Mobile games are actively conquering markets across the world. A recent report by Statista shows that there are currently over 2.3 billion active mobile gamers worldwide, and this number will keep growing.
We will answer why people are addicted to games and show you gamification examples that you can incorporate into your app.
In 1998, British professor Matthias Koepp studied how games influence the human brain. He found that as the players progressed through the game and encountered more difficult challenges, their brains released more dopamine.
For mobile games, the dopamine levels can get even higher because such games can be easily accessed and played at any time, anywhere, even offline.
That is why gaming elements are crucial to the success of a mobile app. Gamification of a non-gaming app can help you retain users, as they get hooked on the app just like they would on a game.
Today, more and more mobile apps are introducing gaming elements for their UX hoping to boost user engagement and make users come back over and over again. But in order to do it right, you should follow these tips and best practices.
Tip #1: Research Your Audience
It is important to carefully consider the needs, desires and personality of your app community. As a result, you will better understand how to introduce gaming elements within the app.
For example, you can send a survey to current or potential users asking them which mobile games they typically play and what they like most about them. A study by Marc Hulsebosch organizes players into four key types:
- Achievers: those who focus on achievements within the game context.
- Explorers: those who try to experience as much of the game world as possible.
- Socializers: those who use the game to communicate with other players.
- Killers: those who see other players as competitors and aim at fighting with them.
Tip #2: Select the Most Appropriate Game Mechanics
You can use the gamer types described above to reveal which gaming mechanics should be incorporated into your app. For example, if your audience consists mostly of achievers, try using achievement-based mechanics like badges that visually represent the users’ accomplishments.
Here are the most common and effective gamification examples that are already used in non-game apps:
- Internal currency: awards that can later be used to buy in-game benefits, e.g., extra lives. Example: Duolingo, a language learning app, awards internal currency — lingots — for the completion of various activities.
- Levels: parts of the game world with different complexity. Example: Todoist, a productivity app, allows users to unlock levels by earning karma points for completing daily tasks.
- Badges: a visual representation of users’ achievements within the app. Example: Fitbit, a fitness tracking app, awards badges for completing certain activities, such as walking 10,000 steps a day.
- Journeys: a way of leading users through the app in a personalized way, gradually unlocking new features as users get more experienced with the product. Example: Singify, an app for those who want to learn to sing through karaoke, takes its users on a music journey by providing handy tutorials that help users progress within the app.
- Progress dashboards or progress bars: graphical representation of the user’s progress within the app. Example: Khan Academy, an educational app, shows the progress as a galaxy-themed achievement system.
- Leaderboards: player rankings according to scores that show leaders in specific activities. Example: Peloton, an app that gives access to various fitness classes, allows its users to see who else is doing the same workout and compare the performance against others in real time.
- Points: the most basic rewards that users get for each accomplishment within the game. Example: Todoist awards users with karma points that they can then use to unlock the next levels of the app.
- Social interaction: a way to enable communication between users, i.e., in-app chats, user groups, or sharing. Example: MealLogger, a nutrition and fitness journaling app, enables its users to join groups and discuss their experience.
- Challenges: events within an app that are dedicated to reaching a certain goal. Example: Snapchat awards its users the so-called trophies for achieving specific goals, often unexpected ones, such as sending a video Snap without audio or sending a Snap between 4 and 5 a.m.
Tip #3: Keep the Balance
Having started with gamification, it may become hard to resist the temptation to gamify your app more and more until it actually looks like a game. Therefore, it is important to know the limits and to avoid trying to completely transform the product into a game. Your key goal is to learn from the gaming industry and implement only the necessary elements.
For example, if your app’s target audience is users that need to quickly find or learn something, do not overload it with difficult tasks and levels. When users get stuck on one of those levels, they can lose interest and quit. Make the gaming elements optional, as not everyone may be interested in collecting points and earning badges.
Game elements can also distract users from the actual value of your product. To avoid this, focus on how gamification examples can support your users in their journey through your app, rather than offering them a distraction for the sake of entertainment. This can be done with the help of the cognitive flow principle that game developers use.
According to this principle, low-skill levels combined with difficult tasks result in anxiety. On the contrary, simple tasks combined with high-skill levels lead to boredom. When the skill and difficulty levels are proportional, people enter the state of the flow — and this balance is what you should go for when implementing gamification in your product.
Tip #4: Do Not Forget To Test the App
Mobile games are thoroughly tested at the development stage, and you should follow this pattern as well. Before you release the first gamification examples in your app, make sure that they are seamlessly integrated and perform well.
Remember that it is not necessary to release all the planned gamification examples at the same time. Do it gradually and see how they impact the user experience, engagement and retention.
A good idea is also to beta test the new features with a small segment of your app’s target audience. By the way, you can also add game elements like awards to the beta testing process as well, so users can become engaged from the very beginning.
With today’s growing popularity of mobile games, companies are increasingly borrowing the game elements and integrating them into their non-game products. Gamification helps to keep users constantly engaged and hooked on the app. Game elements can vary depending on the target audience but, in most cases, these are the options:
- Internal currency, like lingots in Duolingo
- Badges, like the Serengeti badge by Fitbit
- Progress bars, like the galaxy achievement system by Khan Academy
- Points, like karma points in Todoist
- Social interaction, like user groups in MealLogger
- Challenges, like trophies in Snapchat
However, it is important not to overdo it by adding too many game elements and thus disguising the real value of your product. Keep the balance so users can enter the state of flow and will be willing to stay on your app longer. Good luck following our gamification examples and improving the UX of your app!
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