Gamification can be used for improving User Engagement, Retention, and Adoption when applied to designing any digital product. There have been several examples of products that we use in our daily life that use gamification techniques as part of their product strategy, to improve productivity, and ways to navigate and nudge the users to complete tasks.
Let’s start by asking what.
Gamification defines as “using game elements in non-game contexts” to achieve your business objectives by engaging and motivating the user as mentioned in this video by NNGroup.
These are the motivational drivers that have been used in the games to trigger the users to continue playing while making their experience engaging, interesting, and rewarding. Some commonly used game elements are:
Points: The immediate rewards for the smallest achievements.
Levels: The increment of the stages as the user attains a certain number of points.
Leaderboard: The position of the user according to the previous performances and as a comparison for other users or competitors.
These can be applied to meet the business objective by using them in scenarios of non-game context. For example, making credit card payments, we can give users points if they make a payment, and if they are paying frequently we can give them badges and allow them to redeem those points for some offers. Similarly, the combinations of game elements can be used in different contexts.
In the physical world:
In the digital world: Duolingo
Learning a new language can be tiresome and hectic without constant practice. Duolingo is trying to solve this issue by using gamification intuitively. Every time the user completes a lesson, they gain experience points. Once the user reaches a certain level of experience points they level up. Then there is a leaderboard that creates a feeling of completeness in the user’s mind by showing their position against other people. The users are nudged to complete one more lesson to match up the leaderboard. There are streaks to motivate the users to complete lessons frequently and maintain continuity in learning. Thus finally improving the engagement and adoption of the product.
Points, levels, and leaderboards are just the elements of gamification, but it’s much more than that, gamification has psychological aspects behind it, which are:
The behavioral aspect is about how the users behave on the external stimuli or triggers and the Cognitive aspects are the thoughts that are going inside the user’s mind.
Before applying any gamification there needs to be good research and observations conducted on the users. The users can respond to only a few triggers/motivations based on their core needs and expectations. It’s really important to understand the user’s actual needs and then how they behave to any trigger that we are providing to meet those needs.
The are several frameworks that we can use to build gamification by molding user’s behavior affected by using intrinsic motivations and extrinsic motivations
We will look into some of them relevant in today’s context in terms of designing digital products.
Zichermann’s SAPS Framework.
This framework explains extrinsic motivators like Status, Access, Power, and Stuff to create a feeling of engagement and investment in the digital product.
Stuffs are the rewards earned by the users while using the product.
Power is mainly the sense of power that users get while they are given the power for inviting others users.
Access is something that is not available to everyone, making it exclusive for a user, leads to being motivated to use the application.
Status makes the users want to do be associated with a symbol of status, users keep using the platform to keep up the position and the feeling of status.
This is a habit-forming framework which is explained in a book titled “Hooked” written by Nir Eyal on how to build habit-forming products. It explains the different aspects to alter human behavior while providing the core user needs. These aspects are internal/ external triggers, the actions the user performs, and variable rewards that follow actions.
Triggers: Internal triggers are the key use of the application, the strong use case, or the utility that caters to the right problems and needs of the user. External triggers are the triggers that make the users come back again and again — i.e push notifications or email notifications.
Action: Actions are the task that the users might need to complete to meet their needs. The product must be designed to facilitate the ease of performing these action, by improving the elements of effectiveness and efficiency (how well users can complete the task and how fast).
Variable rewards: A reward given to the user providing an element of surprise and uncertainty that makes the users perform the action more and more.
Investment: the commitment that makes the users sticky, by providing information about themselves. The user is more invested and the service provider can provide more value simultaneously as they know more about their users. This can lead to creating better external triggers. Thus forming a habit-forming loop.
There are also other factors – like the ability to do a task that affect forming of a behavior. In the graph below Fogg Behavior Model has explained how motivations, ability, and triggers need to work together to influence a user’s behavior.
The user behavior can only be established when users are motivated, have the ability to perform the action, and are provided with triggers to initiate it. The ease of completing the action also plays a crucial role in forming the behavior.