Behaviour by Design

Product design that affects Behaviour

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Gamification is not about points but feedback

Every action causes an effect and we sense it, this is feedback.

In product design is very important to pay particular attention to feedback, we need to convey to the user that the task has been completed or when something has gone wrong. This is the reason why things beep, virtual buttons are shown to be pushed down, and even why when we are loading we get a little animation to help us realize that it's still working. Feedback is great to prevent the anxiety that arise whenever the user takes an action. Intentionally designing feedback to show the effects of user’s actions is design 101 yet there is much more to do with it.

Games and feedback

Games uses feedback not only to keep the user informed of what is happening but also to entertain. Casino industry is particularly good at transforming a relative simple message, “you won 30 credits” into a show of lights and colors, a celebration worthy of an epic win and hide the losses as it almost didn`t happened. This follows a well documented psychological phenomena, we think that events that are easy to recall are more probable. Making the wins memorable, Casinos entertain and help cement the idea that winning is more probable that it actually is.

Products that change feedback

There are products that exaggerate the expected feedback to cause surprise in the user and skyrocket the usage for a little while, after the new feedback is consider normal and the effect fades off.

Changing the expected feedback is a great way of turning an everyday experience into a ludic one. If you want your product to be played with, this is a great approach


Gamification is not about badges, scores and points, is about using feedback to create subsequent interactions. A designer thinking to gamify a system should ask himself:
“what sort of feedback can I design to keep the user compelled with a task that is not providing enough motivation by itself?”. To gamify a product is to create a new layer of feedback in order to compensate for an uninteresting task. This is not a bad thing, most task that are carry good consequences for the users are not all that fun.

Consider the example of Zombie Run! a running app that helps their users run not only to get fit but to continue to listen to a story. This app is providing new immediate feedback to a task which benefits are not easily seen through session. Another strong point of this example is focusing the new feedback tangentially to the original task, you have to run to get supplies during a zombie apocalypse. Merging the original task into the game, instead of just using it as a requirement to play, making it easier for the user to adopt.

In summary, Gamification is about using feedback to create subsequent interactions not about points and badges. The designer should merge the task to be performed into the game layer in a way that makes sense to both task and game. In later articles I’ll discuss some of the techniques I use while designing a gamification solution, using feedback as guide.