“On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave it. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? There’s no such thing as a user reading a website manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface. There are plenty of other websites available; leaving is the first line of defense when users encounter a difficulty”
This quote from Jakob Nielsen illustrates why it is important to put a lot of thought and effort into usability and user interface design. Gamification is not about turning your website into a game, but taking some tips from an industry with very engaged clients. Here are some ways to do just that.
Tangible User Interfaces
The type of controls you use differ with the platform. A computer has a mouse and keyboard. A PlayStation has buttons and joysticks. An iPhone has a touchscreen and an accelerometer. Take advantage of this and cater your design to the platform it’s viewed on. Let iPhone users scroll by swiping the screen and let PlayStation users scroll with the joystick.
Some popular games allow the location of the user to affect the gaming experience. Amazon checks your location and offers to direct you to the version of the site for your area. Social media sites allow users to check in to different stores and get a discount. This also provides free advertising for the store.
Games provide immediate feedback for your actions. You can receive a reward for completing a task or be warned when you are low on health. Providing your site’s visitors with direct feedback can help them from becoming confused. This can include indicating which page they are on, using consistent colors for links and headers, or alerting the user of what went wrong if a form is not completely filled out.
A “Did you mean?” feature like Google search has can be extremely helpful. Many people cannot always spell something correctly, but that doesn’t mean they should be hindered from finding the product or information they want.
Some sites also provide a chat window with a “Can I help you?” message for instant guidance from an employee if they might need it.
The quality of your site will always come down to the content. You might have the greatest, gamified user interface in the world, but it is nothing without great content. Gamification should only be a tool to help users more easily reach your site’s amazing content.
Engage your users. Ask them for their feedback and actually take it into account. Create pages on Facebook or Twitter so you can interact with your customers. Contests are always great, too. Give away free stuff if you can afford it; it’s great for spreading the word about your company.
Lots of shops offer punch cards where you get a discount or a free item after buying a certain amount of things. This is a great way to engage users. Customers will feel motivated to complete a stamp card if it’s already been started. You could do something similar to this in an eCommerce store by providing a discount to shoppers depending on how often they buy from you or by giving a first-time customer a discount.
Personal and Fun
A greeting on your website for registered customers that includes their name will make them feel cared about. You could also use custom “Thank you!” messages for when a shopper has made a purchase. Sites like Amazon show personalized recommended offers depending on what you’ve purchased previously. Flickr says, “Hi” in a different language every time you log in.
BUT BE CAREFUL
There are definitely limits to all this gamification. These are the “Thou shalt not”s of gamification in web design.
Don’t put the experience over the product.
Don’t get me wrong, the experience is important. If you go to a store the sights, smells, and sounds are carefully thought over. The employees are trained to treat customers in a way that creates a great experience, and it should be the same on a website. But a great experience is nothing without substance behind it. If you don’t have a great product, creating one should be your primary goal. Then you can get to the experience.
Don’t make it difficult.
Games have difficulty levels, but websites shouldn’t. Games aren’t fun without a challenge, but no one wants a frustrating experience just trying to find a product they want to buy. You should make navigating, purchasing products, reading information, viewing photographs, and anything else easy on a website.
Bad publicity is actually better than no publicity. Alerting all your followers on Facebook or Twitter every time someone visits your site would get old fast.
Don’t force visitors to play.
Your customers may not want to check in or collect badges and you should respect that. It’s one thing to give a discount to those to choose to, but it’s another to force them to in order to make a purchase.
Don’t ruin your reputation.
Take into consideration how gamification will affect your reputation. Some features of gamification won’t be taken seriously, and would detract from the good standing of a bank or
Everyone loves a great, unique experience. This is what keeps customers coming back for more. When used well, gamification can help create that experience. Just be careful not to let it get in the way of actual information or product purchases.