MAJOR INCLUSION: You can now download and use my Mechanics Mapping tool (in excel, sorry!) by clicking here. The framework will allow you to look at the ‘ZEN‘ of your mechanisms. What you’re punching for is a nice even spread of functions and features around the entire circle. You can also use the framework to benchmark against a competitor. Simply add in a ‘1’ against a feature in the columns to start visualising the balance of what you have. The second tab is a glossary of the functions for you to use offline.
I mentioned ‘Zen‘ as a term because zen teaches us about simplicity and balance. Sometimes in order to grow we must subtract.
- When using the framework above ask yourself are there any Features that don’t add to the experience? Would the experience benefit from removing it or replacing it?
- When you add New Features do you take into account balance to insure the experience remains fun?
The growing buzz about NeuroCX can be confusing at best and downright dizzying at worst. For marketers, it takes some effort to wade through the hype and figure out how to extract what really matters. The right strategy will take you beyond badges and leaderboards to dozens of alternative little mechanics that reward attention rather than demand it. These can be combined in different ways to create powerful new experiences that tap into basic motivations.
It’s the little things that give everything meaning. Life is an accumulation of puzzle pieces that make a spectacular picture, or the collection of letters to make words to make sentences to fill pages to complete a story. Ultimately, a thousand little things make something big — and what’s more, small beings united to make something immense often lend a certain grandeur to themselves — all the more for not having done so through any intention.
So imagine the completed puzzle – a stunning picture. Imagine being awed and mesmerized by its image, and then imagine if you were able to elicit such an appreciation of every piece along the way – how much fuller and more magnificent the completion of it becomes. This is the philosophy behind NeuroCX and behind the NeuroScience of Experience Design. It’s all about learning to love the little things to create new behaviors and habits.
While we’re creating a service or product we should really ask ourselves, the team and the client some of the following questions continually throughout the process of the experience design. Keep in mind, these questions will not apply to every situation and should be taken in context to what we’re trying to achieve.
- What is the main reason for pimping a product / service?
- What are the goals?
- What are the main benefits we expect to achieve?
Your reason for adding neuro mechanics into your product / service has a huge affect on how you should go about designing it. If you just want people to spend more time on your website, major distractions from your core product might be fine. If not, you may want to tone down some aspects to ensure it doesn’t take away from the pre-existing experience of your more standard features. Don’t pimp a shopping experience, it’s just shopping! Nobody wants to master mine-fields when they’re buying bras.
First, actions and rewards are fundamental to engagement. The simplest form of rewards are points. The very first thing you need to do is figure out what all activities you want to reward users for and what is most important to you. You need to do Value Weighting planning to determine what is most important so it’s rewarded accordingly and in comparison to each other appropriately.
Next, you need to think of what rules your service may need to ensure you are getting the behavior you want. You may set time limits and other rules to limit users from repetitively doing something over and over when you only want to reward for it once, etc. You really need to take cheating into account to ensure the experience is fair for all users.
You also need to see things from your audiences point of view.
- How does it benefit the user?
- Do they enjoy it?
There are a lot of ways to engage and pimp elements of your experience to trigger those happiness inducing dopamine bombs to drop. Here’s an A-Z of the possible things you might want consider;
Achievements are a great reward if implemented correctly that collectors or perfectionist type users will really love and keep them engaged as long as new Achievements are created.
- Do you give Achievements often?
- How long would it take for a user to get every Achievement?
- Do you have Achievements a user would be proud of or share?
- Do you allow them and others to see the coolness of the Achievement? Rarity?
- Have you implemented a place for user’s to collect and show their Achievements on a profile other users can see?
- Do you have a way for users to show off their favorite Achievements?
- Do you have an Achievement Map to show you the Achievements you have, ones you could earn and when available info on how you can earn them?
- Have you implemented Achievement Tiers such as the common ones like “Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane and Unknown?”
- Do you use clever names and graphics on your Achievements to add Character? How about humor or wit not only in the names or graphics but also in how you obtain the Achievements?
- Have you kept your users in mind and created Achievement styles that are catered towards them?
- Do your names for Unknown Achievements (Achievements that you don’t know how you earn them) inspire curiosity/envy in users without prematurely revealing how the user earned it?
- Do you have Achievements with real depth that require a combo of actions / variables to Unlock?
Example: a badge, a level, a reward, points, really anything defined as a reward can be rewarding.
With great power comes great responsibility.
Online Experiences can be used for good, bad and many shades of gray. Product owners should take a moment to consider the health of their users as well as ways to use NeuroCX for Social Good.
- Do you have methods to show the users how long they have been engaging?
- Do you warn them when they’ve been engaging too long?
- Do you give them substantial reasons to take a break such as a maximum on points per day, or a bonus for returning after a certain period of time?
- Have you thought of ways to leverage your influence to have users do good in the real world through donations or other creative means?
Constant Analysis of performance and user behavior has become the norm in the Iterative Design Process.
- Do you have the right analytics tools and goals set in place to gauge your progress?
- Do you know where users drop out of your experience? Where they lose interest?
- Do you know when and where users are having the most fun?
- How can you use the data you’ve gathered to optimize your Gamified Experience?
- Are there new Features you can add or non-performing ones you can remove?
Anticipation is a strong psychological motivator that when used properly in your product can get users excited and allow them to endure longer play time at a higher level of enjoyment.
- How can you use anticipation to motivate your users?
- Do you “dangle a carrot” so users know what they are working towards?
- Do users know the result of their next level, achievement, status title etc.?
- Can you use chance to have users anticipate some random event or reward that might happen?
- Can you use time to build anticipation?
A dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take some action. Appointment dynamics are often deeply related to interval based reward schedules or avoidance dyanmics.
Example: Cafe World and Farmville where if you return at a set time to do something you get something good, and if you don’t something bad happens.
The act of inducing player behavior not by giving a reward, but by not instituting a punishment. Produces consistent level of activity, timed around the schedule.
Example: Press a lever every 30 seconds to not get shocked.
Balance is important to any good product to insure the experience is fun, has longevity and is fair.
- How frequent are your rewards?
- Will users get bored because your rewards are too easy to obtain?
- How fast do users max out(max level, etc.)?
- Will users obtain some benefit from being max that will be enough for them to continue to participate?
- Is there a way to allow a user to “restart” while keeping what they earned? For example, users in WoW have multiple Level 70 Characters.
The theory defining how behavior can shift greatly based on changed expectations.
Example: A monkey presses a lever and is given lettuce. The monkey is happy and continues to press the lever. Then it gets a grape one time. The monkey is delighted. The next time it presses the lever it gets lettuce again. Rather than being happy, as it was before, it goes ballistic throwing the lettuce at the experimenter. (In some experiments, a second monkey is placed in the cage, but tied to a rope so it can’t access the lettuce or lever. After the grape reward is removed, the first monkey beats up the second monkey even though it obviously had nothing to do with the removal. The anger is truly irrational.)
The tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing.
Example: From Jesse Schell’s awesome Dice talk: “I have spent ten hours engaging in Farmville. I am a smart person and wouldn’t spend 10 hours on something unless it was useful. Therefore this must be useful, so I can keep doing it.”
The idea that engaging in a experience makes you happier working hard, than you would be relaxing. Essentially, we’re optimized as human beings by working hard, and doing meaningful and rewarding work.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk wherein she discusses how World of Warcraft players play on average 22 hours / week (a part time job), often after a full days work. They’re willing to work hard, perhaps harder than in real life, because of their blissful productivity in the online world.
Cascading Information Theory
The theory that information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during the narrative.
Example: showing basic actions first, unlocking more as you progress through levels. Making building on success a simple but staged process to avoid information overload.
Definition: the practice of linking a reward to a series of contingencies. Players tend to treat these as simply the individual contingencies. Unlocking one step in the contingency is often viewed as an individual reward by the player.
Example: Kill 10 orcs to get into the dragons cave, every 30 minutes the dragon appears.
Challenge is fundamental to creating engagement.
- What are the challenges in your experience?
- Do they require skill or luck? or both?
- Is there enough variety and depth in the challenges that users will stay engaged?
- Do you have multiple types of challenges throughout?
Lotteries are popular for a reason, everyones loves chance, the unknown. Treasure Chests in games like World of Warcraft are a great example of chance on multiple levels because you have a chance to get a treasure chest when you kill a monster, then there is a chance of how rare of a chest you will get, then when you open it there is randomness on what item you will get.
- How might you use the anticipation of a chance to increase fun and the engagement duration?
- How can you implement multiple levels of chance such as the example with Treasure Chests?
- Do you show users the likelihood of a chance happen or keep it a mystery?
- Are chance %’s set in stone or variable based on actions or some other variable?
- Do you have insanely rare, unique or personal rewards that can be won by chance?
The reward avatar in Nike Fuel a classic example of using humor in an experience to build Character. Having unique and weird quirks can cause users to talk about your Experience. Digital enables some interesting possibilities to build Character that people will remember. In most current iterations of experience design this concept has been entirely ignored.
- Does your company’s pre-existing brand and attitude shine through in the Gamified Experience?
- Have you aligned your brand’s character with the User Experience to insure consistency?
- Can you use humor, satire, etc. to build character?
- Have you created customized content such as Achievements, Avatars, Virtual Goods etc. to match your brand that users will remember?
- Do you use feedback or other interactions to build character?
- Have you created content unique to your brand that users will be surprised by, such as Easter Eggs?
- Have you implemented any features or created content that is so outlandish or unique that users will talk about and want to share?
Cheating goes hand and hand with this stuff if you don’t properly design against it. Before and during the design process you must try to fathom how users could possibly cheat or exploit some flaw in your design. Like anything tho, if your anti-cheating measures are overdone you can hurt the User Experience. users may employ many methods to cheat such as Bots, Multiple Accounts, their own personal time and in extreme situations where real cash or valuable real world rewards are at stake they may hire people for low wages.
- Are there repetitive tasks that are rewarded with no restrictions that users might try to exploit?
- If so, might you limit the task with per hour, per day maximums? Perhaps you could require a combination of activity before the user gets rewarded again to create an environment that bots couldn’t exploit.
- Have you thoroughly thought about your experience design from a cheater’s perspective to see possible exploits they would see?
- Do you have tools and analytics in place to possibly detect unusual behavior?
- Have you taken into account how excessive anti-cheating efforts might hurt your User Experience such as excessive captcha usage etc.?
- Could you require users to use facebook or some other name verification method to verify their identity in the hopes that users wont cheat if people know who they really are?
- Can you make user activity public so that users might worry others will notice unusual activity?
- Can you enable the use of Web Reputation Systems and promote users to flag users who have unusual activity?
- Can you create a system to reward users with points/badges etc. for catching a cheater? Do they lose a little bit of points if they’re wrong to discourage excessive flagging?
- Do you have legal protection in place to allow you to delete user’s accounts or remove rewards if they have cheated?
- Do you have social systems in place to reduce points dramatically if an activity was obviously done just for points without caring about quality? Such as if a user left a comment just for points and other users voted it down the user could receive no points or actually lose points.
Choices empower users, make them feel engaged and ownership over their choices.
- Do you give users meaningful choices? Would you benefit from making them more or less frequent?
- Do users get feedback on their choices? Do they see the effects of their choices?
- Would your users benefit from more or less options when making choices?
Collectors will work persistently to collect everything in your experience. If you give Collectors rare achievements and items to collect they will keep on until they have them all regardless of how difficult. Not everyone is such an extreme Collector, but most people still enjoy collecting to some degree.
- Do you have a wide variety of things for users to collect?
- Can you create collectible content that is very difficult that will take the users a long time to collect in order to increase longevity of engagement?
- Do you have “sets” such as item sets, achievement sets etc.?
- Do you visibly show the user their progress in collecting? Perhaps what % they have completed of the set etc.?
- Can you create limited edition items or other things that Collectors would go crazy for?
Creating a strong bond between users, a Community is critical to long term success, virality and more.
- Are you doing enough to promote community?
- Do you use social network integration to leverage existing social graphs?
- How can you give your users more ways to contact or interact with one another?
- Have you properly implemented competition and/or cooperation so users have a need to band together and discuss?
- Do users have a need to form groups to help each other on specific tasks or large quests, contests etc.?
The dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a riddle, a problem or a challenge. Immensely viral and very fun.
Example: DARPA balloon challenge, the cottage industries that appear around McDonalds monopoly to find “Boardwalk”
Competition is the basis for most of humanity’s progress and evolution. With that being said, different personality types have different feelings about competition and sometimes competition overdone can make users shy away or hurt cooperation.
- Do your users want competition?
- Is there a way you can allow users different options so if they don’t want to compete, they don’t have to?
- Have you taken into account the balance between competition and cooperation?
- Are there opportunities where users can be competitive and cooperative at the same time?
- Do you have multiple ways for competitive users to compete, with both others and themselves?
We all want to be in control of what we do. It makes us feel important, safe and most importantly free.
- Can you give your users more control over their experience?
- Are there things you currently dictate to your users that could be opened for them to control or vote on?
- Can you give users more control or power as part of a reward or status?
Cooperation is paramount to building a strong community. Do you have Features enabled that will allow users to collaborate?
- Do you have various methods of collaboration, both big and small?
- Can users collaborate with both close friends and strangers?
The dynamic in which players are only given a certain amount of time to do something. This will create an activity graph that causes increased initial activity increasing frenetically until time runs out, which is a forced extinction.
Example: Bejeweled Blitz with 30 seconds to get as many points as you can. Bonus rounds. Timed levels
Cross Situational Leader-boards
This occurs when one ranking mechanism is applied across multiple (unequal and isolated) gaming scenarios. Players often perceive that these ranking scenarios are unfair as not all players were presented with an “equal” opportunity to win.
Example: Players are arbitrarily sent into one of three paths. The winner is determined by the top scorer overall (i.e. across the paths). Since the players can only do one path (and can’t pick), they will perceive inequity in the scenario and get upset.
Curiosity is one of the basic human emotions that should be heavily considered in the Experience Design Process.
- Are your users curious about anything that might be mysterious to them?
- Are there any ways you could increase or create curiosity with mysterious locked items, treasure chests, or other Mechanics or Features?
Data is king. In experience design users can become addicted to pouring over data about the engagement and their actions, achievements etc. users love stats.
- Are there stats you are invisibly collecting now that users would benefit from seeing?
- Have you given users methods to see stats from the entire experience, their personal stats and those of other users or groups?
It is important to Dazzle your users, take them on an experience and insure it’s visually pleasant. Beauty and wowing a user keeps them engaged and makes them remember you.
- Have you spent enough time on your User Interface and insuring users really enjoy the graphical elements of the Gamification?
- Are there ways you could visually make things more exciting or interesting to increase engagement?
People inherently love to explore. Consider giving more opportunities in your experience for users to discover something new.
- Do users currently benefit from exploring your experience or content? Do they get bonuses for finding content for the first time, personally, globally or in their group?
- Are there things users are already discovering for the first time and you’re just not telling them?
- Could you create new content just for the purpose of users “finding it”?
- Can you create challenges, quests etc. that use discovery as an element?
- Can you enable users to compete or collaborate on exploring?
- Can you provide special recognition for a user to be the first who found something?
- Do you take advantage of data to show a user how much they have discovered and what’s still out there and undiscovered?
Economy in your Gamified Experience can add immense loyalty as users begin to care about their Virtual Currency. Just like in real life, your Economy can be difficult to balance. You must plan carefully and take many things into consideration or it will become worthless.
- Do users value their virtual currency or goods?
- If not, how can you make it feel more valuable?
- Do you allow users to trade any non-merit based goods such as money, items etc.?
- Do you have tools and analytics in place to watch for inflation and other problems in your economy?
- Could you benefit from implementing a Dual Virtual Currency?
- Have you created enough Sinks to help curb inflation? Such as, paying for a right to do X, or to take a risk that net sum results in the loss of currency or items.
Experiences that do not have an explicit end. Most applicable to casual experiences that can refresh their content or experiences where a static (but positive) state is a reward of its own.
Example: Farmville (static state is its own victory), SCVNGR (challenges constantly are being built by the community to refresh content)
Engagement is one of the most important Gamification Benefits. You can expect Engagement to spike or fall off at different parts of the experience and the life of the user.
- Do you monitor engagement so that you know the parts of your Gamified Experience that users enjoy the most?
- If users are dropping off at a certain spot in the experience, can you remove, replace or tweak that part of the experience?
- If users get bored after X months, can you add content at that time to re-engage them?
Envy is not always bad. users may aspire to do better due to envy of another user’s status, possessions etc and other users might try harder because they want users to envy them.
- How do you currently use envy to motivate users?
- Do users have easy access to see information about other users?
- What creative ways can you devise to leverage envy without making users dislike each other?
- Have you taken into consideration the social implications of making users too envious of one another?
- Do you give users something special or unique that would motivate other users to earn or find it?
- Do you give users an easy way to compare themselves to others?
- Do you have various depths of visible status, such as shallow at a glance(not much data) and in depth if you want to see?
Users will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk where she discusses Warcraft’s ongoing story line and “epic meaning” that involves each individual has motivated players to participate outside the experience and create the second largest wiki in the world to help them achieve their individual quests and collectively their epic meanings.
Extinction is the term used to refer to the action of stopping providing a reward. This tends to create anger in players as they feel betrayed by no longer receiving the reward they have come to expect. It generally induces negative behavioral momentum.
Example: killing 10 orcs no longer gets you a level up
Fairness is important to the long term viability of your experience. If users feel things aren’t fair they will feel cheated and it could result in negative results instead of positive results. Designers should plan accordingly to create fairness and monitor user sentiment.
- Do you have feedback mechanisms to see if your users feel treated fairly?
- In competitions that require skill, can you insure users are matched or judged based on users with similar skill?
- Do you try to sale any virtual goods that users might consider an unfair advantage such as XP Boosts, Special Items etc.?
Feedback is your communication to a user of what they should do, what they did etc. Without proper feedback a user could feel lost and un-engaged.
- Do users understand the experience and it’s rules?
- Do they clearly know what to do next or if open ended understand the possibilities?
- Do you properly communicate to users when they’ve accomplished something?
- Do users see visible feedback on all of their actions that earn rewards?
Everyone likes to have fun, some say it’s the reason we live. While not always required in Gamification ( see section on Invisibility ), fun is a critical aspect of Gamification Design and should be one of your metrics for success.
- What might your users find fun?
- Are you overlooking something simple? Simple can be fun sometimes.
- Could you create more mini experiences, chances or moments of skill to increase fun?
This part has less questions because it’s so open ended, we just know it’s something you should focus on. Get creative!
Fixed Interval Reward Schedules
Fixed interval schedules provide a reward after a fixed amount of time, say 30 minutes. This tends to create a low engagement after a reward, and then gradually increasing activity until a reward is given, followed by another lull in engagement.
Example: Farmville, wait 30 minutes, crops have appeared
Fixed Ratio Reward Schedule
A fixed ratio schedule provides rewards after a fixed number of actions. This creates cyclical nadirs of engagement (because the first action will not create any reward so incentive is low) and then bursts of activity as the reward gets closer and closer.
Example: kill 20 ships, get a level up, visit five locations, get a badge
A dynamic in which a player feels that they are getting something for free due to someone else having done work. It’s critical that work is perceived to have been done (just not by the player in question) to avoid breaching trust in the scenario. The player must feel that they’ve “lucked” into something.
Example: Groupon. By virtue of 100 other people having bought the deal, you get it for cheap. There is no sketchiness b/c you recognize work has been done (100 people are spending money) but you yourself didn’t have to do it.
Fun Once, Fun Always
The concept that an action in enjoyable to repeat all the time. Generally this has to do with simple actions. There is often also a limitation to the total level of enjoyment of the action.
Example: the theory behind the check-in everywhere and the check-in and the default challenges on SCVNGR.
The world is a big place. Gamification in many ways is a connector. Connecting the real and the digital, the local and global. Designers should take into consideration their audience and potentially untapped audience.
- Is your content suitable for a global audience? If not, could some minor tweaks change that?
- Do your rewards take into consideration global tastes?
- Can you create personalized experiences for different countries while still keeping them connected at the global level?
- Can you use Patriotism at a local or global level to inspire competition and collaboration?
Goals are fundamental to good experience design. Goals provide a reason to play and way to feel progression and accomplishment.
- Do users understand the goal of the product and the purpose of it’s existence?
- Can you allow users the ability to set their own goals? Can you suggest goals to them to motivate them to excel?
- Can you use goals at a global level that everyone can help work towards to inspire collaboration? Such as how some websites have raised money for charity by showing their goal to everyone and how close they are to reaching their goal.
- Can you use goals to promote competition?
Grinding, or doing a repetitive task to progress in experience, is fundamental to most behavioral change models and if done with the right frequency of intensity with needed breaks from Grinding, can result in dramatic increase in time spent. But Grinding if too difficult can cause users to leave.
- Are there repetitive tasks that might be appropriate for your Gamified Experience to encourage Grinding, such as viewing of content or other tasks?
- Do you give something fun and rewarding to break the monotony of grinding?
- Is this change induced based on time, chance or accomplishment? If only one way could you implement other ways?
- Can users easily see their progress, short term objectives and long term objectives/progress?
Influence over actions is a major benefit of Gamification. Most of the time you want to do this subtly and carefully as not to be too pushy with users. Give them goals or challenges that require them to do something that is important to you or reward them more points for doing something that at that moment is of the most importance to you.
- Can you influence actions of users through the use of Neuro Mechanics without it ruining the experience?
- Can you tweak your User Interface to influence users?
- Can you set rules to get users to do what you want?
- Can you set goals to get users to do what you want?
- Are there other creative means to influence users without them feeling you are controlling and interfering with their experience?
Imagination captives and spires. We want to stimulate our user’s imagination but also Designers will be able to use their imagination to create creative solutions to problems.
- Are there ways you can stimulate your user’s imagination?
- Have you created unique and imaginative content that users will remember?
- Does your Gamified Experience have toy like attributes that inspire child like joy and curiosity?
We live in the age of instant, on demand and A.D.D. Assuming you have the technology , it’s a powerful tool in your experience design arsenal.
- Are there aspects of your experience now that are delayed but could be more exciting if they were real-time?
- Has your UI/UX taken into consideration the power of instant?
- Could you create content in real-time that users would be surprised and engaged by?
Sometimes you’ve got to be Invisible. The beauty of Gamification is it can be weaved into every part of our lives. Some people will want to see every detail of the experience while others will not want to be bothered and they just want to see the results and rewards.
- Are there some aspects of your Gamification Design that could benefit from being less visible or entirely invisible?
- Can you give users options to make things visible or invisible through settings or more temporarily and situational with modes so if I want no feedback today for a specific reason, I can switch modes?
Levels are an important method in experience design to show progress and status. When designing you should take into account how fast users will level, will they reach max level and when and does the difficulty change per level?
- Have you researched the various types of level curves such as wave, straight, progressive etc. and found the one that works best?
- Are there rewards for levels you could give that would make the level meaningful?
- Do you foreshadow to show users what they can earn the next level or future levels?
- Can you create “Tiers” or milestones so that for example every 10 levels could have some major importance with a new status title, power or some other reward?
Creating experiences that have Longevity and long term appeal takes skill and persistence.
- Do you have a plan to continue generating interesting content and rewards so users stay interested?
- Have you made users feel ownership over their achievements and possessions so that they will not want to lose them if they left?
- Do you have mini experiences and meta experiences outside the main goal that will keep users busy?
- Do you have some rewards that are insanely hard to obtain that can take a tremendous amount of time and effort?
- Have you gave collectors content to keep them busy?
- Are you properly monitoring how fast users progress so you will know when users need new content?
A dynamic in which the winner is determined solely by chance. This creates a high level of anticipation. The fairness is often suspect, however winners will generally continue to play indefinitely while losers will quickly abandon the experience, despite the random nature of the distinction between the two.
Example: many forms of gambling, scratch tickets.
Mini Experiences are a great way to add character to design and give a change of pace to break monotony. The classic Nintendo game Zelda is famous for having mini games including fishing, racing and more. Mini Experiences can be obvious or sometimes are entirely hidden almost like an Easter Egg.
- How might you create a simple mini experience that adds value to your Experience?
- Do you closely integrate the mini experience into the main experience or just have it be a stand alone way to earn more points etc.?
- Can you use mini experiences to increase social interaction or virality?
- Are mini experiences constantly available, time limited or unlockable?
- Are there creative ways you could use your mini experiences such as “Events” , Competitions etc.?
Meta Experiences are experiences played above the “experience”. Meta Experiences can be a great way to make data interesting, to show progress and much more.
- Do you have meta experiences that give the user an extra reason to participate in the main experience?
- Can you create a meta experience that requires no extra effort but visually is an interesting way to see your progress?
- Can users Unlock Meta Experiences?
Meta Experiences require a lot of imagination. The possibilities are wide open to how you can use all this Product Data and Life Data in interesting and possibly fun ways.
Micro-Transactions have opened a lot of untapped potential in experience design by helping to support Freemium Business Models and allowing users to pay for uniqueness, status, boosts and more. Micro-Transactions like many things can be implemented poorly with harmful results. If over used or implemented too early or pushed too hard, users might become unhappy and feel the game is unfair or all about money.
- Have you created a clear set of goals to monitor the engagement etc. of your users to insure they already care about their points, status and other rewards before implementing micro-transactions?
- Is there a way you can gradually roll out micro-transactions to ease users into it and monitor results closely?
- Are there things that users have expressed a desire for that you could possibly charge for?
An item that when used affects other actions. Generally modifiers are earned after having completed a series of challenges or core functions.
Example: A X2 modifier that doubles the points on the next action you take.
Playtesting in traditional gaming happens very early in the design process and is important not only for finding bugs, but for determining what is fun, if experiences inspire the feelings you thought they would etc. Playtesting is different in the context of Gamification , tho still very important.
- Are you testing your Gamified Experience privately before your release to the public?
- Could you perhaps release to a limited set of top users to get feedback from your most trusted fans?
- Do you play with potential new features privately before rolling them out to the public?
Progression drives engagement. Users want that next level, reward and to see how far they’ve come.
- Do you constantly give users feedback on their progress via stats, progress bars or other means?
- Is there more data you could surface to show users their progress for multiple things, in multiple views?
- Could you use progress data in creative ways to entertain the user such as using the data to power a meta-experience?
Punishment has always been used in game design to keep users from doing something you don’t want them to. In traditional gaming if you make a mistake, you might die. In Experience Design, you should use punishment carefully as it could turn off some users.
- Are you currently punishing your users for actions you don’t want them to do?
- Do the users feel it’s fair?
- Can you use decay in your experience so that users must return or they begin to lose something?
- Are you currently using any form of punishment that is excessive and users generally dislike that you could remove?
Quests lead users on a journey. In many experiences this really ends up being just a list of tasks you should complete, ordered or not, to receive X reward.
- Can you create unique quests that help build character?
- Can you create many quests of varying levels of difficult and time length requirements so that you have some that take only minutes and others that take months to complete?
- Do you give difficult appropriate rewards for the completion of Quests or perhaps a unique reward for the most difficult ones?
- If users have completed parts of a quest they don’t know about, are they informed?
- Can you create Quests that create competition and/or collaboration?
Rewards are fundamental to good Experience Design. Having the right Rewards is key to making sure users feel their is value to their actions. Keep in mind rewards are not necessarily physical or even things like points, sometimes acknowledgment and status are the most important rewards.
- Do users care about your rewards?
- Do you have unique rewards that users will cherish?
- Do your rewards seem to be appropriate for the level of difficulty it takes to acquire them?
- Can you possibly give users a choice in what kind of rewards they get?
Real-time v. Delayed Mechanics
Realtime information flow is uninhibited by delay. Delayed information is only released after a certain interval.
Example: Realtime scores cause instant reaction (gratification or demotivation). Delayed causes ambiguity which can incent more action due to the lack of certainty of ranking.
Risk stimulates our instincts and can make things seem more exciting when something is on the line.
- Can you create more opportunities for users to take a risk?
- Can you make the risks optional so they have meaning and users can chose to participate or not?
- Can you use risk to simultaneously increase engagement and fun while also providing a Sink to help balance your Virtual Economy?
- Do you have limits to risk set to protect against users losing too much and burning out?
- Does risk add to your Gamified Experience or does it create a sense of unfairness to users if elements of chance are involved?
Rolling Physical Goods
A physical good (one with real value) that can be won by anyone on an ongoing basis as long as they meet some characteristic. However, that characteristic rolls from player to player.
Example: top scorer deals, mayor deals
Rules make experience engagement possible. As with many things, rules must be carefully planned to insure balanced and fun engagement.
- Do users clearly understand the rules of the product?
- Do you have some rules that are community policed?
Self-Expression if properly done leads to a feeling of accomplishment and ownership which can result in loyalty.
- How do you enable and encourage self-expression?
- Do you allow users to make meaningful choices which might allow self expression?
- Do your users have the ability to use a picture of themselves or character as an avatar?
- If so, can they customize the avatar?
Skill / Chance Balance
Skill is the core of most engaging experiences. An “Experience” requiring no skill will eventually become boring. users love to feel they’ve became better or mastered a scenario. Some users love chance whereas others despise it and want everything to be based off of skill. The vast majority are perfectly fine with a nice balance of both.
- How might you add more skill to your experience?
- Is Skill optional?
- Do you accommodate beginners while still providing a deep challenge to experts?
It is critical to balance skill/chance in your Experience. You may decide to have only one or the other but typically it’s best to have both. The balance really depends on your product Target and your goals.
Status is of immense importance in experience design. It separates “them” from “us” and gives loyal users a feeling of belonging.
- In your “Experience” how can you empower users with meaningful status?
- Does status give them anything of reward?
- Do other users know this?
- How do you show the change of status? Do you show it just to the user or to others?
- How can you give a user the chance to indirectly flaunt their status?
- Have you taken advantage of multiple forms of visible status, such as status titles, levels, tiers, rank?
- Can you find a way to give users status not just globally but locally based on friends, geography or some other creative way?
Social Interaction is important to build a community, increase virality and encourage competition and collaboration.
- Is your Experience enabling Social Interaction?
- Are users rewarded for interacting with their friends?
- Do you give users ways to compete or collaborate with one another?
- Do users know how to contact each other and have open communication channels?
- Do you have social interactions that take into account multiple “friend spheres” such as facebook, twitter, local users etc.?
- Do you enable users to do light social interactions or “ping” one another through some action in the experience? If so, is there some substance to how you enable this and various ways to achieve it?
Story is one of the most important aspects of Experience Design. While typically not so important in digital design, there are opportunities to have story elements in the new Experience economy.
- Can you produce episodic content that is unveiled as the user advances?
- Can you generate a story based on the Achievements and Facts about a user?
- Can a meta experience be created that uses the data from the original experience to create a new experience that has a story-arc?
- Can users create their own story content and share with others?
Surprise seems simple, but it’s very important. People love to be surprised with something they didn’t expect and surprises are known to have an emotional impact on us that we remember.
- What can you do to surprise users in a positive way?
Get creative, surprise is one of those areas that is so broad that you’ve really got to open your imagination.
Time is our friend and enemy, a relentless and inevitable force.
- How do you use time to your advantage?
- Do you use scarcity of time to your advantage?
- Do you use features such as countdowns, timers etc. to maximum effect?
- Do you use cool downs so users will come back again and again when an ability, action or event is available again?
- Do you use decay over time to insure users return?
- Do you give bonuses based on time spent engaged or in any other creative way?
- Experiences where your time is the score?
Unlockables are a great way to show progress in a cool way. users can unlock areas, specials, levels, status, achievements etc.
- How might you implement locked content and unlockables to make users excited when they’ve unlocked something?
- How can you create artificial scarcity with locked content in order to enable unlocking?
Extreme self motivation. The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Example: From Jane McGonical’s TED talk. The idea that in proper experiences an “epic win” or just “win” is possible and therefore always worth acting for.
User Experience has become an art form and just like with other technology is very important to insure users have a pleasant experience. When pimping a non-experience you must keep in mind the original user experience and how Neuro Mechanics will affect that experience in a negative or positive way.
- Does your design hurt or help the original Experience?
- Do users clearly understand the Experience, it’s purpose, Rules and how to participate?
- Can you empower users to change how they use certain features?
- Are you properly using your UI to influence users to take the actions you want them to?
- Is any part of the experience painful for a user and reducing fun?
Mirror, mirror… Many users love recognition and love to hear about themselves.
- What features can you create to feed user’s vanity?
- Can you create a “Customer of the Week” or similar concept so users will want the chance to be recognized for their efforts?
- Can you do something to make users most important Achievements known to their friends, or everyone?
- Is there a way you can more personalize feedback and communications to target the specific user so they feel special?
Virality is important to growth of user base which if done right should enrich an experience.
- How can you increase virality?
- How might you encourage users to “recruit” new users willingly?
- Are your viral mechanics fun and natural or do they interfere with the flow and experience?
Virtual Goods help to build community, economy and a sense of ownership.
- Have you created virtual goods that users care about?
- Could you create virtual goods that actually serve some function?
- Can you use the power of “Vanity” to make items seem more special?
- Can you create scarcity to drive demand for items?
- Can virtual goods be traded, gifted etc. to help build a community?
- Do you allow users to customize their virtual goods?
It’s a wondrous thing the new world of Digital Engagement and your options are limitless. Just stop and have a think about some of the above before you crack on design things… you might find once you’ve launched you get a bit more engagement and a bit less attrition.
(Based on an original article at Badgeville)