expert gamification screen to illustrate why it is not just leaderboards and badges

The daily grind of to-do lists, mundane routines and endless notifications can leave us yearning for a touch of excitement in our digital interactions. As the tech landscape becomes ever more crowded, it’s becoming more and more important for brands to find ways of standing out and connecting with their users. ‘Gamification’ seems to be the word that crops up in a lot of conversations – but are brands incorporating it in the correct way?

The basics: What is gamification?

Gamification is the process of applying game design elements and principles in non-gaming contexts for the enjoyment of a user, to boost engagement.

To put it into context, think about the mundane digital tasks you do, that you may not realise have been made more enjoyable for you:

  1. Emails: You receive a junk email, instead of opening the email on your phone and selecting the delete button, you swipe to delete directly from your inbox. Not only is this interaction faster, but you also experience a slight haptic vibration as the deletion happens and a small UI animation confirms it has been removed from your inbox.
  2. Maps: You open Google maps and search for a postcode, instead of giving you the first direction of the journey, the UI displays a choice of three possible routes stating the duration for each trip and highlights any high traffic areas, putting you in control of the roads you want to drive.

These are just two examples of gamification in everyday activities, there will be a tonne of tasks that could be added to this list if you think about your daily routine across your devices.

Examples: Understanding gamification

As the digital world continues to evolve, we can expect gamification to become an even more integral part of brand strategy. Products are leaning into their user’s natural tendencies for competition, achievement, collaboration and accomplishment. It’s no longer about having a usable interface but also creating a memorable and rewarding experience for users that want to come back and engage with your product.

On the surface gamification may just look like leaderboards and reward badges but it is so much more than that. Here are a few techniques we’ve used across our digital products here at Rant:

Encouraging ownership: Stone 360 app – Virtual woodland

We wanted to take reward badges one step further, with every piece of tech recycled with the Stone 360 app, the user earns points. Physical trees are planted in partnership with National Forest & Ecologi for every purchase made and are digitally displayed in the user’s personal virtual woodland. We wanted to create a reward area in the app that visualised the greater value of the disposal process.

Stone 360, mobile app

User accomplishment: Screen Alliance Wales platform – User profiles

Setting up user profiles can be daunting, we made this process frictionless for SAW users by splitting the tasks into manageable steps that they could complete at their own pace when registering for the platform.

Screen Alliance Wales, desktop platform

Informative UI: Veygo app – Active policies

Knowing when your car insurance is going to expire is key for all drivers. We added progress bars to all active policies to highlight the remaining duration and to encourage repeat purchases.

Veygo, mobile app

Onboarding with ease: Socialight app – User registration

Creating a personalised experience often means discovering information about a user before taking them into a product. During user registration we onboard Socialight users with a series of questions about themselves and their preferences to create a tailored experience.

Socialight, mobile app

Make data input fun: PADI AWARE app – Dive site locations

Some apps require a lot of data entry but there is no reason why this process can’t be enjoyable. We decided to take something as simple as entering a dive location and transform it into a map drawing feature, eliminating the friction point of entering complex dive site area values.

PADI AWARE, mobile app

The risk: When gamification fails

Gamification, while effective in boosting engagement, carries the risk of users prioritising rewards and incentives over the genuine value or purpose of the task or activity, potentially undermining the intended outcomes. To get to the core of the problem you’re trying to solve, start with what motivates your users. It’s important that the game elements actually encourage the desired behaviour, poorly designed gamification can become a distraction and means wasted time and money for your brand.

Imagine opening your banking app and finding out that one of the new features is a community leaderboard that ranks you and your peers by how much money you have in your current account – that would be bonkers! It just wouldn’t be right for the core purpose of the app. Next time you’re designing a UI, ask yourself: Is this right for the key motivations of the user base?

In conclusion

As technology continues to evolve, the innovative applications of gamification are likely to become even more prevalent, reshaping experiences that go beyond mere functionality. It’s our role, as designers, to guide brands when discovering user’s core motivations and craft experiences that are not just usable, but enjoyable.

The journey of exploring the right gamification techniques can be difficult, multiple features and ideas can be layered in a single product, over time, to create the perfect balance of functionality and delight. Remember each button press and each swipe is all part of the user’s journey, it’s the small details when combined together that form the larger storytelling of how a user feels and their connection to a brand over time.

Key takeaways

  • Gamification is the process of applying game design elements and principles in non-gaming contexts for the enjoyment of a user, to boost engagement.
  • Choosing the right gamification method, that’s right for your user motivations, is the key to its success.
  • Test small gamification techniques in a product over time to build a layered experience, find the right balance between functionality and user enjoyment


Read more here if you would like to learn the best gamification for UX