Gamification and game design are often confused although they mean different things. Gamification is the process of integrating game-like elements into non-game contexts, while game design belongs to the field of video game development. The main aim of game design is to apply design principles for entertainment purposes. By contrast, gamification is a user experience (UX) tool used to build user engagement for digital products / services. The importance of gamification in business is significant as, according to Gartner, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes aimed to gamify those processes by 2015. Furthermore, there is an increase in the number of successful startups that exclusively provide the service of gamifying core business activities or that assist more traditional businesses in gamifying their services.
Benefits of gamification
Integrating gamification into UX design can significantly improve user engagement and retention. Furthermore, gamified experiences encourage social sharing: just like games, gamified experiences can be more enjoyable if they are shared with others. That in turn can remarkably increase the brand’s reach as users actively engage their friends in their gamified experiences. In this context, users become brand ambassadors, whose active brand advocacy can further increase the brand’s appeal, on condition that they continuously experience something fun and rewarding while interacting with the brand. Moreover, gamification is a powerful tool for stimulating intense user emotions and reactions, which helps products / services stand out and, consequently, become more successful.
Although UX gamification has many important benefits, it can cause some problems. For example, UX gamification faces the challenge of delicate balancing: if gamified tasks are too easy, companies risk boring their product / service users and, on the other hand, if tasks are too difficult, there is a risk of frustrating users. Moreover, if UX designers focus too much on the gaming aspects of products / services, there is a great chance that user needs will not be addressed sufficiently. That can result in the situation where gamification elements overshadow the rest of product / service experience. In other words, poorly implemented gamification can cause visual noise and distract users from genuinely appreciating the true value of products / services.
Integrating gamification into UX design
Although gamification cannot increase the core value of projects, it can still improve the visibility of that value to the user. Gamification should not be perceived as a nice-to-have feature but as an integral part of the design process. There are several ways of integrating gamification into UX design:
1. Responsive products. Games can be controlled and played in different ways, depending on the type of platforms used. Awareness of platform features should also shape the design of user experience. That means that websites should adapt to the platforms that users use.
2. Location. Since many devices are GPS-enabled, using location can be beneficial to users. For example, it can direct them to the nearest shop.
3. Personalization. Location could be used to personalize customer experience. Another way is to capture users’ names when they sign in and then refer to them by their names while offering them personalized recommendations or other offers.
4. Feedback. Eliciting direct user feedback as they interact with the brand is another way to enhance user experience. It is especially useful when something goes wrong as it suggests the optimal course of action.
5. Engagement. Gamification elements integrated into app or web design can boost user engagement if they are carefully selected and implemented. Their choice determines the level of user engagement.
To successfully integrate gamification into UX design, several questions should be addressed as well:
1. How should users use your product / service?
2. What problems are users trying to solve with your product / service?
3. How can gamification help them?
4. How do you segment your user base to identify how different types of users use your product / service?
5. What can you A/B test to determine the most appealing approach to users?
References: Kindra Cooper, springboard.com | gartner.com | Juho Hamari, Jonna Koivisto and Harri Sarsa, Does Gamification Work? — A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification | Rebecca Sentance, userzoom.com | Sofia Quintero, medium.com | clarityinternational.com