Straight to the point, here they are:

  1. Reward behaviour, which is already valuable to your user
  2. Add an activity feed
  3. Personalise prizes
  4. Make things funnier
  5. Make things interactive

Now let’s go deeper into it, and let me start with an assumption: we all like technology, in fact we love it!

Clean and effective websites, delicious apps – what can be better? Not much, apart from…ourselves. We really, really care about ourselves. We like to feel valued, to have our work (or should I say our deeds?) appreciated. We like to be “the king of the hill”, be smarter and perform better than “other guys” and to be rewarded for it.

So the question is how you, as a business owner, can truly add “me”, your customer, and all other “me-s” to your website? Nowadays, the digital world is all about humanising the technology and applying physiological and behavioural concepts to ensure that I – as your customer – like your website, use it and use it properly.

Because if I do, I will not only be loyal and keep buying your goods – I’ll be your free ambassador, I’ll keep shouting about how awesome you are to my friends and will willingly work for you for free. I will write reviews, answer customers’ questions and even produce high quality content for you (and then promote it through my very own social channels).

The million dollar question is how can you encourage me to do that? Game techniques can help.

But before I go any further, a BIG disclaimer: unless what you sell is really good, gamification will not help you. As Jason Keath pointed out recently at the Blogworld East panel Game Mechanics and The Future of Loyalty, “gamification is like marketing in general: It can’t ‘solve’ a bad product”. In short, don’t use gamification as lipstick on a pig.

1. Reward behaviour, which is already valuable to your users

Another assumption: you know why people came to your website. It can be to do with one of the following:

  • to read content
  • to buy products/services
  • to ask others for information/help and show off as an expert
  • to accomplish personal goals with your help

A good way to show people that you understand their needs and care about them is to reward them for what’s valuable to them. Give them something extra – see the Give to Get section in my previous blog post for some hints to recognise that you understand what people need and you value that.

But what if the things people like to do on your website are not equal to what YOU actually want them to do? What if they enjoy reading your content, but never comment? Or enjoy reading your content and commenting, but never share? Or read, comment, share, but never check the “Get in touch” section?

That’s where the gamification magic happens: after people get used to being rewarded for behaviour which is valuable for them, you can start giving users hints on what else they can be rewarded for. And that something else can be the behaviour which is valuable for you as a business.

However, don’t fall into a pitfall of trying to make your customers do what they don’t want to do – it’s just not going to work. Your effort should be focused on what they are willing to do, but are not doing for some reason. Reasons for this inaction could be because the customers perceives the action as a bit scary or because they are not sure how it will be perceived, or because not many people are doing that yet on a particular web platform for example.

One retail company recently tried to incentivise individual sellers into asking for feedback on their products – but it didn’t really work. So the company tweaked their strategy and began to focus on rewarding end customers for leaving a feedback – and it worked out much better. It’s more natural for people to leave feedback than to ask for feedback, so in this instance rewarding people for what they are willing to do was the right strategy.

2. Add an activity feed

Such a mechanism will work especially well for websites which involve daunting goals – for example, on sites which help people to lose weight, start doing sports or learn a new language.

Working towards goals is pretty challenging and it really helps to see in real time that you’re not alone.

daily challenge

An activity feed will work much better if it’s integrated with the main content rather than sits on a separate page. However, it shouldn’t be distracting – whatever is the primary aim of people coming to your website, it should remain the focus of attention.

3. Personalise prizes

At Leighton, we cannot emphasise enough how important personalisation is. To start with, you can check out previous Leighton blog posts;

So what do your users like? Find it out and reward them for that particular thing, rather than something generic.

Do they like to answer questions from other users (e.g. forums/reviews)? If so, reward them with an Expert badge and a privilege status for their comments, showing their comments higher than those of other users.

Can you see that they mostly read and comment on sport-related topics? Send them a voucher for products in the Sport category or a VIP access to newly released tickets for a sporting event for example

In a nutshell, show them that you know what they like and they are special to you. That requires some tracking and digging in the analytics, but believe me – that’s what turns casual buyers into loyal clients and brand champions.

4. Make things funnier

One can argue if it’s actually gamification or rather playful design, but whatever the label, it’s a great way to humanise your website. We all are people and our decision on whether to get in touch, register or buy is very much dependant on our mood. Despite evidence that sad people actually buy more, the “little retail therapy” approach will only work if the buying process is making your customers happy.

To a great extent this will be taken care of by a well thought out customer journey that is as short as feasibly possible. However, in some cases gamification can help you to spice up inevitable and frankly pretty boring steps.

Take for example the 404 page of your website: users tend to be not very excited to land there, but in some cases they have to be presented with it. Here’s an example of how that rather unpleasant page can be humanised.


Another great example is Mailchimp, who have managed to humanise pages the majority of e-marketers see daily. Yes, people use Mailchimp not because of funny pictures (remember a pig-with-a-lipstick rule), but because it does the job. But we do like things that make us smile and make our routines less routine.


5 Make things interactive

How interactive are the materials on your website? The great thing about interactive content is that, as readers progress, they are committing themselves to your content. Every time they take some form of action they’re essentially validating your hard work by giving a ‘micro-yes’. And each ‘micro-yes’ makes them warmer to a call to action.

Check out this interactive video that Deloitte uses to attract top talent to join their company.

And so to the bottom line. The essential questions you should ask yourself if you want to humanise your website are:

  1. How can I reward behaviour which is already valuable to my users?
  2. How can I personalise prizes?
  3. Should I add an activity feed?
  4. How can I make things funnier?
  5. How can I make things interactive?

Happy Gamification!