Making games of enterprise software

Gamification is an emerging technique of using gaming techniques to better engage software users

By , IDG News Service |  Software, gamification

From April to June, the company saw its website engagement -- as measured by the number of interactions and the quality of interactions -- increase by 40%. Internal surveys found that customer satisfaction had also grown by 2% in the time period, from 96 to 98%.

"We're getting much better user generated content and the folks in our community are getting public recognition for participating," Platt said. "And we're getting better intelligence as to what really drives engagement."

Another example of gamification is a monthly online contest by Playboy magazine, called Miss Social. With this service, young women can submit photos to compete in a monthly contest to be a Playboy model. Visitors of the site can then vote on their favorite female. The idea is that each female contestant will have many young male friends they can urge to visit the site and vote for them. "That's the demographic Playboy wants to tap into," Hugos said.

Wiseling, a recently launched New York online marketplace for gently worn fashionable clothing, has been dabbling in various game dynamics to build its online user base.

"As a new online company, we have a huge reliance on social media to spread the word, so we're always thinking of ways we can increase engagement on those platforms," said Wiseling CEO Chelsey Bingham. The company has already run several contests on its blog that involve sharing photos on Twitter and Facebook. It is also considering the idea of adding merit badges for the number and quality of sales. "We hope the status rewards entice members to stay involved and strengthen the sense of community," Bingham said.

What are some facts to keep in mind when gamifying a system?

Perhaps the most important element is the story-boarding, essential for detailing which actions should merit awards for users. As if you were creating a movie, you think up a story-line for users to follow. Create missions, or pathways. "You are not thinking about technology, but what experience you want to make," Engine Yard's Platt said.

Your organization's human resources department can help. HR probably has some expertise in managing employee behavior and may already have an awards systems in place, Richardson said. "You need to involve HR," Richardson said.

Another group of people to get involved are the line managers, Richardson said. These are the people who best know how either customers or employees interact with the organization's systems -- and they best know what might motivate these people. Almost as importantly, the managers would know how any contest could be gamed, i.e. people using unscrupulous shortcuts for competitive advantage.

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