How do games engage people so well that gamers might not even realize that they have been sitting in front of the screen for hours? It is an excellent question for product managers to ask, especially if they want their mobile app to have a similar effect on users. If you want to achieve it, this article is for you!
What could your app be missing for engaging users in the same way a game does for players? The answer lies in gamification. Do you wonder how gamification increases user engagement and improves the user experience? Keep reading!
What Is Gamification?
Gamification is a strategy to motivate people to act in a certain way by using game elements in a non-game context.
A gamified experience might take place in various environments, from business to human resources and from education to fundraising. In other words, it was already a part of our daily lives before the recent development in mobile technologies.
Additionally, gamification has its roots in human psychology. Competition and reward have been giving people an incentive to pursue an end goal since Ancient times.
I remember that my first teacher had a cartoon apple tree in the classroom, and each one of us had a white paper apple. The more we improved our reading, the redder our apple got, and she rewarded the first red apple owner. Similarly, your coffee shop gives you several stickers depending on your spending, and later on, you can use these stickers in exchange for coffee. At some point, we are all gamers in life.
What Is Mobile App Gamification?
Gamification in apps is a relatively new concept, meaning using game design elements in non-gaming apps.
Learning might be the first category that crosses one’s mind. However, other app owners can confidently benefit from the advantages of gamifying the experience and giving users an incentive to behave in a certain way. Shopping apps, finance apps, health and fitness apps, productivity apps, and social apps can be counted as just a few examples.
Why Is Gamification Important?
According to a study conducted by neurology professor Matthias Koepp, the more adult players move forward in the game and face more complex challenges, the more dopamine they release. Dopamine causes us to desire, search, look for, and it creates reward-seeking loops. So, game elements, mechanics can result in a similar situation.
Let’s have a quick look at why to use gamification in your app design and marketing strategy.
1) Gamification creates curiosity.
Curiosity motivates users to progress and look for more rewards. If they wonder what will happen the next day, they will keep visiting your app.
2) Gamified apps cultivate competition.
You might be suffering from incomplete events in your app. At this point, creating a competitive context might be the solution to encourage users to complete actions and compare their results with other users.
3) It is rewarding.
A reward might come in different forms: something material, something financial, maybe a coupon, or perhaps just an acknowledgment. While the specifics can change, the undeniable fact remains on the table: Rewards are great motives for human behavior.
4) It improves user engagement and retention.
A well-designed gamification strategy will eventually give you a good amount of users who enjoy your app. Isn’t it the whole point of gamification marketing?
5) It gives you actionable insights.
The game dynamics that you will include in your app will give you a great idea about how your user segments act on the context designed by you. Consequently, it will be great feedback for the next steps of your app.
How to Use Gamification Trend to Improve UX in Your App
The next step is to develop a good app gamification strategy. Indeed, this process should start with the following question: How can you adopt gamification to boost user engagement in your app? It is the point where you have to get familiar with game dynamics and mechanisms.
The good thing about the concept of the game is that you are limited only with your imagination and creativity. Relying on that, you can use your mind to come up with countless app engagement ideas. However, there is a crucial trick: Gamification is about using game mechanics in your app interface without distorting the flow. Having this in mind, let us introduce you to some gamification mechanics.
Human nature forces us to take the challenges and prove that we can handle them. You can motivate users to complete a task with challenges and reward them afterward.
You can use points as the basic rewards the users get due to their progress in your app. However, points don’t have to imply a rating; they can also show the number of check-ins or video views.
Badges and stickers:
These are the visual representations of a user’s accomplishments in your app. You can reward them with these when they complete specific tasks.
These lists with player rankings show who performs best in a particular activity. In fact, they can be adapted to non-game apps easily. For example, you can have a board to list the ones who practice most for gamification in education apps.
Unlike leaderboards showing user performances in relation to other user’s performances, performance charts show how the user performs compared to their previous performance.
Each level shows the progress of the user. Generally, the complexity of the tasks increases with each level.
You can reward users with in-app currencies to keep them motivated to complete particular tasks and use the earned coins to complete other tasks.
Using some constraints such as limited time would push users to reach faster and motivate them to take action.
Journeys make the user’s interaction with your app easier and understandable. You can use them for onboarding by disclosing features as the user progress in your app.
You can use these game mechanics to adopt gamification according to your app’s and users’ needs and features. You should keep in mind that gamification is not just about design. Use gamification to improve user experience and increase user engagement. If your app has severe problems with conversion or user experience and you decide to use game mechanics, you should support gamification to improve your app’s performance in other areas.
Just like any other engagement improvement, gamification doesn’t respond to every app’s needs. If you are using gamification only because it is popular, you should reconsider this practice. Also, you need to evaluate whether your target audience would be interested in a gamified experience and whether your content is suitable for gamification.
Great Gamification Examples in Mobile Apps
The advantages and disadvantages of gamification and game-based learning are something that pedagogs have worked on for decades. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, they started to focus more on gamification in online education. At this point, it is a great idea to revisit one of the best-gamified learning apps: Duolingo.
When it comes to e-learning and gamification, Duolingo (a language learning app) has done a great job at user engagement. Duolingo uses gamification at every stage and in every lesson with many gamification elements from points and hearts to streak counts.
Duolingo uses performance charts to show streaks and daily goals to keep users motivated. Users can also earn internal currencies called lingots from the activities they complete, and they can use these lingots to buy extra features such as Power-Ups.
Duolingo users need lives to complete quizzes, and when they fail, they lose their lives. They have to regain their lives to continue.
If you want to perform actionable gamification beyond points badges and leaderboards, we recommend you to have a look at this app. In addition to most common game elements, Duolingo allows users to interact socially via Facebook integration and also create language clubs in the app.
We all want to have the best version of ourselves. Still, it is easier said than done most of the time. Secondly, we love playing games because it gives us an opportunity from reality. Relying on these two insights, Habitica leverages game elements to help its users achieve their goals. In the end, lifestyle gamification is getting more and more popular.
In brief, Habitica is a gamified productivity app. In the app, users create their characters and their guilds to build teams, and they defeat monsters by completing their objectives/tasks. So, they set tasks, meet them, and defeat the enemy.
Since competition and achievement are two crucial elements in games as well as in sports, it is easy to use gamification in fitness apps. Therefore, Fitbit does a great job to gamify the user experience and increase mobile app engagement.
In summary, Fitbit is a fitness wearable connected to an app. It awards users with badges, such as a 26 miles Marathon badge for completing a particular activity. It also enables people to connect with their friends and compete with them.
In the end, it ranks among the best-gamified fitness apps.
Snapchat is the inventor of the mobile story format and has an innovative role when it comes to gamification. Accordingly, Snapchat users share stories that disappear after 24 hours.
Stories are not the only thing that Snapchat takes an innovative action. The app used to have Trophies given to the users based on their engagement. However, Snapchat later removed Trophies. Snapchat users now have Charms that show their relationships with their Snapchat friends.
Snapchat gamifies the relationships of users by adding emojis such as 💕 for Super BFF, ❤️ for BFF, 💛 for Besties, etc.
Apart from game mechanics, Snapchat also allows users to play games with their friends in the app. It is among the top uses of gamification in social media.
LinkedIn is a social networking platform for business people. Completed profiles, hence, are essential for LinkedIn to serve effectively. To increase the profile completion rate, LinkedIn uses a progress bar. The progress bar also shows the strength of a user profile. LinkedIn guides users with what they need to fill in to complete their profile.
LinkedIn also boosts activity between users by encouraging skill endorsements and reviews. It also provides users with profile statistics such as “Who viewed your profile.” Since free accounts do not have access to the information of everyone who visits their profile, they utilize curiosity to encourage paid subscriptions.
Finally, Starbucks has a mobile app that uses gamification to boost user engagement with a reward system. The app allows in-app payment and enables users to earn stars for their spending. In other words, the app rewards them with free drinks or food that they can purchase through these stars.
Does Gamification Work?
Gamification ideas have the potential to boost user engagement when executed right. They might work well to collect real-time feedback or to improve user loyalty.
Nevertheless, you need to remember that the UI should respond to your users’ needs and wants. Swarm/Foursquare collected negative comments from users about its gamification and had to redesign the app. Or, if you have a finance app targeting senior people, then gamification might cause your app to seem loose.
User experience and engagement are always about testing and finding the right balance and path for the users’ best interests.