Interactivity and Gamification in App Development

The most mundane and repetitive tasks can easily be turned into a fun experience by turning them into an interactive experience. This way, daily tasks like making and completing plannings or to-do lists can be turned into a challenge, rather than a repetitive nuisance. Rewarding systems that give you points when you finish a certain in-app task invites its users to actively interact with the app and optimises the overall user experience of the app and its purpose and functions. This blog dives deeper into the techniques used for gamifying applications, and how these implementations can be beneficial for the end-user.
 

Essential rules

The current information overload we’re faced with requires app developers to go the extra mile in order to deeply engage its end-users with their product. Gamifying the functionalities of your app can greatly improve the user experience and interactivity, but it requires some knowledge of the ways users interact with in-app features, and how to align the interactive features with the main purpose of your app. The following rules or guidelines can help you throughout the process of understanding your end-users and their behaviour, and implementing interactive features that are tailored to the scope of your app.

Market research and digital conceptualisation

Just like any other process of software development, you’ll need to have a clear vision on the market in order to know how your app can stand out from the crowd. Especially now that interactivity and gamification of applications has become increasingly popular, it’s a challenge to come up with an original idea. First of all, you’ll need a legitimate reason to implement interactive features in your app, rather than bluntly following the trend of gamification. Take a good look at what you want to achieve with your app, what audience you want to reach, and how this audience can benefit from specific gamified features. In this process of so-called digital conceptualisation, you define the needs and problems of your end-users, and come up with a fitting solution. This way, you can formulate a tangible and concrete step-by-step process of how you visualise achieving your solution.

Align gamified features with your app’s main function

Once you have a good insight into the current market and the needs of your end-users, it’s time to have a good look at the main function of your app, and how you can optimise this function by turning it into an interactive feature, or multiple features. An application focused on improving its end-user’s productivity has a totally different scope of interactive features than, for example, an online dating or match-making app.

Keep it simple

Following the step of aligning your features with your app’s main purpose, it’s good to keep it simple. There’s no sense in trying to cram your app with an overload of interactive features, as it’ll only complicate the functionalities of your app and confuse your end-users. Next to stimulating the engagement of the end-users with your product, the essence of gamification lies in simplifying and facilitating certain tasks and actions. The more features your audience can interact with, the less they stay in touch with the actual purpose of your app. Interactivity is all about user engagement and experience, so putting a lot of your attention on a well-functioning UX design will definitely be beneficial in the long run.

Add value

An interactive or gamified feature is nothing without a certain value attached to it. Think about how you want your end-user to interact with your features and how you can give them the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. This process of attaching value to your app’s features is very human-centered, and involves a great deal of empathy towards your audience, following the principles of Design Thinking. Only when you fully understand the way your end-users think and how they experience the interaction with your app and its features, you can add a value of achievement to your app’s features.

Balance big rewards with quick rewards

A reward-system is one way to add value to your interactive app, and balance plays a key role in the division of big or small rewards. Simply providing your end-users with big rewards obtained after much effort can cause your audience to lose interest very quickly. A better idea is to fill in the empty space between interaction and reward with smaller rewards. This way, your end-users stay triggered to move forwards and keep using your app.

Motivate sharing

An essential way of bringing your app into the public eye is rewarding its users for sharing their achievements on channels outside of the app itself. Generally, very few people are actually keen on sharing things like these on, for example, social media channels. But once there’s a reward to earn in return, you’ll see there’s a sudden increase in users sharing their in-app experiences and achievements. Making your app visible on external channels like social media platforms can greatly boost the overall popularity and success of your application.

Monitor feedback

Once your app is launched and live, monitor its performance by collecting feedback from end-users. Based on that feedback, you can implement changes and continuously improve and optimise the functionalities of your application. Even before its launch it’s a good idea to let your audience interact with your app by the means interactive prototypes and iterative testing. The data you collect from these testing phases will give you a better insight into your end-users and how they experience the gamified features of your app.
 

Types of interactivity

Like we explained before, every category of applications have their own fitting type of gamification. You can even combine some of them into one app, as long as you remember to keep it simple and not overload your app with an excess of interactive features.

Reward systems and virtual goods

A reward system is probably the most popular way of gamifying an app and its features. Users have to perform a certain task or multiple tasks in order to qualify for a reward. This can be as simple as a notification that acknowledges the accomplishment of a task, or more complicated like a reward in the form of virtual goods. Examples of virtual goods are points or coins that you can use in the app or even outside of the app to purchase goods or services. For example, Pocket Points is a mobile app that rewards its users for not spending too much time on social media and other distracting apps. As a reward, end-users receive discounts for various products or services, from fast food restaurants to ride-hailing companies like Uber or Lyft. Apps like Pocket Points often focus on an equal balance of small rewards and big rewards. This way, its users stay motivated to use the app and step-by-step reach the achievement of bigger rewards.

Progress display and achievements

Progress display and achievementsProgress display and achievements
A so-called progress display and a build up to certain achievements are very popular ways of gamification amongst health apps, like step counters and exercise trackers. Most of these kinds of apps have an option to work towards a certain goal, like being able to run 5 miles within a limited time-span. Graphs and other linear visualisations keep its users up-to-date with their progress and motivates them to keep on going to eventually reach the end-goal. An example of an app like this is Run Keeper, which allows its users to create goals and track workouts, and have an insight in their progress. When you reach a certain milestone, like “longest distance” or “ fastest run”, you receive a notification with a digital medal. This challenges its users to do better every next time, to beat their previous milestone.

Competitive challenges and leaderboards

Other popular interactive features in gamified apps are competitive challenges and leaderboards. Everybody loves winning, and therefore implementing competitive features that let users work together or against each other are very useful for motivating the target audience to become and stay invested. Leaderboards are popular in running apps and other health apps, but also in productivity apps, which can be very beneficial for the productivity of your team. You can even work with real-life awards to give to your most productive employee, if you want your team’s productivity to skyrocket.

Self-expression and personalisation

A reward system is probably the most popular way of gamifying an app and its features. Users have to perform a certain task or multiple tasks in order to qualify for a reward. This can be as simple as a notification that acknowledges the accomplishment of a task, or more complicated like a reward in the form of virtual goods. Examples of virtual goods are points or coins that you can use in the app or even outside of the app to purchase goods or services. For example, Pocket Points is a mobile app that rewards its users for not spending too much time on social media and other distracting apps. As a reward, end-users receive discounts for various products or services, from fast food restaurants to ride-hailing companies like Uber or Lyft. Apps like Pocket Points often focus on an equal balance of small rewards and big rewards. This way, its users stay motivated to use the app and step-by-step reach the achievement of bigger rewards.

Real life influence

Real life influenceReal life influence
If you want to reward your end-users with something more meaningful than a celebrative notification here and there, and some discount on a coffee at Starbucks, try rewarding your audience with real-life influence. A great example of this interactive influential feature is the productivity app Forest. Forest rewards its users productivity with donating money to a real-life organization that plants trees all over the world. As a user, you choose your tree and let it grow with the time you are not being distracted. Once you avert from your tasks, your tree dies. Because this reward system gives its users a sense of good-doing and real life influence, it can channel an intense feeling of guilt when users don’t manage to accomplish their tasks.
 

Why you should consider gamifying your app

By now, it should be clear that turning certain features of your app into a game greatly improves the engagement of your end-users with your in-app features. Next to that, rewarding your end-users for sharing their achievements with their friends and family can be a very useful technique for raising the general awareness of the existence of your app. Users need stimulation in order to stay interested and engaged, and the implementation of interactive features is probably the most effective way to achieve this deeper connection between your end-users and your app.

Lizard Global & Gamification

At Lizard Global, we can help you turn your app idea into an interactive and engaging experience for your target audience. An example of gamified features we’ve developed for our clients includes immersive profile personalisation. We’ve been working on the implementation of a profile completion bar, which stimulates end-users to optimize their profiles by filling in as much information as possible and creating a complete digital representation of themselves. Especially applications that are based on mutual user interaction, profile completion is essential for achieving the optimal user experience.   Tracker Apps is one of our clients which we helped create an interactive platform, Skill Tracker, that enables students and teachers to track the ATL skill progress of students. Gamified elements in the app challenge and motivate students to track their skill development and reflect on their progress. Service Tracker, another platform developed together with Tracker Apps, is a journal and guided reflection process in one app. Students can use it to record their learning plans, activities, experiences and reflections.   Keep an eye on our Works page and find out what other gamified and interactive projects we’ve been working on and what services we provide. Curious what we can do for you? Don’t hesitate to contact us!