top-notch and relevant.  


Why Should Gamification be Incorporated into User Experience?


From these examples, it’s clear that gamification brings a ton of advantages to consumers. Besides giving them a sense of progress, winning badges and accomplishing challenges also boost their motivation levels, spurring them to improve themselves.  


It also makes them more competitive, which, in turn, enhances their productivity, creativity, and focus. After all, people tend to perform better when they have others to surpass or compare themselves to.  


As a design process, gamification focuses on the outcome of behaviors, creating specific rules, goals, and achievements geared towards giving the user a sense of purpose. This is why video games often have quests or tasks  that must be achieved to move up to the next level. Without these, the player would only aimlessly wander around the virtual world, with nothing to do.  


One of the best examples of this purpose-based gamification technique is the mobile productivity app Habitica, which turns a user’s to-do list into an exciting  epic adventure. Their avatar receives gold whenever a task is accomplished, and they can even join ”parties” to go on quests and acquire special items.  


Even the tasks themselves have game elements incorporated that can be customized with difficulty ratings, which go from easy to punishing.  


The behavioral aspect of gamification makes the user experience more persuasive and meaningful to consumers. It leads to increased engagement and retention and enables organizations to subtly convince their product users to perform specific actions.  


What Challenges Do UX Designers Face?


UX design and Gamification

As advantageous as gamification may be, incorporating it effectively and seamlessly is a complex task, a fine art. For one thing, a balance must be struck between its entertainment value and the industry’s tone or subject matter. For instance, leaderboards may be fun, but they would be out of place in a mobile banking app.  


UX designers must also ensure that the gameplay and rewards they create are tailored specifically to their target users. For example, giving trophies to those who achieve a certain milestone is great for apps that allow friends or users to compete with one another. They would be far from suitable in corporate and professional systems, which require more subtle gamification techniques.  


How can User Experience and Gamification Come Together?


To successfully incorporate gamification into a non-game product, an in-depth knowledge of both the target users and the actions that should be performed is necessary. This will enable the UX designer to understand the motivation needed to induce the user to perform a specific task.  


Additionally, the entire system must be viewed from the users’ perspective to determine which game elements to insert.  


For instance, will time constraints be motivating or adversarial? Will the target users respond more positively to a challenge-oriented experience filled with rewards and competition? Or would they prefer a more laid-back approach to perform tasks on the system? 


These kinds of questions must be answered to ensure that user experience and gamification both come together successfully. Game elements shouldn’t be incorporated into the product simply for the sake of it; rather, they should be geared towards giving consumers a more positive experience by turning their mundane tasks and tedious actions into an entertaining activity.  


Final Thoughts


By combining their target market’s viewpoint with game elements, companies will increase brand loyalty and interactions while ensuring their customers have a great time engaging with their digital products. For this to happen, though, gamification and user experience must successfully come together.


 
Gamification Designer

Marcílio Bezerra

CDO, Lead Gamification Architect


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