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G amify Your Product

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Nick Cotton Aug 3, 2015


Hybrid cars had a problem. They delivered astonishing gas mileage, but to gain the full benefits the driver had to be gentle on the accelerator. Fast starts burn gas and the electrical engine didn’t engage until the car reached cruising speed. Drivers like to gun it. Cars are sold on the basis of how fast they can go from 0 to 60 mph. It’s baked into our culture. So how do you get these speed freaks to ease off? You make a game out of it.

To get drivers to easy off the accelerator, car companies placed a little digital plant that filled up with green light the better your gas mileage became. Nothing obtrusive or judgmental. But if that plant is glowing, you know you are getting the most out of your hybrid vehicle. If your digital ficus has gone dark, you had no one to blame but your own lead foot.

Gamification is a flexible way of addressing weaknesses in your product. The uses can be subtle like the one described above, or you can choose to take the strategy more literally. A perfect example is Adobe’s approach to popularizing the Pen Tool.

I was introduced to Photoshop with the Lasso. It’s a perfect starting point because it made intuitive sense. There’s a shape I need to interact with, I circle it with the Lasso tool and “yee haw little doggie!” that portion of the image is mine to manipulate as needed. The task can be daunting, depending on how steady your hand is, but the execution couldn’t be simpler to explain.

The Pen Tool, however, is a far harder beast to tame. It’s totally counter intuitive. The learning curve is steep and it’s clumsily named. (Seriously Adobe, what does “setting anchors” have to do with using a pen?)

But Adobe’s Pen tool is unquestionably better of the two tools. So how does Adobe lure someone stuck in his cowboy ways and prove the Pen is mightier than the Lasso?. In this instance they created a literal game.

They took a design tool and turned it into an actual arcade game. When you inevitably crash your spaceship, it gives you your score. Like Pac-Man! Does that make me sound old? Like Angry Birds!

Our interns love it. And I, personally, have been cured of my frustration thanks to this brilliant gamification.

To gain the benefits of gamification for your own product, follow these three steps:

1) Identify pain-points in your pipeline
Hybrids: Drivers accelerate too quickly
Adobe: The pen tool has too steep a learning curve.

2) Set goals you for your customer
Hybrids: Accelerate gently to improve gas mileage
Adobe: Make practicing fun so using the pen tool feels natural

3) Provide motivating feedback
Hybrids: Green light means great gas mileage
Adobe: Every stage gives you a score. Improve your technique and improve your score.

How can gamification help the use or adoption of your product?

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