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What is App Gamification? Its Benefits, Plus 3 Top Examples

What is App Gamification? Its Benefits, Plus 3 Top Examples

App gamification is a powerful tool in your arsenal to acquire, engage, and retain users. The gamification tactics can apply to nearly every kind of app. Furthermore, when you employ this powerful approach, you can leverage the power of behavioral psychology to provide an ethical hook to keep them engaged. Here is what you need to know about app gamification, with some great examples of gamified apps that do it well.

What is App Gamification?

App gamification is applying game dynamics principles to mobile apps to encourage users to return to the app again and again. When done correctly, it promotes a habit-forming level of engagement. The cycle includes an initial trigger, an action, a variable reward, and then a push to continue usage. By incorporating gamification in your app, you can drive increased traffic and user engagement.

To gamify your app, you need to start with specific design elements and then proceed with the gamification workflow. The typical app gamification design elements include things like:

  • Points — Basic rewards a user gets for accomplishments
  • Badges — Visual representation of a user’s achievements that indicate performance
  • Performance Charts — Graphs that show performance relative to previous results
  • Scoreboards or Leaderboards — Lists with rankings comparing a user to others during a period of time
  • Levels or Progress Display — Parts of the app where, with every increase, there is added complexity
  • Currency — Means of “payment” for benefits

Each of these design elements got their start in games, though they can be effectively applied to other apps as well. User experience is an important consideration for any app design, and a solid understanding of behavioral design is essential. Understanding where behavioral design meshes perfectly with UX design is key to making a good app great.

5 Benefits of Gamified Apps

When mobile app gamification is done well, it can motivate and influence people. And when you start with a great UX design and incorporate gamification, it’s a powerful combination. 

  1. Improves engagement — Gamified apps have users that want to keep coming back for more.
  2. Increases users — Not only are users more motivated to stay with gamified apps, but they tell their friends about them as well.
  3. Fosters competition — Sharing a leaderboard motivates people with a competitive drive to outperform other users.
  4. Creates a sense of control — No one likes to be told what to do. Instead, users have a feeling of control over their experience using the app.
  5. Increases motivation — By providing users with the means to encourage their behavior, they are more motivated to continue using the app.

Not only does app gamification boost engagement, but when you add social aspects to your app, it’s a powerful way to increase your reach. Gamified apps may also be more interesting than apps without any extra design aspects. So, they are especially effective for education, fitness, and life improvement apps.

Using Gamification to Boost App Engagement

Borrowing elements from games and incorporating them into your app design is an effective strategy to boost current users’ engagement, increasing the app’s “stickiness.”  It can be useful for increasing the number of users, especially if there is a means to share out on social networks within the app. People love to share apps that they enjoy, and this word-of-mouth advertising will help you increase users. In turn, incorporating social sharing also helps engagement due to social influence.

It’s a good idea to use multiple gaming design elements, as different people respond to different things. Some want recognition through rewards, while others are competitive and want to see their rankings relative to other people. By incorporating multiple gaming design elements in your app, you can appeal to a wider audience and keep them coming back for more. These triggers help users develop a powerful relationship with your app while helping to attract and maintain users.

3 App Gamification Examples

There are examples of apps leveraging gamification in many industries. The following app gamification examples highlight language learning, fitness, and productivity apps that stand out among the rest.


UX and UI design work for a mobile app

Duolingo is an app that helps people practice their language skills. Tracking progress is front-and-center on the home page, where you can see your progress and strength on each language skill. Because regular practice is so important, it encourages daily usage by lowering your strength on skills you haven’t practiced recently. Users gain experience points for completing lessons and go through levels as their skills advance. They can also win virtual currency to spend in a virtual shop. Duolingo enables users to set goals and provides reminders through daily push notifications. Highly-customized regular email reminders are sent with suggestions to encourage continued use. There is also a social leaderboard, so users can compare their progress to others. The combination of all of these gamification tools makes for a highly engaging and very sticky app.


the design for an app\'s user interface

Fitbit is a wearable fitness tracker connected to an app that leverages a number of gamification features. These tools are used to motivate people to exercise and to keep them engaged. Users get badges when they complete specific activities like walking a certain number of steps. The distances align to real places, such as the length of Serengeti National Park. Fitbit also offers original challenges where users can virtually walk around a place of their choice, like New York City. This allows users to stay fit while exploring a new place, making it more interesting. Fitbit also provides social engagement, as users can link with their friends that use Fitbit to compete in various challenges. These design features provide interest, competition, and a network of people to keep users exercising. 


UX design showing how app gamification works

Todoist is a productivity app that helps users complete tasks and projects in daily life, whether that be for work, home, or school. It uses a point-based reward system where users get karma points for completed tasks, and there are also negative points for missed deadlines. Attaining certain amounts of karma points provides access to higher levels. And there is a social engagement feature to share their karma scores with friends on social media. This app makes achievement a lot more fun while encouraging regular use with the scoring and social aspects.

App gamification is a great way to make an app more fun to use. By incorporating gaming design elements, you can boost engagement and attract new users. It can be the difference between making a good app that people enjoy and making a great app that people can’t get enough of.

Want to learn more about how we integrate gamification into mobile app design or talk about your project idea? Get in touch

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