Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How do you see the finish line?

My current passion is gamification.  While this is often (probably most of the time) confused with either game design (which it is not) or points and badges (which is the worst, counterproductive kind of gamification), gamification is designing user experiences that engage fundamental and sustainable human motivation.  Of course that is easy to say, but hard to do effectively.  That is why so many people and companies do it poorly.  And why I am writing a book on it with my great coauthor Markus Sieber. 

Gretchen Rubin (of the Happiness Project fame) posted today about a quote from Andre Agassi’s new book and the importance of how we view the finish line.  There are three ways to frame the finish line and it is critical to pick the one that matches how you want your users to respond.

The finish line is the end of an important journey and the sign of a valuable achievement.  This motivates people to put all of their effort into those last, hard steps.  A good analogy for this is coming to the end of running marathon.  You see some of these folks on TV at the end of their ropes, but they crawl to that finish line, using every ounce of their strength, so that they can officially complete the run.  Running 26.1 miles is still pretty impressive, but getting through those last few feet makes all the difference. 


The finish line is the sad end of a fun time. This lowers attention, energy, and motivates people to avoid thinking about it.  Vacations are a good analogy for this category.  How many times have you come to the end of a trip to some tropical island and you find yourself unable to print out that boarding pass for the flight home?  Designing the user experience for this situation is completely different from the marathon.


What if the finish line is the end of chapter one, but chapter two lies just beyond?  We want to motivate the urgent optimism (gamification buzzword – sorry) to complete chapter one, but also not burn them out like in the marathon case.  You need to balance the user experience to promote the finality of the finish line for chapter one, but also highlight the exciting chapter two.  You need to begin the onboarding process for chapter two before the user starts the exhausted resting phase from completing chapter one.  This balance is really important or you get a huge dropoff rate.

Does this resonate?  Let me know in the comments.