Gamification in Web Design: The Fun Factor for More Success and Motivation

8 Min.
Gamification in web design: more fun, more success

We all know about badges, rewards and the like. But what is gamification mean and what is it not? Which gamification elements can you use on your website? What should you keep in mind? And what successful examples of gamification can you find on the web?

What is gamification?

For some reason, the myth that everything can be gamified persists today. Colorful badges and constantly flashing rewards don't suit every brand and target group, however.

Gamification, like everything else on your website, must fit with the corporate identity of the company. Gamified elements can, of course, consist of badges and rewards. But there are countless other ways to successfully integrate gamification on your website.

Gamification is closely related to user experience design. If you use gamification, it doesn't necessarily have to be visually obvious. Gamification is rather to be understood as a concept. Or as a strategy in which we analyze the existing processes and make them more attractive for users by adding game mechanics.

How does gamification work?

Gamification is a derivative of game design. It's important that players remain engaged and don't lose interest – their interest should instead be aroused through gamification. Put simply, those who play usually have fun and even lose track of time. Koster goes deeper into this topic in his book "Theory of Fun for Game Design".

The goal of gamification is simple: to present processes in a way that makes them fun to perform and motivates your users to continue. Or at least arouse some kind of curiosity in them. Note, however, that it is usually not useful to keep your target group busy for hours.

Product designer Nir Eyal writes in his book "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products" about the so-called Habit Loop. The theory behind it is that processes should be fun and not seen solely as a task. According to Nir Eyal, we spend more than 40 percent of our time performing recurring processes. Therefore, try to turn the processes on your website into pleasant habits.

To illustrate this, Nir Eyal has divided the Habit Loop into four steps:

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
The four steps of the Habit Loop

Trigger

Triggers are emails, notifications or call-to-actions on your website. Key questions are to ask including what brings the person to your product? And what does the person really want? Always try to understand what your target group wants at any given time.

Action

Action is the action performed. This can be simple, such as a login or sign up. Or more complex actions like collecting likes or adding to the favorites list. The question is what is the simplest behavior in anticipation of a reward?

Variable reward

Variable rewards can be classic rewards, but they don't have to be. Anything that adds value to your target audience can be packaged as a reward. If you provide qualitative information, for example. Always ask yourself whether the reward is fulfilling? and does it make you want more?

Investment

The more someone has invested, the less that person wants to give up what they have invested. A simple example: a user has created several boards on Pinterest . They will probably keep their account and continue to prefer it over similar platforms in the future. Pinterest The central question of this phase: What is being done to increase the likelihood of this person returning?

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Habiticas is all about forming habits.

We find a similar psychological model with forms. If a person has already invested time in filling out the form, they're less likely to abandon the process. This is why we often find payment details only in the last step of a form.

Frequently used gamification elements in web design

Progress

It's important that a user's progress is shown. They usually want to achieve a certain goal. Project management tools like Asana use these elements:

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
If you complete a certain number of Asana tasks, a unicorn flies across the screen.

Advances are also often used when a program/website has new features that users don't yet know about. In this way, users learn about the latest features quickly and easily – as in the example of WordPress Block Editor:

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Successful onboarding for the WordPress Block Editor

In many cases, onboarding elements are closely linked to rewards. On LinkedIn for example, members are rewarded for completing their profile with relevant feeds:

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
With completed profiles, LinkedIn looks more authentic and helps members network in a more targeted way.

Rules of the game

This doesn't necessarily mean the rules of the game as we know them from parlor games. Rather, they are conditions that users get to know. This includes, for example, which actions they have to fulfil in order to receive certain rewards. 

It's important that your rules are consistent. Otherwise, users will lose trust and your website will lose credibility.

Flaticon provides an example here: the bureaucratic task of crediting is loosened up and rewarded at the same time. If you copy the link, the illustration changes and the T-Rex can drink his coffee. There are various illustrations so users have to download a few icons before boredom sets in.

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Gamification loosens up unwelcome processes.

Competition

Competitions between users can increase participation and product lifetime and also provide variety and incentive. Furthermore, social aspects play a role here. As a user, you no longer feel alone, but part of a whole.

Social aspects

The opportunity to make individual contributions can be made more attractive through gamification elements. Facebook uses gamification elements in a variety of ways. As a user, you can write posts or comment on those of others. And you're awarded with different titles depending on your activity.

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Facebook also relies on gamification.

What you should avoid

Inappropriate point systems

When integrating a gamification strategy, make sure that point systems are only used when they make sense and offer added value. 

Points are often either under- or over-qualified: if they're under-qualified, they lose meaning and the constant flashing of newly achieved points can lead to frustration. Ideally, you want gamification to make your users enjoy their visit to your website. And that they lose track of time. If a notification constantly flashes up – and it's even secondary – you're constantly taking your users out of their flow.

Overqualified points achieve a higher value than that which was intended for them. This leads to greater demand. It can also contribute to more users being willing to cheat or hack the system to get points.

Inappropriate rewards

Rewards that appear at inappropriate times can have a negative impact on your visitors' motivation. Therefore, think carefully about how, why and when you use rewards.

Inappropriate communication

As already mentioned, your gamification strategy should fit your target group and your company. Many users feel underchallenged if you use too many childish gamification elements.

Further examples of gamification on the web

Learning through play

Especially in education, gamification elements are often used. The age of the target group is not necessarily the decisive factor here. With the help of mini-games or gamification elements, recurring content can be consolidated and new content can be learned. 

Another special feature of games is that users can safely test out different options and return to the starting point if they fail. They learn what consequences certain actions can have without experiencing real harm.

Google has developed the Be Internet Awesome game for its younger users. Users are confronted with various everyday situations from the World Wide Web and learn to make the right decisions.

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices

Mini-games

Mini-games are often used for marketing purposes. The focus here is on the fun and surprise factor. The aim is to get users out of their daily routine. The mini-games are often used to convey additional information.

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Ueno uses a role-playing game for recruiting. If you play through to the end, you'll get to the job advertisements.
Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Karl Lagerfeld had a version of the classic Pac Man specially built.
Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
L'Occitane draws attention to its products with the help of a mini-game.

Some loyalty programs work in a similar way. McDonald's Monopoly and Lidl's collectible grocery shop, for example. Here there are rules of the game, investments, corresponding rewards and motivations.

Storytelling

An impressive way to use gamification and games is to visualize stories, known as Storytelling. Unlike with written words, you involve your readers emotionally in the story.

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
PlaySpent gives an insight into the life of a fellow citizen who has lost his job. 
Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Going Home is the fictional story of a small robot.
Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Margarete tells the story of a Holocaust victim.
Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Moments is a collection of mini-games.

Visual elements

The following examples have few actual gamification elements. They're visually designed to be reminiscent of games. You can use this to several effects: to present your brand in a playful way or to appeal to certain generations of users through nostalgia.

Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
The Teatr Lalka website is structured like a puppet theatre.
Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Robbi Leonardi presents his curriculum vitae interactively and arouses curiosity for a journey of discovery.
Gamification in Web Design Best Practices
Mariano Pascual's website works in a similar way.

Gamification and WordPress

Now you've learned some gamification concepts that you can integrate on your website. In addition, there are WordPress tools that can help you integrate badges. For example, the gamification WordPress plugin BadgeOS. Have fun trying it out!

Further reading material

Your questions about gamification in web design

What questions do you have about gamification in web design? We look forward to your comments. Are you interested in current wed design and development topics? Then follow RAIDBOXES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via our newsletter.

After studying Game Design and Creative Writing in the green Auckland region, Sonja Hoffmann specialized in web and app design and development. Her focus is on gamification and the exploration of user motivation and experience, coupled with a passion and curiosity for technological trends.

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