Product Gamification


When developing products, we at Acronis always strive to understand what is behind a really good design? If you were also looking for the answer to this question, then you probably studied this topic and came across the most common concept of a pyramid of good design.

The hierarchy of elements of good design (bottom to top)

This concept has several variations, but in general its principle is that good design has several characteristics arranged in a hierarchical order. Therefore, they are usually represented in the form of a pyramid, as in the figure above.

According to one of the variations of this concept, starting from the base of the pyramid, there are the following elements of a good (product) design:

  • The product should have a visually pleasing interface.
  • Provide declared functionality and cover user needs
  • Work as smoothly and naturally as possible, while supporting the capabilities and limitations of the platforms on which the product is used
  • Engage and create value for the user.

The first three elements are technically easier to implement, so the main question:

In what state of our mind do we feel involved and see value? How to bring our users to this state?

Part of the answer to this question is contained in the following definition, which describes this condition: “… free activity, which is recognized as being beyond the limits of” ordinary “life.” Frivolous “, but at the same time completely exciting playing.”

Such a definition games formulated by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga. In his book “The Man Playing”, published in 1943, he emphasizes the importance of the game as a social phenomenon and makes several fundamental statements:

  • The game arose earlier than man – for example, animals also play and, according to Darwin’s theory, we inherited the game from the animal world
  • The spirit of gaming rivalry is a powerful social momentum that has become driving force for the emergence and existence of civilization
  • Game and cognition are closely related – during the game, the mind is immersed in ideas, rules and actions. This condition is inseparable from creativity and new skills.

“Animals also play”, by Daniel Hansen

These statements lead us to other interesting questions:

What makes a game so unique?

The game always has a focus. The game draws imagination and relaxes

The man himself chooses the game and its direction

The game is based on what a person wants, and not on what he thinks he should do. Players not only decide whether to start the game, but also choose how to play. This is the essence of the statement about the self-governance of the game. And, of course, the main freedom of the game is the freedom to get out of it.

The game itself is motivation

People play for the sake of the game itself, rather than for some external reward. The game has goals, but they are perceived as part of this activity, and not as its main reason.

The game is built according to the rules

Despite the fact that the form of the game is not arbitrary, and the game has a structure and foundation, each player has room for creativity.

The game is imagination

The game always involves the player’s mental departure from the real world and the adoption of a fictitious situation.

The game is active, but not intense activity

Since the game is not a response to external requests, the player is not subject to strong pressure or stress. That is why this state is ideal for creativity and new skills.

Obviously, if all these basic characteristics of the game are realized, the interaction of the user with the product will be truly fascinating.

How to create a gaming experience

According to experts in cognitive processes, for the true involvement of the participants in the game there should be several main components. We list them.

Good mental model

Mental models are fundamental to play and learning

Psychologists say that our brain simplifies reality so that we can comprehend it. Thus, our mind does not work with reality itself, but with its models. These models are called mental. According to the theory of mental models, it is always easier for us to recognize what we have already encountered. In addition, pattern recognition is very important for quick learning. Therefore, when creating a design:

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use generally accepted design standards and practices. So you optimize the learning process for users.
  • Keep your components and user interaction patterns consistent.. You do not need to use different solutions for the same problems, so you confuse users.
  • Always important understand what skills and experience your user has. Before development, find out what software your customers have used and their level of knowledge. Find patterns and mental models that can be reused to simplify the development of your product and speed up the learning process.
  • If you want to create an innovative design, pay attention to mental models. Take a look around and find a model that suits your design. Some of the popular mental models that are now used in design were taken from the non-digital sphere. Remember how music apps copy traditional music players and online shopping baskets for shopping. All this seems very natural, because people got used to it long before the digital age.

Stream of attention

An ideal stream of attention exists between anxiety and boredom.

To understand the world around us, our brain acts selectively, ignoring one and paying more attention to the other. This condition is called stream of attention. In order not to lose the interest of users, especially when they need to perform certain tasks, follow these rules:

  • Set clear goals
  • Avoid factorsthat distract from the task
  • Give Feedback Promptly. Instant feedback makes it easier for users to stay focused.
  • Create Progress Dynamics

To understand the dynamics of progress, remember the belts of different colors that are given to students in martial arts. Imagine what would happen if they had been training for many years for the sake of a single black belt. Such a goal would seem unattainable. Thanks to different belts, students receive awards on the way to mastering martial art. Belts are tangible, achievable goals. With them comes satisfaction from the success achieved.

To track progress in the easiest way:

  • Break big and difficult tasks into several small and simple subtasks so that users can easily complete them
  • Consider user skills when developing. Remember, users will be interested in using the product or part of its functionality only if they can work with it. Avoid excessive design complexity
  • On the other hand, keep B2B products in line with professional skills and customer needs. Would you really be interested in the yellow belt if you are able to get green? Consider user skills

Empathy Prediction

How empathy works

To understand how empathy works, look at the picture above. It reflects how we empathize with others. Imagine: you heard on TV that a stranger won the lottery. It is unlikely that you will be very interested in this. Now imagine that your friend or even yourself won the lottery. A simple rule applies – the smaller the circle, the higher the likelihood that you will show empathy for another person.

Empathy is an amazing human ability to put oneself in the place of others.

As for design, products also have character. Moreover, the main factor in their success is the ability to easily establish a connection between users and this character. Take, for example, the automotive industry with its diverse vehicle models. For many years, automakers have made great efforts to create products that have the features that consumers can identify with.

In order for the product to be successful, try to identify the distinctive features of your customers, because:

  • Some people identify with certain traits or vice versa, avoid them
  • Trust is connected with character
  • Consumers choose products that are their continuation

Choose different design approaches to suit different traits. For example, an application for ordering pizza and an application for accounting and systematizing these orders should obviously look and work differently.


Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs

In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote a work, The Theory of Human Motivation, in which he proposed a hierarchy of human needs (see figure above). He introduced five levels of human needs – physiological needs, the need for security, the need for social connections, the need for respect and social status, as well as the need for self-realization. In addition, he insisted that people cannot strive to satisfy the needs of a higher level of the pyramid until lower needs are satisfied. For example, if you are starving, security does not bother you, and if you do not feel safe, you are unlikely to care about social status or self-realization.

Motivation and game are undoubtedly closely related. The essence of some games is in achievements and improvement, such games are on the fourth or fifth level. Others below: games that make you feel connected with people in the third stage.

How to use the principles of motivation in product design?

  • Feeling connected with other people motivates. Imagine being able to create a community around your product
  • If possible, let users apply creativity. So they can meet the needs of the fourth and fifth level


The introduction of basic gaming components can help professionals create an intuitive, truly exciting and motivating user experience. Gamification brings elements of entertainment, testing and mysteries, so it can be used to create the following things:

  • Learning tools – as already mentioned, the game and training are closely related
  • Adaptation Experience – training is also important here, therefore, the principles of the dynamics of progress, empathy and motivation are applied
  • Wizards settings – the correct application of the principle of dynamics of progress in wizards helps users to focus and comfortably perform tasks proposed by the system
  • Marketing strategies – the principles of the dynamics of progress and motivation are actively used in online marketing to accelerate the achievement of goals by users, for example, the purchase of goods at a discount until the end of the promotion
  • Communities – companies often try to form a community around their products, because they know that this will indirectly satisfy the basic needs of customers and, therefore, strengthen their relationship with the product

And there should not be restrictions. According to Huizinga, the game is so deeply rooted in people’s lives, so important for human behavior, that it can become part of almost any experience that you create.

Recommended Reading

  • “Homo ludens. The Man Playing, “Johan Huizinga
  • The Art of Game Design by Jess Shell
  • “Bait for users. Creating an Attractive Website ”, Stephen P. Anderson

By the way

We are blogging Acronis design English to Medium. This means that all new articles first appear in English and only after some time, partially, are translated into Russian. Feel free to follow us! Will be interesting!

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