The 12 Keys To Successful Gamification (Part 1)

by Carrie Peters on Jan 26, 2012

By now you’ve probably heard of gamification and seen a few gamification examples of it around.

You may even be considering gamification for your own website or app.

While there are many ways to go about gamification, some ways are better than others.

Here are some key ideas to think about before trying it out for yourself.

1. It’s more than just badges and leaderboards

There’s more to gamification than just a surface layer of badges and leaderboards; it’s a complex system designed to engage and retain your users.

Before you jump into designing your system, you need to review your business goals.

What do you hope to accomplish from your  gamification system? Do you want users to come back more often? Do you want them to share more? What actions do you want them to take?

Once you know your business goals, you need to know what motivates your users.

Think about offering rewards that your users already care about. If you run a sports site for example, you might give out collectable player badges or free tickets to games. You also need to decide what game mechanics to use—and there are a bunch to choose from.

You can use everything from points, to virtual currency, to more sophisticated mechanics like quests.

2. Directed user engagement

As users move through your gamification system, it’s helpful to guide them through the process. One way to do this is to create a mission or quest.

A quest is a guided series of actions that users take to complete a goal. You can use quests to expose users to new sections of your website or view videos on a specific topic.

As users progress in a quest, they receive constant feedback in the form of encouraging comments and a progress bar.

Quests are great for getting people to stick around and complete a series of tasks.

Why?

Because humans have an irresistible urge to complete things. It’s the reason why every chapter in a thriller novel ends in a cliffhanger. You simply have to know what happens next so you keep reading.

Some websites, like LinkedIn, use this concept to encourage its users to complete their profile. Your progress bar doesn’t get to 100% until you’ve filled everything out.

3. Build in a social referral program

One of the most important components you can add to a gamification system is a social referral program. It’s been shown that users are more likely to share after they’ve won something. Once your users start completing quests and leveling up they’re going to want to share their accomplishments.

Social referral is more than just providing a Twitter or Facebook button.

You want to reward your biggest fans for recruiting and influencing others. DropBox does a great job of this by rewarding its users with free storage when they recruit their friends.

4. Be wary of long-term contracts

If you decide to go with a gamification vendor, be aware that many of them require a 6 to 12 month contract before they will work with you.

If you’re looking for a highly-customized solution that will take a long time to implement, then a contract may not be a problem for you.

That being said, gamification is still a pretty new (but promising) technology. Be careful about locking yourself into a long-term contract because there’s no guarantee that gamification will work for your site.

5. Consider revenue sharing

You might think that adding gamification to your website will cost a bundle, and in many cases you’d be right. It can take a lot of developer resources to grow a gamification system from scratch and many gamification vendors charge large fees to design and implement a gamification system for you.

Another approach is to use a platform that has a low upfront cost but shares a small percentage of your website revenue. That way, if the gamification isn’t working for you, you’re not out a lot of money. But if it does work, you’re not only earning money but you benefit from increased user engagement and loyalty.

6. Make gamification a profit center, not a cost center

How can you profit from gamification? Good question.

Gamification is great for encouraging users to return to your site more often and perform actions like watching videos, commenting, and social network sharing. Depending on how your site is monetized, these activities can increase your revenue.

Another way to generate revenue is to implement sponsored quests. These are quests that you sell to an advertiser. While completely optional, users can choose to go on these quests to learn about a particular product or to watch advertisements. In return, users earn more points or virtual currency than they would with a regular quest.

Hopefully these 6 keys got you thinking about how to integrate gamification into your own site and what to watch out for. Stay tuned for 6 more keys that will help you develop successful metrics, seamless logins, and stay independent of developers.

Image source: Shutterstock.com getting started and motivated

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Post Author

Carrie Peters is Vice President of Marketing and drives the marketing, public relations and social media strategy for BigDoor. Peters’ brings seventeen years marketing and public relations experience to the company with an expertise in technology, entertainment/games and consumer products....

  • http://shinytoyrobots.com/ Robin Cannon

    Good overview. Game theory is, in many senses, a common sense approach to user engagement. That’s why games use it in the first place, obviously.

    Some aspects are relatively easy to implement as part of an overall design and coding structure. E.g. it’s not really necessary to outsource or consult to implement a progress meter and redesign your sign up process (at the last company I worked for, TerraCycle, implementing a step by step sign up process quadrupled the conversion of our signup page as compared to the lengthy single form that the site previously used).

    I’m starting to get a little wary of badges and achievements unless they come with some kind of tangible benefit. They’re a useful motivator if the site is inherently enjoyable to use, and worth regular returns (which is why “achievements” are successful in gaming; people are hopefully enjoying the game anyway, and the achievements act as an added bonus). They’re not, in themselves, going to motivate a lot of repeat traffic unless there’s a worthwhile purpose for earning them.

  • http://www.twitter.com/carlosoporto Carlos Oporto

    Game mechanics in Social Media and in the web apps it’s something great to implement. But as games not every game its cool to play, so you have to make it fun and functional. You can see a video of a Google talk for this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihUt-163gZI