Gamification in UX Design: Turning Tasks into Playful Experiences

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Ever wondered why an app fails to succeed in the long run despite serving exactly what the users need? You could say the app failed at delivering better UX or the UI was not attractive enough or simply it was a technical error with the product. Let’s keep that aside for a while and think of the video games you used to play or still do. They get us addicted to gaming. The challenge, competition, and sense of victory make us want to play more. Well, these gaming elements are exactly what your digital product needs and Gamification is the word for it.

The element of fun always nails right in the head. And this goes just right for boosting user engagement. TBH, nobody wants a boring and monotonous app. I mean where’s the fun? The app may have the smoothest UX but fails to attract users and build user retention. Gamification is where you add up gaming elements to make the intended tasks easy and fun on your website or app.

By the name of it, Gamification sounds like game design in the first instance. But they are two different things. To elaborate, it is a part of game design adapted to make everyday apps and websites interesting and keep the users engaged. It is a convenient way for designers to influence user behavior and motivate them for taking action.  

Let’s dive in and learn what is Gamification first!

Gamification definition

The definition of Gamification refers to adding gaming elements to a non-gaming environment with the aim to increase user engagement. Fun features like leaderboards, challenges, badges, stickers, and more induce an intention to complete tasks. It helps in making tasks fun and interesting. For example, if you are filling out a form where you need to go through several stages, it would be rather boring but with a progress bar, you can see you are reaching closer to the end of the task. This will make the process fast for you and make you less likely to leave the task. 

On one side Gamification in UI/UX manipulates user behavior. While on the other side, the addictive nature helps in developing positive habits like tracking your diet, meditation, learning new skills, etc. Given that the user will be using the app on a daily basis and the interaction with your product will keep on going. The sense of fun and accomplishment works wonderfully for boosting engagement. One of the common examples is the daily challenge of checking in and receiving a reward for it.

The Role of Gamification in UX Design

Gamification design is a powerful tool for increasing user engagement and improving your app’s UX. It certainly does not mean turning your UI into a game. Gamification strategy is all about injecting the fun elements of gaming into the app and sites. The primary reason is to influence users to take action with immediacy which they wouldn’t be doing it with urgency otherwise. 

The concept of Gamification will sound like the perfect option for improving your UX but never forget it needs to be tailored according to the users. What works for one group of target users may not work for the other. It needs to be user-specific. For instance, the gamification strategies that work for a fun and social app may not be suitable for a SaaS application for corporates. 

UX designers have been able to solve a lot of UX challenges by implementing gamification. People like to receive rewards, and points and get a feeling of victory. Gamification works on that same psychology for increasing user interaction with the app. 

Gamification in apps makes the design lively and interesting. It has grown well among users that the absence of it surprises them and they skip using the websites and apps that feel uninteresting. Moreover, the gaming environment you intend to inject should not make users feel they are being forced to take action. The future of gamification is the art of subtly motivating users should be done right. Otherwise, it will ruin the whole UX of your product. 

Top Game Mechanics for Improving UX 

For interactive UI elements, gamification mechanics are proved to be of great use. Not forgetting the aim is to add gaming elements and not turn the whole application into a game. Hence, to differentiate how to use the game elements in your design effectively; here are some effective game mechanics commonly used:


Challenges - Gamification element

Nothing motivates a human more than a good old challenge. As a matter of fact, the human urge to prove that you can complete the challenge is an advantage for UX designers. 

Challenges are time-bound small tasks in the app. When users are motivated to take action in the app because of the challenge, it helps improve the overall UX. 

The most common example of gamification in apps is daily challenges and everyday streaks. Moreover, the e-learning apps gamify the UX for consistent user engagement. Challenges are more effective when rewards tag along. This helps in onboarding new users as well as in forming habits like sleeping on time and exercising. 


Points - Gamification element

Points are one of the simplest forms of adding gamification to your app or website. It is so simple yet interesting enough to motivate users to interact more. Users collect points after completing tasks and gather more rewards through the collected points. Here, the points collected are valid for a time limit beyond which the points become void. This compels the users to utilize the points and complete more tasks within the time period. 

Badges & Stickers

Badges & Stickers

Remember how we use it to receive rewards and badges for the completion of tasks or making progress in video games? Well, similarly, the applications are gamified with stickers and badges. We all adore stickers. Moreover, earning stickers and badges brings fun to the app and makes user interaction interesting. 

Even the slightest acknowledgment of the completion of a task makes us feel great! And the same goes while using an application. When the users complete certain tasks and make progress through the app, receiving badges and stickers motivates them to engage more with the app. 

Rewards & Achievements

Rewards & Achievements

The stickers & gamification badges are fun and colorful, but other rewards such as discount coupons, collectible rewards, or more interesting elements are necessary at times. The collectible rewards motivate users to complete multiple tasks and can be a powerful encouragement. 


Leaderboards - Gamification element

Competition never fails to motivate us to do better. And for improving UX design, when you use gamification in web design with leaderboards, the users will be motivated to earn more points than their fellow users. Mostly the list will be based on the number of badges or points earned by the users. But it can demotivate users when the ranks are too high to achieve. UX designers need to be careful when implementing leaderboards into the app design


Journey - Part of Gamification

User journeys help the users identify the stage they are at and a sense of progression. Dividing the task into small steps so that users can keep track of their progress. Here, rewards for the completion of stages like stickers and badges keep the journey interesting. 

Often users get addicted to completing the stages. Journeys ensure more user interaction and retention. One of the examples is progress bars. Additionally, progress bars allow people to master a new skill or form a habit over time. 

Progress Bars

Progress Bar

Adding progress bars help users to keep track of their progress, especially in Edtech and health tech, and fitness apps. It denotes the level of improvement. Apart from this, incompleteness seems unlikely to the human brain and in order to complete it we take action. 


Constraints - Element of Gamification

Similar to video games, when you don’t complete the task or mission in the given time, you lose. The same psychology applies to UX design. The sense of urgency never fails to encourage people to react immediately. 

Time constraints will influence people to take action faster within the defined time limit. Such constraints work great for e-commerce apps and sites for sale. It creates a sense of excitement among users. For example, the countdown feature on Instagram allows creators to set reminders for their followers.                                                                           

Social Interactions

Social Interactions

In the age of social media, it’d be a huge blunder to not opt for social interaction along with gamifying elements. People love to share their scores & achievements with their friends. Not only it will make the users happy, but it will be a great way of advertising your platform on social platforms. 

Benefits of Gamification in UX 

The following are the pros of gamification in UX:

Motivating users

Gamification mechanics like challenges and leaderboards motivate users to beat their competition and rank up. And no sooner do the users get addicted to using the application. This causes the sunk cost fallacy i.e. when the users have made progress on the app they would be reluctant to leave it halfway. 

As more and more users make progress on the app, it adds up to their loyalty. This builds a positive affinity with the app. Hence, these small achievements are encouraging users to engage through the app and make them keep coming back. 

Promoting knowledge acquisition among the users

While the gamification elements seem fun and are a great deal for user engagement, they also help encourage knowledge acquisition silently. The sense of achievement is a great motivation for users to complete tasks & activities. The users are able to retain whatever they’ve learned.

Boosts Engagement

Gamification excels at accomplishing to encouraging users for interacting more with the app or the website. The gaming elements are a major booster of engagement within your product. The sense of accomplishment and success makes the users repeat their actions. This works great when accompanied by a seamless UX. 

With attractive UI and motivating typography, the users are compelled to use the app repeatedly. Moreover, users love to use websites and apps that make them feel good.  And the positive association achieved through gaming elements is an immense help in boosting user engagement.  

Surfaces the progress

Gamification in Edtech has proven to be useful for educators when it comes to tracking the progress of students & learners. Everyone’s understanding and grasping powers differ and gamified elements showcase how they are performing and at what step they need assistance. 

Fosters Creativity, & innovation 

The gaming elements allow users to adapt to critical thinking and encourage creativity. As a result, it helps in introducing new applied ideas and concepts for everything else. 

Simplified user onboarding

Journeys and progress bars help make the process of onboarding gamification simpler and easier to complete. They motivate users to fill up the progress bars as it is uneasy to look at empty or half-filled bars. This is a huge help for SaaS products. Their purpose is to simplify the processes and management of everything. Gamification design serves them just the right pathway to make the product interesting and fun for the users. Above all, helping in boosting user interactions.  

Top Challenges for UX Designers for Gamification

The following are the cons of gamification in UX design.:

Gamification is not the key to all your UX challenges

You’ll know the gamification strategy you implemented is not effective when it doesn’t ensure that the users sustain their behavior or repeat the actions over time. If the rewards and badges do not carry any real value then they can demotivate users and it won’t work out for the UX for long. The gaming element will be a mere distraction in your app. The rewards and badges need to be of some value for users to motivate them to have consistent interaction.    

Gamification is not the ultimate solution for enhancing the user experience. For example, health and fitness apps are designed with UX gamification. And there, gaming elements like journeys, badges, and points rewards bring value to users. It reflects the progress they are making building the feeling of accomplishment. Above all, your UX design is not dependent solely on gamification.                           

Fatigue or reduced productivity

The motivation inducing user engagement will soon fade away as the user progresses. When the gaming elements are repeated and or become tedious, you will be easily bored of it. The repetitive manner will be frustrating. Your best bet is to implement a varying gamification strategy to avoid any sort of friction or frustration

It is not universal

The same game mechanics do not work for all sorts of users. Not every user coming to your app is looking for a challenge or wants to earn rewards for taking actions in the app. There will be users who simply want to get done with their intended tasks. And this signals that as a designer you need to be careful in implementing gaming elements. The mechanics should exist for increasing interaction but at the same time make sure they don’t get in the way of user actions. They should not demotivate users and force them to leave the app. 

It may turn addictive!

Gamification may induce progressive learning but simultaneously there’s a good probability of it becoming a thing about winning rather than learning. This may turn into an addiction to achieve. Too much of anything is never good. The users may ignore the learning part and focus on earning badges.  

Distraction much?

Adding the gaming elements for the sake of gamification UX is not enough. Gaming elements like points or leaderboards might become a mere decoration in your UI design. Given that, gamifying mechanics are not mandatory everywhere in your product design. What you believe the user needs is not always what a user needs. When you infuse gamification UX considering the parameters that users care about you can ensure an effective outcome. Implement gamification design only after following thorough UX research. Hence, when you implement gamifying mechanics you can be sure that they will prove effective for both the business and the users.  

Best Gamification examples

The following are examples of gamification: 


LinkedIn Progress Bar

LinkedIn shows the progress bar for completing and updating your profile. The percentage of completion of your profile shows how far you’ve come along creating a sense of accomplishment when you meet 100% of the profile. 


Duolingo Application Interface

The language learning app has some effective gamifying tools like progress bars, streaks, and fun exercises. Also, the users can pick the level of engagement they want. When the users rise through the levels titles like “sharpshooter” and “scholar” are given to them. Duolingo has successfully implemented Gamification into its app and it has helped build positive reinforcement. Thus making the users come back to the app. 


Reddit - Profile section

Even the most popular platforms have been implementing gamification, one such being Reddit. There’s a scoring system on Reddit called “Karma”. When the users’ posts receive upvotes, Reddit rewards them with Karma points. This encourages users to post frequently and actively engage in communities as well. 


Snapchat Interface

Snapchat is an amazing Gamification example in social media. Snapchat being the inventor of the story format, also made significant use of gamification through rewarding trophies to the users when they achieve a certain level of engagement. It was later removed. And now, one can see the emojis & charms ahead of your friends’ names, to show the relationship/friendship on the app.  

Starbucks App 

Starbuck Application user interface

The Starbucks mobile app is a great example of gamification since it uses a reward system to encourage user engagement. The in-app payment method allows users to spend and earn stars for it. And with the stars, customers can get get a free drink or food. 


All in all, Gamification allows designers the ability to influence user behavior and motivate them to take action. When done carefully and according to the user’s needs, it can be a huge help in increasing the engagement rate. And now, It has become one of the major design approaches for all kinds of apps and websites. 

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