Gamification in UX: Types and Metrics for Boosting User Engagement

Kanishka Thakur
March 13, 2024
15 mins


Whether you’re building products in fintech, e-commerce, HealthTech, EdTech, or retail – captivating your audience and keeping them engaged is crucial. 

Gamification is an effective strategy to optimize your user experience for better user retention and engagement. By carefully integrating game design elements into your product’s flows, it is possible to make your users understand your product better, get the most out of its features, and thus upsell services.

ApnaKlub uses Nudge’s user experience platform to launch onboarding flows and conduct surveys without any bandwidth requirement for developers. They launched 120k+ surveys to improve activation and collect feedback – with an uplift in response rates by 100%. 

These benefits of gamification in UX are key to making a product successful. Hence, as a product owner, maker, or manager, you must understand this concept and how to apply it to boost user engagement.

What is gamification in UX?

At its core, gamification involves using game elements and mechanics in non-game contexts to drive user engagement and participation. When it comes to UX, gamification is about leveraging these game-like elements to enhance the overall user experience.

Rather than a distraction or gimmick, gamification is a strategic approach. It makes the interaction with your product more enjoyable, rewarding, and ultimately, sticky.

For example, finance is a complex subject which is understood by few. Now, you have a fintech app that aims to educate users on financial literacy and promote responsible spending. The challenge is not just getting users to download the app but keeping them actively engaged in learning and implementing sound financial practices.

To implement gamification in fintech, you can consider turning a boring onboarding flow into an interactive guided walkthrough. You can help users visualize their progress via a 'Financial Milestone' system. This rewards users with points and badges as they achieve financial goals like saving, budget adherence, or informed investments.

Thus you can see how using simple game design elements and integrating them with your user experience workflows will help you improve your fintech app’s usage and retention.

5 core components of gamification strategy in user experience

When implementing gamification, consider the below five core aspects and get them right:

1. Define your goals and objectives

First, you must have a clear reason to adopt a gamification strategy that aligns with your business’s goals and objectives. These could range from increasing user engagement and retention to encouraging specific user behaviors within your product.

2. Game elements

These are the building blocks of gamification. Examples include points, badges, leaderboards, challenges, and rewards. Each element serves a specific purpose, contributing to the overall gamified experience.

3. What motivates your user?

Understanding what motivates users is crucial. This could be a sense of achievement, competition, social status, or personalization. Aligning gamification elements with user motivations is key to successful implementation.

4. Design feedback mechanisms

Immediate and positive feedback is a cornerstone of gamification. Users should receive feedback on their actions promptly, reinforcing positive behaviors and providing guidance on improvement.

5. Progression and narrative

Gamification, at its essence, is about creating a narrative that users want to be a part of. Thus, having progression systems in place, such as leveling up or unlocking new challenges provides a sense of accomplishment and a clear path forward. Weaving a compelling narrative throughout the user journey enhances engagement. Your users feel like they are on a meaningful and rewarding adventure.

10 types of gamification mechanics for improving UX

Here, we will focus on implementing gamification to improve user experience workflows:

1. User onboarding gamification

User onboarding is a critical workflow that sets the tone for your product’s experience. It’s like creating a first impression – where mistakes can lead to drop-offs. Thus, instead of presenting users with a wall of text or a series of tutorial videos, consider integrating interactive elements that guide them through the essential features.

For example, let's explore implementing gamification in EdTech. Here, the app helps its users learn math via a virtual platform. During the onboarding process, rather than presenting users with a traditional tutorial, the platform could introduce a virtual math quest. Users embark on a journey through a gamified storyline where they encounter mathematical challenges and puzzles. Each completed challenge earns them points, unlocking the next chapter of the quest.

This helps introduce the users to various aspects of the app and its features. It gives them a glimpse of how the app works, while also getting them excited to continue using the app.

Using Nudge, you can implement interactive user onboarding elements like checklists, walkthroughs, or product tours to make onboarding seamless. You can track conversions, completion rates, or know exactly where users are dropping off to further improve the onboarding user experience.

2. Challenges 

Introducing challenges is a good way to motivate users to complete tasks they wouldn’t do otherwise. 

Challenges can vary in complexity and duration. It usually offers users a spectrum of tasks to complete. These challenges may include daily quests, weekly goals, or even collaborative challenges where users work together to accomplish a shared objective. Implementing these is a great way to foster community building and continuous motivation for those achieving those tasks.

When your users participate in these challenges, the progression and successful completion of them result in tangible rewards, recognition, or an elevated status within the product.

For example, here’s a concept of implementing challenges for gamification in fitness apps. The app has designed challenges based on different difficulty levels that users can choose to join. It also shows how many users are participating in the challenge, thus further motivating them to join in.

Image Source: Dribbble

Using Nudge, you can design a series of challenges as a part of your user experience workflow. Design tasks, write engaging copy, execute them in your app, and track conversions using a single platform.

3. Points and leaderboards

A points system involves assigning points to users based on their interactions and achievements within your product. Your users have to perform certain tasks to ‘earn’ these points.

The points system acts as a dynamic progress tracker. When users accumulate points, they can visualize their journey, know the exact points accumulated, and understand their relative standing compared to others. For comparison, you can use a leaderboard system to enable your users to see where they stand among your app’s user community. This transparency in progress tracking instills a sense of control and encourages users to continue engaging with the product to reach new milestones.

Another benefit of the points system is that it is suitable for ‘incentivizing’ certain user behavior. Whether it's completing onboarding tasks, exploring different features, or participating in community activities, users are motivated by the prospect of earning points.

Many credit card brands have a ‘points’ system which users have to earn by completing transactions using their cards. They often introduce different tiers based on accumulated points, where users can unlock exclusive benefits. For example, reaching a certain point threshold could provide access to lower interest rates, higher credit limits, or complimentary financial planning services.

CRED is also an example of a credit card management app that provides ‘CRED Coins’ for completing transactions and consistently paying credit card bills on time. This promotes responsible financial behavior and incentivizes users to stay on top of their payments.

The points system is quite an easy game to design using user experience platforms like Nudge. We can help you launch workflows for setting up a points system and also showcase interactive leaderboards across daily or monthly charts.

4. Quests or journeys

You may have come across apps that involve storytelling as you progress through it. You can similarly apply such narrative-driven experiences to provide users with a structured and purposeful path through your product. As they participate in the quest, it encourages them to explore your app features in a cohesive and rewarding manner. 

Now, each completed quest or journey milestone gives users a sense of accomplishment. This positive reinforcement encourages continued engagement and motivates users to complete the entire journey. 

Further, quests or journeys help you cater to a variety of user persona types. You can design different journeys for a different user persona and show them value in a personalized way.

Let’s consider an example of gamification in healthtech via SuperBetter – a mental wellness app that uses goal setting and quests to motivate its users to achieve well-being. Users can join daily challenges, create their own goals, or join quests. They earn power-ups which are further designed to help you develop desired habits.

5. Badges

Setting up a badge system targets the human’s psychological need to feel accomplished and important. You can reward desired user behavior by providing badges. These are virtual tokens awarded to users for completing specific actions or reaching significant milestones. It motivates users to explore more features and engage with the product consistently to earn more badges.

The public display of badges also helps create a social element – where it allows users to showcase their expertise or accomplishments to their peers. This social validation fosters a sense of community and encourages them to share across other social channels. Badges are a great way to nurture healthy competition among users as a part of your app’s user experience.

For example, LinkedIn recognizes its influencers, or people who are actively engaging and creating quality content on the platform via its ‘LinkedIn Top Voice’ badge system. It gives credible voices with experience across several industries and topics a ‘Blue Badge’ to recognize their contributions to the LinkedIn community.

6. Streaks

Streaks are suitable for including a game design that helps form habits in your users. The concept is simple but highly effective: users are rewarded for consecutive, repeated actions. The more they progress in the streak, the more likely they are to continue using your platform. 

Each day of a streak represents a small achievement. Then, it reinforces positive behavior which further motivates them to continue. Now, the fear of breaking a streak creates a psychological phenomenon known as loss aversion. Here, users become more committed to maintaining their streak, as the perceived loss of the streak can be a powerful motivator.

Duolingo is a good example that uses ‘streaks’ to help its new and existing users nurture a habit of completing lessons daily. The app prominently displays users' current streaks on the main dashboard. It provides a visual representation of their consecutive days of learning. A flame icon next to the streak indicates the ongoing commitment, making it easily noticeable and encouraging users to maintain or extend their streak.

Duolingo also leverages loss aversion to motivate users to engage with the app consistently. Users receive visual alerts if they are at risk of losing their streak. It encourages them to return to the app and complete a lesson to maintain continuity.

Nudge can also help you design such streaks if you want to develop habits in your app’s users. Without coding, you can implement it and track how effectively it is helping your users perform core value tasks.

7. Quizzes and polls

Quizzes serve as a dynamic tool for educating users about your product's features or conveying important information. By presenting information in a question-and-answer format, users actively engage with the content, and they will tend to remember it too. 

Another way to use quizzes is to understand the user's preferences. For example, TravelTriangle is a travel company that helps people design travel itineraries and access pre-made packages. It's a good example of using gamification in the travel industry, where using q form-based quizzes to curate its travel packages. Post that, it also asks for short questions via polls to understand the results shared.

You can use polls to ask for user feedback instantly without disrupting their usual flow. Polls encourage users to share their opinions, creating a sense of involvement and empowerment. 

Nudge helps you design in-app feedback polls or interactive quizzes as a part of your user experience. You can use such in-app interactions to reward quiz participants based on results or showcase a leaderboard.

8. Scratch cards

Scratch cards are a familiar concept in lotteries and such games that include an element of ‘chance’. This gamification mechanic involves users virtually "scratching off" a concealed area on their screens to reveal hidden rewards, bonuses, or special offers. 

Scratch cards are great for delivering rewards interactively when your users complete a specific task, make a purchase, or reach a certain level within an app. 

Google Pay is a popular example of the use of scratch cards as its core gamification mechanic. For every transaction, you climb through its journey stages and receive unique offers when unlocked. 

With Nudge, you can seamlessly implement scratch cards as a part of your user experience flow. Without code, you can design your scratch card-based reward system and improve user retention.

9. Coupons

Providing coupons is the most common way to gamify your user experience. Offering discounts, special promotions, or exclusive access through coupons not only adds an element of excitement but also encourages users to take specific actions within your product. Eventually, this helps you increase the average order value from the users as you can upsell products, introduce new launches, and more.

Coupons often come with expiration dates or limited availability, creating a sense of urgency. This urgency can drive users to act quickly, whether it's making a purchase, trying out a new feature, or referring friends to take advantage of time-sensitive discounts.

For example, Zomato provides ‘Daily Offers’ which includes time-limited food coupons from its partner brands. It also provides coupons after placing an order which you can access separately on your profile section. These offers are from food brands who are sellers on their platform, thus incentivizing users to place more food orders. Notice how they also have ‘expiry’ on them to induce FOMO to use these food coupons.

Using Nudge, you can instantly implement a coupon-based reward system to engage your users. Provide discount codes, write engaging copies, and design overall workflows in a single platform.

10. Gamified referrals

Word of mouth is a powerful force in marketing – and gamified referrals take this concept to the next level by turning user recommendations into a game. This gamification mechanic type leverages users' social networks to expand your product's reach. Here, you encourage them to share their positive experiences with friends and colleagues and reward them when they sign up.

When users receive recommendations from friends or colleagues within the context of a game, it adds an element of social proof. This can significantly increase trust and make potential users (user’s network) more likely to try the product.

Apart from transactional benefits like increasing signups for your app or rewards for the users, gamified referrals foster a sense of community. It encourages users to invite others to join. Users feel more connected to the product and its community as the network expands, enhancing their overall engagement.

For example, Dropbox is a prime example of how gamified referrals can lead to significant user growth. In its early stages, Dropbox introduced a referral program that rewarded users with additional storage space for every friend they referred who signed up. The gamified element was the promise of unlocking more storage, turning the act of referring friends into a rewarding game. This strategy played a crucial role in Dropbox's rapid user acquisition.

Nudge helps you implement such gamified referral marketing strategies and increase your signups and engagement.

How to measure the impact of Gamification on UX?

There are qualitative and quantitative methods to measure and understand how effective gamification is for improving user experience.

Qualitative methods to measure gamification impact on UX

  1. Conduct user interviews:

You can choose a set of existing users and gauge the effectiveness of your gamification strategy using in-app surveys. You need to design questions that bring out their perceptions, emotions, and experiences for your gamified workflows. Then place these surveys at the right flow when a user interacts with the experience. For example, you can ask users about their thoughts when earning a reward or achieving a milestone on your app. Understand if the gamified elements enhance their overall satisfaction and if they find them motivating or distracting. Note that in-app surveys should be short and not disturb the user’s current workflow.

  1. Social media listening

If your gamified elements involve sharing on social media, then you must use social media listening tools to determine their effectiveness. Are your users actively sharing their referral codes on their social channels and beyond? If not, you must revise your strategy or find ways to activate referrals.

For example, you can track mentions related to a gamified marketing campaign. If your app supports user-generated content, then analyze it to understand how individuals are sharing their experiences and whether the gamification is contributing to positive brand sentiment.

  1. Capture heatmaps 

You can use heat mapping tools to observe users interacting with gamified elements in a natural environment without intervention. This method helps capture authentic user behavior and responses in real-world scenarios. 

For example, you can observe users as they navigate through an e-commerce platform with gamified features like coupons or scratch cards. Look for patterns in how users are redeeming these coupons, know if they are dropping off, or how much time they take to make a decision to opt for the coupons. 

Quantitative methods to measure gamification impact on UX

  1. Conversion rates

Gamification should help improve conversion rates for specific actions or goals within your product. This is the percentage of people who sign up or upgrade to complete desired actions. It could be making a purchase or completing a tutorial.

  1. User retention

Assess user retention by examining metrics such as daily, weekly, and monthly active users. Determine if gamification contributes to prolonged user engagement over time.

  1. Completion rates

For the gamification experiences, measure the completion rates of specific tasks within them. This metric indicates how successful users are in accomplishing the objectives set by the gamified elements.

For example, you can evaluate the percentage of users who complete a series of gamified tasks in an educational app. More completion rates among users indicate the effectiveness of gamification in promoting user participation.

You can measure other engagement metrics such as time spent on the gamified elements, the number of clicks, and the depth of interaction. These metrics provide insights into the intensity and quality of user engagement. You can also perform user cohort analysis to compare engagement for a gamified version with a non-gamified version. Analyze quantitative data to identify statistically significant differences in user behavior.

Get started with implementing gamification for user experience design

Nudge provides you with a single platform to launch and optimize user experience workflows for your product. Without using developer bandwidth, you can quickly design, test, execute, and track your gamification strategies to improve user experience, acquisition, engagement, and retention – book a demo today.

Kanishka Thakur
March 13, 2024