Audience, using mobile apps becomes more and more demanding every freaking day. No one is going to be impressed by regular, stable, well-working application. All this happens in a society, where human hard-coded qualities are staying deep inside of you, me, and billions of others. Someone is more vulnerable to those, someone is less. We all want to become a part of something big and important. We want not to simply exist but to move towards some goals, to feel the value of self-being, while having a huge smile on our faces, spiced with a pinch of competitive anger. Excellence, dominance, and fame are all hardly eradicable from the thing we call consciousness, that is being formed during the era of multimedia which is selling us new idols every day. Gamification is a mechanism that appeals to all the sore spots mentioned above and is widely used in all the industries available nowadays as a powerful tool of command, direction, and motivation of the masses. Mobile app development industry is not an exception.
Have you ever thought of the power of Facebook like? One day it has changed the way people think of the sharing information process. There is a super strong social element. Vanity drives us installing “people like what I said”, “people like what I like”, or “people think I’m important” programs deep inside our minds, making those some kind of drugs.
Regardless how good or evil gamification can be in case we are talking about mobile app development the final goal of all the likes, badges, levels, progress bars, and other achievements will always be the increase of monetization. So what should we consider while adding gamification elements to our application? Let’s check that.
1. Create a story
Without any story involved that’s sometimes (actually that’s pretty much often) hard to understand why these or those moves have any value. Try to dig somewhere deeper into your mind and recall the situation when you are having a walk facing a young guy trying to fight a huge oak with a small stick. First Impression? At least that looks awkward. That looks awkward only because you have no idea that Peter (the guy not the oak) is the last samurai standing to protect his village from the hellkite invader (the oak) fighting him with the most unique, crafted 10000 years ago katana sword (the stick). Conclusion — try to touch users` feelings with the story, make them care, support your story with copy and visuals.
2. Prepare challenges
There always should be a challenge. Challenges are what makes people feel the value of the achievements. Without a challenge the most fun game ever would look like this:
Every challenge starts with a goal. Those should be clearly visually presented in your app.
Goals can be personal(customizable), predesigned, or community generated. While creating predesigned goals be sure to work on their variety and complexity to avoid the boring “more and more of the same” stuff. Anyway, goals on their own do not make that much sense.
Just imagine you are playing pool — the goal is to bring certain balls into the pocket. While having only this info — you can simply come and put all the balls where you need. There is no fun! There is no challenge! Challenges should be interesting! Here is where rules come into play. You are being given a special stick. You need to hit white ball with a stick to hit another one to sink it into the pocket etc… This process may sound weird at first, but we all know there are people enjoying that weirdness. Why do they enjoy it? Correct — they think it’s fun. Make your challenges fun.
Make sure to keep the balance between the complexity of tasks as underchallenging makes people being bored and overchallenging makes them feel frustrated. Find the balance between those to provide users with the experience they would enjoy. Let users learn from failures. Reaching success after failing for a few times gives more satisfaction.
3. Provide rewards
There are no actions we perform disinterestedly. We always act for a reason. You help your friend to build a house as you love being near your friend, you expect some help from your friend in the future, and you would also like to spend some time in that house later, You help granny to cross the road — you feel satisfied, treating yourself as a better person.
Any accomplishment should be rewarded. Would it be a badge, a like, a place on the leaderboard — that depends on the type of your app… The main idea here is that rewards should provide some value instead of being simply rewards. You’re adding some rewards in the food delivery app — include a loyalty program to retain customers; wiki-like-app — honorable rank to motivate people to write more; social app — include some ego-touching rewards to satisfy people’s thirst to stand out; etc… There is a huge place for your imagination here — find what your audience really needs.
Some nice examples here:
eye2eye — Goals are set for real rewards which are chosen by kids: Lego train, transformer, lightsaber, etc...
untappd — Ranking system for those who really care of the beer's quality
Streak — Personal development tracker that allows you to clearly monitor your progress
Positive feedback provided by the app for completing tasks is essential, you may think of it as a salary at the end of the month. What else? — unexpected appreciations or rewards. Just imagine you come to your office one day in the morning and find a chocolate bar on your table. You’ve done nothing for that (nothing obvious to you) but you feel yourself better for at least some period of time. You might be fired the same day in the evening, still in the morning you really feel yourself better.
While talking about rewards huge attention should be paid to making your system protected from any kind of cheating and build your achievement system avoiding the abuse possibilities. Challenges are exciting, rewards are satisfying and there is no place for unfair conditions here.
A friend of mine is being constantly annoyed by people owning expensive cars, marvelous apartments, private airplanes, etc… without any efforts being put into achievement of those. I can understand him from some point of view. During our birth the difficulty of the game e.g. our life is selected randomly. Someone plays on normal, someone is being given hard or “nightmare”. Put all the contestants into the same conditions, please.
4. Do not mess with social component
All the challenges, goals, promised or not promised rewards may be perceived variously and defy the established social norms and become your biggest win or loss. While popular nowadays “become a better person” type applications with goals like: “Buy her a flower” may fall due to “You’ve done that only because of the app?”, guys like “Cards against humanity” will benefit twice. However common practice here is — “Better safe than sorry”.
5. Give them Freedom
Give people the freedom of choice and avoid punishments that may cause the demotivating experience. Do not force users to execute your will, make them think they are playing in their own sandbox, not yours.