How Gamification Can Improve UX
Theory | User Experience

How Gamification Can Improve UX

on / by Neal Winter

UX at its core is about usability and simplicity. The recent introduction of gamification presented an additional layer to the concept – fun. The user experience didn’t have to just be easy, it could also be enjoyable.

A concept that appeals to our love of competition and instantaneous rewards, gamification’s popularity has surged over the past few years with the market projected to reach a staggering 5.5 billion dollars by 2018. Adding game elements in a non-game context isn’t a new concept, nor is it a one-stop solution to a perfect UX. Done right however, it has consistently proven to be a valuable method in improving the experience of the user while increasing both engagement and conversion.

So how does the UX improve when game elements are involved?

The experience becomes fun

It’s quite simple really; we enjoy games because they’re fun. People are driven by competition, curiosity and a determination to succeed, and these are all elements that can be applied to non-gaming contexts. Problem-solving, challenges, discovery, and immersion are examples of game mechanics that make an experience much more enjoyable.

When McDonald’s launched a new till system in 1,300 stores across the U.K., they gamified the learning process for their employees and turned it into a fun, entertaining experience. The tool featured numerous game elements such as a challenge to get three orders right in a row and completing an order before the time ran out. This gave users a sense of purpose and competition which resulted in crew members using the learning tool 145,000 times in the first year, despite it not being mandatory.

McDonalds till challenge - gamification

Completing tasks on a site becomes rewarding

Game elements create ways of giving users recognition for performing tasks, and it’s no secret that humans crave recognition and status symbols.

This type of positive reinforcement is an extremely strong motivator, and users get pleasantly surprised when they’re unexpectedly rewarded for performing tasks that were deemed necessary to do in the first place. This encourages users to continue powering through tasks that may have at first seemed menial and repetitive; whether it’s making a purchase, participating in conversations or learning about an interface.

After the user has completed the tasks involved in the conversion process, the rewards help offset the negative experiences associated with performing these “chores”. This method of recognition allows your users to leave with a sense of achievement, ensuring they reflect back on the experience positively.

Nike for example, released numerous badges that users could earn by participating in tasks and challenges as part of the Nike Plus Running application.

Nike Gamification Trophies

“Users”? No. “Winners”.

The user journey becomes clear and understandable

Gamification isn’t just about adding badges and leaderboards. It’s about creating a path for your user. Games are all about the story, an immersive journey that creates a great experience for the player. Great games have great stories; stories that show an understanding of who the “hero” is, what obstacles they need to overcome, and the rewards they can expect. Using these game mechanics you can give your users clear goals and objectives while showing them where they’re headed.

The Code Academy is an example of this game mechanic being used. The website creates paths for users depending on what eLearning course they want to take. It shows the user the journey they will be going on, the expected time the user can expect to spend on the course, and what reward to expect upon completion of the course.

Code Academy Path - Gamification
Design creates stories, and stories create memorable experiences, and great experiences have this innate ability to change the way in which we view our world.” – Christian Saylor

Users appreciate stories and even more so, they appreciate experiences defined by clarity and explicit goals.

So why is this important?

Because others are designing for it. Every user that visits your site has developed a frame of reference that is based on past experiences using the internet. If their experiences so far have been positive (or heaven forbid – fun), they expect the same of your site.  If you’re not meeting these expectations, you risk alienating users.

confused_shopper

Customers avoid stores where they’ve had negative experiences, and users will avoid websites for the same reason.

Conclusion

Adding game elements to make an interface fun, understandable and enjoyable can improve the user experience. Done right, it has shown to significantly increase engagement and conversion. Gamification isn’t however, a full-proof method. Game mechanics that are too challenging or too confusing will leave users frustrated. Understanding the personas of your users is crucial to figuring out how to engage them, and this is where user feedback tools like Usabilla can help you.

Do you use game elements on your site? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @Usabilla

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Article by

Neal Winter

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  • Gamification is holistic experience design that employs game mechanics in non-game context to enhance flow and engagement between a user and any product or activity.

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