Gamification: An Emerging Trend in Web Design

What would happen if mundane chores you do online like shopping for car insurance could be transformed into something fun, like a game?

You’d be a lot more motivated to do those things, wouldn’t you?  That’s the idea behind a little thing called “gamification.”

Gamification is best described as the use of elements of game play for non-game activities. It also refers to a way of using game thinking to engage audiences and encourage them to complete tasks like filling out surveys, shopping, or reading articles.

The word “gamification” is being tossed around the Internet a lot these days in much the same way everyone was talking about social media a while back. That took off, didn’t it?  Big time. Gamification is becoming just as important as social media when it comes to engaging audiences and inspiring loyalty. I’m seeing it pop up in more and more places and soon, it’s going to be everywhere.

This is because audiences today expect more engagement and reward from experiences than ever before. In this fast-paced, information age it’s getting harder and harder to grab eyeballs. Our old tricks for getting people to engage with us don’t work as well anymore. This is especially true with the younger generation. They’ve grown up with all this technology, and they’re very attuned to the mechanics of game play. Gamification is going to be the way to motivate them to pay attention and participate.

Now, the idea of gamification isn’t really new. Anyone who’s ever had a child knows that if you offer a cookie for dessert, but only after a clean plate, that offer of a sweet reward makes the broccoli slide right down!  Gamification works on the same principal. If you’ve ever used frequent flier miles or participated in a rewards card program, you’ve been gamified.

A great example of what we’ve been talking about is the Nike+ website. With compatible personal GPS transceivers (iPhone, Nike Sport Watch GPS, Nike SportBand, etc) the website will give real-time feedback through the device, as well as provide a database to store that information. It lets you save your favorite routes and set goals. You can go back and track your progress over time. The website also provides guidance as to what steps to take next in your training program.

What’s probably the most engaging part of the website is the social aspect. On the front page is a “what’s happening now” section that shows the most recent results and activity in the country. You can compete against your fellow Americans or you can compete against your friends and contacts in a virtual “race.”  Your run times can also be broadcast on facebook, because what’s the fun in winning if you can’t tell everyone about it? In this way, just by using the app and linking it with Facebook, users do the bottom-up marketing every time they sync with Nike +.

But Nike + is just one example of what is a rapidly emerging trend in web design. While not all gamified websites are going to be as elaborate as the Nike + site, they can still employ some of the same mechanics. They can range from a simple points based ranking system that leverages the desire for achievement, to using effective web navigation tools like lightboxes or carousels to reduce page clutter and user confusion.

Far from being an untested tactic, gamification has been around since forever—way before the Internet was even a thought. What is new, however, is applying the same mechanisms of positive reinforcement and interaction to what were previously static and mundane one-way streets of information dissemination. With the right design and mechanics, gamification can greatly improve the way your customers experience your website. Not only is a fun and rewarding experience great for PR, it just might inspire people to keep coming back to visit you.

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