Is Gamification Right for Your Business? 7 Things to Consider

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This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

This year has lent itself to a slew of new buzzwords, andgamification is easily one of the most buzzed about in the marketing industry.

Businesses clamored this year to understand the concept of gamification and apply it to their digital and mobile products, offering badges and points galore … but how many of them actually understand the point of gamifying or if it’s even useful for their business goals?

Dustin DiTommaso, the experience design director at design studio Mad*Pow, recently spoke about designing meaningful interactions through game design thinking during his presentation at Geekend 2011, a techie conference presented by BFG Communications.

DiTommaso explained his framework for gamification and dished out seven essential steps for approaching the subject. Read on for a thorough encounter of DiTommaso’s model for creating more meaningful interactions and successful business goals, and let us know your thoughts on his method in the comments below.

1. Consider Why You Want to Gamify

Yes, gamification is a sexy word. No, it isn’t right for every business.

DiTommaso recommends that businesses looking to gamify their products or services ask themselves three critical questions before moving on:

  • What is the reason for gamifying your product or service?
  • How does it benefit the user?
  • Will they enjoy it?

If you can answer these questions with confidence, if gamification seems like a good fit for your business’ product or service and if the users enjoy it, then move on to exploring your business goals. DiTommaso recommends exploring the following three questions:

  • What are your business goals?
  • How do get the users to fulfill those business goals?
  • What actions do you want users to take?

If this exploratory phase yields positive feedback, your business is ready to move into user research.

2. Identify Your Users

It isn’t enough to understand your business goals when considering gamification — you also need to understand your users and what motivates them. Research your users before you begin designing your gamified product, focusing on how they use your software, what they want and what motivates them.

DiTommaso laid out a number of questions to help businesses achieve research-inspired design:

  • Who are your users?
  • What are their needs and goals? Why are they playing?
  • What’s holding them back from achieving their potential? Is it lack of volition (belief that completing the task at hand is valuable) or lack of faculty (ability to complete the task)?
  • What is their primary playing style (solo, competitive, cooperative)?
  • Who are they playing with?
  • What social actions do they find enjoyable, and why?
  • What metrics do they care about?

Game designers must also understand what motivates users to play their games. There are a number of motivational drivers, but DiTommaso recommends simplifying to four key factors. Decide if your users are motivated by:

  • Achievement of goals or enjoyment of experience
  • Structure and guidance or freedom to explore
  • Control of others or connecting with others
  • Self-interest in actions or social interest in actions

Knowing these details about users and their motivations will assist game designers in determining how the game should be laid out, how much autonomy to allow, what the users’ goals should be and so on. Let’s explore exactly what comes next in the designing process.

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