Want Great UX? Delight Customers With Game-Like Web Design

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When customers arrive at your website, there are a few key factors that determine the quality of their experience: is it informative; is it intuitive; is it aesthetically pleasing; and is using the site an enjoyable overall experience. Scoring high on all four of these criteria is the best way to ensure customers will be back. But how do you set your site apart from all of your competitors?

One option for creating a high impact user experience is a practice known as gamification. Gamification is the practice of turning aspects of your website into pleasing, playable games. From the playground to popular consoles, web designers are drawing from a wide variety of play spaces to engage and delight customers.

Understanding Engagement

When conceptualizing UX, it’s important to tap into what keeps customers engaged. Too often designers’ focus exclusively on functionality to the detriment of interest and this is where you’re losing customers to more engaging sites. To simplify, Martin Gittins describes those extras that cause delight as “unrequired functionality.”

Gamification offers delight by creating an intuitive experience of managed excess. These are the sites that make users say ‘Wow!’ and incite them to share the experience with friends. No one is showing off your clearly written, intuitive webpage because this is viewed as the minimum you can do for customers as a business. Sound practice is nothing to brag about.

By drawing from games, however, designers tap into something deep in the user – a kind of childlike joy – even if they’ve come to your page to do something entirely adult, like research your web security system.

Getting Inspired

Not sure where to start on this UX experiment? Take some time to get inspired. You’ll likely find that many of the same features that interest and engage you will also be popular with your customers.

One place to start is with games created specifically for web designers and those with similar interests, such as Kern Type, a game about letter spacing, or Pixactly, a game that tasks you with drawing specifically sized boxes based on pixel measurements. These sites are pure game, but they offer the kind of simple, intuitive play you’ll want to apply to your own site’s UX.

Another option for the more kinesthetic designer is to take a trip to the playground. Many of the physical features of your typical play structure, such as ladders, bridges, and climbing surfaces make great components for adventuresome web games. Tech types may not get out much, but we all have fond playground memories from childhood that can be formed anew on the web.

Gamification – The Journey

After you’ve explored your options, it’s time to create the perfect UX game for your site. The key? Staying focused on a few key factors – the added engagement provided by the game, for example, also needs to enhance user experience. It shouldn’t just extend the time they spend on your site in a meaningless fashion. Rather, it should integrate into your company story and your navigation in fluid and exciting ways.

Does your customer now have to climb a ladder to reach your About Us page? That’s fine, but make sure they can climb it with one or two clicks. Another part of good gamification is keeping things efficient. Your customers still have things to get done, so this shouldn’t become a drain on their valuable time. The game is part of the overall story, the conversation you’re having with your customer, and it shouldn’t drag on.

When working on the game components of your site, don’t forget to pay attention to all the usual factors. For example, if your site game is somewhat medieval in theme, steer clear of old-fashioned fonts. They may be in character, but they make your site unreadable. You’ll notice that any time you navigate to a standard web page inspiration site, the pages featured all use highly readable fonts with good contrast and size. Embrace your game concept, but don’t take it too far.

In 2016, UX will be a central determinant of customer retention. This is what happens as the digital landscape advances – most websites are already playing by the core design rules, so those that continue to forge ahead are the ones that stand out from the pack. Join the advance guard with gamification – your customers will be delighted.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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