Best Gamification Practices to Boost User Engagement


How do games engage people so well that they don’t even realize that they have been sitting in front of the screen for hours? Many product managers want the same for their apps. What could your app be missing? The answer lies in gamification. In some cases, people tend to understand gamification’s aim solely to sell. Yet, gamification is about improving the user’s experience in your app

What is Gamification?

Gamification is exercising game mechanics into a non-game environment. Although this non-game environment is your app in our context, we see gamification in our daily lives too, especially on educational occasions. 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.

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 difficult 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.

Gamification creates curiosity that motivates users to progress and look for more rewards. Especially in a competitive platform, gamification cultivates this competition and encourages users to complete actions and compare their results with other users; gamification increases user engagement in a word.

Game Mechanics

How can you adapt gamification to boost user engagement in your app? Gamification is about using game mechanics in your app interface without distorting the flow. Some gamification mechanics are:

  • Challenges: 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.
  • Points: You can use points as the basic rewards the users get as a result of 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. 
  • Leaderboards/Scoreboards: These lists with player rankings show who performs best in a particular activity. 
  • Performance charts: Unlike leaderboards showing user performances in relation to other user’s performances, performance charts show how the user performs compared to their previous performance.
  • Levels: Each level shows the progress of the user. Generally, the complexity of the tasks increases with each level. 
  • In-app currencies: You can reward users with in-app currencies to keep them motivated to complete particular tasks and use the earned currencies to complete other tasks. 
  • Constraints: Using some constraints such as limited time would push users to reach faster and motivate them to take action. 
  • Journey: this makes the user’s interaction with your app easier and understandable. You can use journeys 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 is having serious 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, evaluate whether your target audience would be interested in gamification or not and whether your content is suitable for gamification.

Best Gamification Practices


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. 

Duolingo allows users to interact socially via Facebook integration and also create language clubs in the app.

Image: The Octalysis Group


Habitica is a productivity app that has the aim of gamifying life. 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, complete them, and defeat the enemy. 


Fitbit is a fitness wearable connected to an app. Fitbit awards users with badges, such as a 26 miles Marathon badge for completing a particular activity. 

With Fitbit, you can connect with your friends and compete with them. 

Image: The Next Web


Popularizing the stories format, Snapchat’s users share stories that disappear after 24 hours. The app used to have trophies based on engagement, although Snapchat later removed trophies. Snapchat users now have Charms that show the 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.

Image: Snapchat, Charms


LinkedIn is a social networking platform for businesspeople. Full profiles, hence, are important for LinkedIn to serve effectively. To increase the profile completion rate, LinkedIn uses a progress bar. The progress bar also shows the strength of the user’s profile. LinkedIn guides users with what they need to fill in to complete their profile.

Image: Pointzi, LinkedIn progress bar

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.”


Starbucks’ mobile app has a reward system to boost user engagement. The app allows users to pay via the app and earn stars for their spending. The app rewards users with free drinks or food. 

Image: App Store

Gamification has the potential to boost user engagement when executed right. 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.


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