Game On: Using Gamification To Make Your Site Addictive

Don’t treat life like a game. Except for your site. That you should treat like a game.

Gamification is the use of gameplay rules and mechanics to improve your site’s performance. Using the same reward systems and challenges that make Super Mario so popular, you can make the visiting your website just as addictive.

In simple terms, Gamification adds competitive or challenge-based aspects to your site and content. As users accomplish the goals that you lay out for them, they reap rewards, reinforce valuable behaviors, complete tasks you lay out and share news of your site with their social networks.

If you can make your site an entertainment location, there are a variety of benefits. You can increase user visits and time spent on your site, earn greater advertising revenue and receive greater public exposure. Additionally, many sites have gamified tasks that usually see limited completion by fickle web audiences, like completing surveys, completing forms, reading extended site content and giving you valuable feedback.

This article discusses some of the methods that you can use to gamify your website, the rewards that you can offer, and the psychology that underpins gamficiation so you can understand why it is an effective strategy.

If I can offer one piece of advice about gamifying your site, consider this: Gamification is all about capitalizing on the fact that people love being recognized and being rewarded for their accomplishments. If you can provide users with a satisfying way to help them establish their unique social identity and share it, you will have your site visitors hooked, spreading the word about your site, and engaging with your site the way you want them to.

Gamification Techniques

1. Badging

Badging is rewarding your site users with unique social status symbols for accomplishing the tasks that you lay out. Badges are typically displayed on your site’s user profiles or are published to popular public social networks like Facebook. The appeal of badges is that they recognize users’ accomplishments and offer social status. The more popular your site and badges become, the harder that users will compete for your badges.

One tip: be sure to badge in context. By that, I mean reward users with badges that correspond to the challenge that they completed and the kind of site that you’re operating. Rewarding users with a pirate badge when your site is about ninjas is just, well, not rewarding.

2. Achievement Levels

Achievement levels involve setting particular milestones for accomplishments on your site. As users accomplish increasing numbers of tasks or overcome challenges, the higher level that they will achieve. Typically, higher levels become increasingly difficult to attain, making users work harder and engage with your site more to continue ranking higher.

While there is some intrinsic sense of accomplishment for achieving a new rank, remember that people are social creatures, and we love to brag. Let people share their with their social networks, or use other methods of social recognition like leader boards.

3. Leader Boards

Success is fueled by competition. Everyone wants to know that they have achieved more than their competitors. Leader boards are public lists of site members who have achieved your site goals, published with the explicit intention of rewarding your most engaged members with prowess and encouraging other members to compete.

If you keep stoking the competition on your site, more and more users will be drawn in.

4. Virtual Currency

You can reward visitor engagement with virtual currency. Like any currency, however, you need to ensure that users are able to exchange their currency for worthwhile goods or services. Most sites offering virtual currency have a wide variety of items or privileges users can buy as they complete your desired site tasks.

5. Challenges

If there’s one thing people love more than competition, it’s winning in competitions. Set public challenges for your site users to complete and watch how your visitors scramble to come first.

6. Check-Ins

Geolocation can be a powerful motivator for engagement with particular sites or content. Case in point – check-ins are fundamental to the success of Foursquare and Gowalla. By rewarding users for checking in at their location, you gain the benefits of associating real world locations with your site, engagement with your user’s social networks, and reinforcing users’ habit of checking in to your site the same as they buy their morning coffee.

I Thought Games Were For Kids

In other words, why is gamification important to you? You should consider gamification of your site for a few reasons. The first is user engagement. Gamification gives your users a reason to keep coming back to your site and checking in with your content. The more visitors you receive is rewarding – whether for intrinsic reasons or whether your site is fueled on an advertising revenue model.

The second reason is that gamification can vastly improve completion of tasks on your site that typically see little engagement like filling out forms or surveys. Be honest with yourself – what about your site sucks? If you can make the content on your site rewarding to complete, you’ll see your repeat site traffic and completion on typically boring tasks increase drastically.

Strategy

Gaming is all about strategy. Like you were playing chess, you should be planning out all of your moves, thinking about how your users are going to react and always keep your end goal in sight when employing a gamification strategy. Unless the game you’re talking about it Halo, in which case it’s less about strategy and more about the shotgun.

1. Will My Site Benefit From Gamification?

The first thing to consider before implementing a Gamification strategy from your site is what your site stands to gain from gamification. There are numerous rewards and advantages to employing a gamification strategy, but it is also an enormous commitment of time, energy and resources. Before jumping in, you may want to consider other methods of engaging with your audience that are less intensive.

You do know your own site goals best, and typically, there are a few kinds of sites that could gain from a gamification strategy. Consider gamification if you want to:

  • make your site a more social experience
  • reward user activities to increase site engagement
  • brand elements of your site with a fun, gaming identity
  • leverage the social aspect of games to spread knowledge of your site

2. Feedback

If you’ve decided that your site could benefit from a gamification strategy, try to get feedback before you begin. It seems like this might be a little “chicken before the egg,” but begin by quizzing your audience. If you know how your audience is going to react to your concept before you go out with it you can ensure that your concept addresses their interests directly.

Having this audience insight will help you to craft rewarding gamified site elements. Be aware of the fact that a failed gamification strategy may not only sour your site for your existing audience, but it may also deter any new site visitors.

3. Focus, focus, focus

When you’re beginning a Gamification strategy, focus on a few key behaviours that you’re interested in encouraging. Don’t turn your site into an MMO. You won’t be able to compete with World of Warcraft.

If your goal is to increase site stickiness, use badges. If your goal is to increase social media awareness, provide easy to access social media sharing options. If your goal is to increase site engagement, consider a leader board and other competition-based ranking systems.

4. The Devil’s In The Details: Reward In Context

If you’re going ahead with a gamifcation strategy, reward in context. Don’t give your users a badge as a ninja if your site is about pirates. Give rewards that are relevant to their accomplishments and the content on your site.

That seems like a silly comment – but it’s fundamental to the success of your reward system.

5. The Key To Gamification Is The Same Key To Lingerie: Support

Gamification is not a web strategy that you should undertake lightly. It requires extensive support. If you put a reward system in place, you should be ready to add new badges, rewards and any other credentials specific to your system on a regular basis.

Otherwise, your site users will quickly bore of your site and your game, and never return. Be aware that one of the keys to effective Gamification is ongoing support and innovation.

6. Immediate Feedback

One of the cornerstones of a successful Gamification campaign is immediate feedback. You need to ensure that you reward your users for their accomplishments as they happen.

One of the best methods to provide immediate feedback and gratification is progress bars. Even If users haven’t reached the reward that you’re offering, providing immediate, visual feedback on their progress provides great incentive to continue completing the tasks involved in reaping your site rewards.

7. Socialization. Spread The News. The Bird Is More Than The Word.

Think about this: people will trust the word of their friends more than the results of any search on Google or Bing. And rightly so. Your friends are screened experts in your tastes.

Capitalize on the fact that news will spread further through immediate social networks faster than any other medium. So give your site users the easy opportunity to share their successes on your site through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

One of my fundamental rules of the web is that you can gain more from a single Tweet than you can from a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. Capitalize on the power of social media.

1 Part Love, 2 Parts Psychology

Now that you understand the basics of a gamification strategy from research and conceptualization through reward systems and sharing, it’s good to understand the psychology that goes on behind gamification.

The reason why gambling and other reward systems are so successful and addictive is challenge and an intermittent reward system.

What this means in practice is every time there is the possibility of being rewarded for any action, the reward should be increasingly difficult to achieve and seemingly random to recoup. Psychologically, here are the reasons why:

Challenge: In order to be engaging and interesting, your site accomplishments need to require certain objectives that need to be overcome. Accomplishments without challenge quickly become stale.

Intermittency: If you can, build in a reward system that provides intermittent, or unpredictable rewards. Why are slot machines so successful? Because they are unpredictable. This doesn’t necessarily mean that rewards should always be random. Set goals are good motivators as well, but random rewards will encourage your users to explore your site further.

Professional Gamers. I Mean, Gaming Professionals

If you’re looking to integrate Gamification in your site in a serious way, it may be worthwhile to recruit professionals. There are agencies that specialize in incorporating gamification techniques in your site. Each have their unique offerings, however, if you are interested in kicking your site into the next gear and engage with your audience, you may be interested in speaking with any of the following companies: