Using Game Mechanics in Website Design

Posted by Kate Jurras on Tue, Jan 25, 2011

Guest post by Michael Flint, Owner/Principal of Metropolis Creative.

It's hard work getting new visitors to your website, and it can be even harder to keep them coming back for more. The latest trend is "game mechanics," an entertaining way to facilitate interaction with your audience.

What Is It?

asteroids resized 600Game mechanics is the art of turning customer interaction into a game. Customers are encouraged to take an action (such as comment or share information) and are then rewarded with intangible items such as badges on their profiles or listings in a website's leaderboard. It's much like when you used to get high scores in Asteroids; people like to see their name in lights.

Many Wesites Are Using It Now

Foursquare and SCVNGR award badges that appear on a user's profile for everything from the number of checkins to rewards for specific activities. Groupon uses a visual sand dial countdown to show how much time is left, the total number of deals bought, and to encourage you to buy quickly and become one of the winning deal recipients. And companies like RunKeeper allow you to send progress updates to your Twitter and Facebook status every time you use their product. Free advertising for them, bragging rights for you.

What Easy Things Can I Do to Help My Company?

Social integration is an easy first step. Allow users to tweet about and "like" your content on Facebook. This simple code snippet can be added to any website and it takes up very little screen space. Companies in the retail sector can create a Mayorship program similar to the one on FourSquare. It can be as simple as tracking your most frequent users and offering them special deals. Promote the deal winners publicly on a leaderboard on your site and announce them via your social portals. If you reward the people who are most vocal about your company, they'll continue spreading the word for you. More advanced promotion techniques can involve apps or Facebook pages with customized games or interactive content.

The key is to make it entertaining. Create a contest of video submissions and vote on the best ones. Office Max used Jib Jab to create the Elf Yourself masterpiece. (The site is down until next holiday season.) Game mechanics is not for every company or service, but some form of it can be very effective in most industries. Remember, getting your customers to return to your website is only valuable if they buy or share. You must pay attention to conversion tools throughout the experience. Forms of conversion can include viral sharing, signing up for a newsletter, and of course - picking up the phone to call you.


MC resized 600Michael Flint founded Metropolis Creative in 1999. He holds a BFA in Graphic Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology and has won numerous design awards.

Metropolis Creative, located in Boston's South End, creates compelling web, print and graphic design to attract and retain target audiences. Web Blog Facebook Twitter