Rules are ever present in our daily lives. We follow social rules, company rules, and laws. We create organizations by making sets of rules, we create deals and contracts all defined by rules. But very few people learn how to create rules. Most rules, don’t work. As a former game designer, I’ve studied rules academically and tried and tested rules by the thousands. This is what I’ve learnt so far about creating rules that work.
Sit up straight, I’m about to explain the secret sauce behind exceptional products.
There is a difference between products that perform poorly and products that perform well that is hard to put your finger on. Designers have been struggling to tell you about it for years. But it turns out it’s not the answer that is the problem, it’s the question.
The question is: Is it enjoyable? It’s the difference between functional and great.
Meet Clear, the todolist manager that does everything right.
But the best part about clear is it’s use of color and sounds.
Use of color for information
Colors are used in the lists to show priority. The more saturated the color, the more important the task. Now the tasks are already in a list, so one could argue that adding colors to it is redundant. But this is not true. Any human scanning a list will see each item as equally important. Most of us tend to try and put the most important thing at the top of the list but every time we look at the list we still browse more than one item.
Making the list colored gives a subtle hint that you don’t need to look at other tasks. This is the one.
It also gives the user a reason to order the list properly. While the app never tell the user they have to, just creating a rule that says the top is higher priority will make users want to use the rule. Think of it like a hidden keyboard shortcut. Once you learn it, if it’s a valuable shortcut, you stick with it.
Sounds that make it fun
Audio feedback has been used to great effect in games for decades. Which is why I’ve always found it odd that it’s had such little attention in software tool design. Until now.
Clear has a sound effect for every function.
New item? Pop.
Finished item? Ping!
Delete item? Swoosh
But I really mean sound effect. These aren’t just midi notes annoyingly stacked to make an awful racket. These are effects that sound great by themselves and stack neatly. What do I mean by stack? If you complete several tasks in a row, you don’t just get an annoying amount of pings. You’d hate that. Instead you get a rising scale of pings that together seem to form a rising crescendo. Which incidentally is exactly like the normal sound design to gaining point in video games (remember picking up coins in Mario?)
The awesome sound design was done by Josh Mobley.
Getting out of the way
The reason the design of Clear is so impressive is that, while the UI reinforces the users positive emotions of using a todo list, it get’s out of the way to let the users focus on thinking about tasks.
There’s simply nothing else to think about. And you won’t get those soothing sounds of completion if you don’t complete some tasks.
Summary, or: is it awesome?
Clear is the best interface for getting things done I’ve seen so far. On any platform. It’s also responsive like few apps on iOS.
It does gamification right by letting the user learn it’s features intuitively and reinforcing the actual use of the product instead of showering them in useless badges.
Sadly however, it also really doesn’t have a use. At least not for a todo-list power user such as myself. Enter a 100 tasks into Clear and you’ll be looking at an infinite list with no overview. There’s no search, there are no smart lists. But these features would not improve the product. In fact, I think including more features could destroy the product.
If you use lists often but don’t have 1000 tasks in them. This app will make you smile on your way.
If you use really long lists, this app will be nice to play with but not useable.
Should you buy it? YES. If only to support good design.
As usual, the Verge has the best video first look:
I recently was asked to check out Quora again. This time from a UX standpoint. I found a lot of strange design decisions and an almost crazy implementation of “Gamification” so I thought I had to share it:
What does this do? Quora is a mess of questions. That’s a good thing. But it’s also a mess of features. There is no real overview to how the service is supposed to be used nor how the features fit together to create a whole. It feel like a mess of somewhat related features that have been randomly added to a wiki.
User feedback loops
All services and products intended to be used more than once work because their is a loop in user interaction. After we’ve done what we came for we’re back at the start and can do it again.
Feedback loops is a way to look at how feedback is introduced in the loop to keep users going forward and using the product. Quora does this really strangely.
There are two ways to understand what happens in a loop, one is to look at emotional impact or internal steps in the process from the point of view of the user. This is called the intrinsic loop. The other is to look at the service’s constructed steps from the point of the user. This is called the extrinsic loop.
The value in looking at both of these is to see where they meet and reinforce each other. So how does the intrinsic loop look?
answer questions -> gain social proof in form of replies, votes and followers -> answer ranks higher on lists of answers -> return
This loop works well. Interacting with the site gives you a sense of communicating with other users. Though notifications are bad and it’s hard to really understand what is happening, there is a definite sense of activity spawned from other users interacting with your content.
So how does the extrinsic feedback loop look?
Add information (unidentified) -> earn points -> use points to request answers -> no return
Basically it adds points but not to obvious steps in the loop. In fact, Quora only seems to add points for adding information. But Quora doesn’t tell us why, how much or for what we earn these points.
This is an extrinsic loop set up to give users rewards for interacting that doesn’t reward user for interacting. What went wrong here? Quora is giving out points for interacting with Quora, but not with other users.
The problem is humans don’t think of services as independent entities and don’t expect to interact with services, humans expect to interact through services. Another problem is that these rewards aren’t reinforcing the intrinsic loop but instead starts rewarding an entirely different behavior. And last but not least, there is no clear end or way to start again from when you receive rewards. Rewards are doled out in the middle of the intrinsic feedback loop.
Gamification or What Bumblebees feel about Bicycles
Points. Just add points and it’s a game. Just add points and the weird statistical exercise has miraculously turned into “fun”! Right? No. That’s not how it works, you can read all about how to add the fun here. But Quora doesn’t care about that, you get points for adding content but aren’t told when or how much. There doesn’t seem to be a differentiation between how you add content, you simply receive an arbitrary amount of points.
There’s only one way to use points. You can pay others to answer questions. That’s it. You can’t even compare your points to another users.
Quora is awesome. What makes it awesome is the high level of interest from other users. The problem is, Quora does little of anything to enhance this. More often it gets in the way.
The service quickly became famous for supplying answers from high level CEOs and business savvy high performers. Sadly though, it took me hours to find any such answer. It took me hours just to find some interesting questions.
The random points thrown in just increases perception of randomness. Quora is a great idea, close to a good product. Over designed and under thought. It’s confusing as hell and weird to use. But if you’re lucky you can at least get some answers. Just don’t expect the question to be the same one you had in mind from the start…
Orginially posted on the official SIME blog
SIME is a Swedish Conference on web, tech and startups. Where great speakers entertain for two days and investors and entrepreneurs mingle over coffee and champagne.
SIME 2011 was a flurry of great speaker on a wide area of subjects. While the set theme for SIME was “Passion Wins” another theme running through the conference was going mobile. Gamification was subtly introduced to the SIME audience in a panel on Gamification and marketing. Possibly to set the stage for a larger presence next year.
But what exactly is Gamification and how does it tie in with SIME 2011?
Gamification is the process of using game mechanics in non-game products and services. I am not talking about 3D characters or scoring points here however. Games have matured in relative obscurity thought the years to become one of the worlds largest entertainment forms, aimed mostly at adults. The foundations ofwhat makes a good game are similar and equally complex as what makes a great brand. The psychology or rewards have been used in training and products over the years, but only games have really delved deep and explored the territory. Pacing and storytelling in a product where there is no story is also only really explored in the games industry. Science and design based on concepts like these are migrating from games into “normal” products.
This is Gamification. And oddly, ties in excellently to SIMEs central theme.
The Passion of Gamification
Passion Wins. That theme was presented by Ola in his welcoming speech and it was central to almost all the talks at SIME. From presentations from promising startups, among them iZettle - the mobile payment solution, to using brain scans for better marketing there was not a presenter on stage that lacked passion. But how do we reach passion in our users or customers? While every panel spoke of the importance to engage users and inspire passion there was only one that talked about how thats done.
Panel on Gamificiation
A panel consisting of Elísabet Grétarsdóttir, Eve Online, Johan Sjöberg, founder Starstable, and Robin Teigland, Stockholm School of Economics, joined Ola on stage to discuss the most popular buzzword of the day.
The panel wasn’t that impressed with the term Gamification for starters. Elisabet described it as working with motivation in marketing to engage the audience, hopefully getting them to participate. Johan joined in saying that the term might be a misnomer, that the term Playification might be more appropriate. Since the focus is on engagement but not at all games.
“we are playful creatures” - Elísabet Grétarsdóttir, SIME 2011
The panel was in agreement that playfulness was important for humans, adding fun to anything should be possible. The panel highlighted experiments with gamification in education and Elisabet even made a pitch to add creative interaction in the fashion industry.
If we are playful creatures, play should be a great way to engage our users. Right?
Going mobile with gamification
As I mentioned earlier another trend runnings through the entire conference was going mobile. Google spoke of being a mobile first company, Ericsson spoke about communicating in a world where every device is interconnected. But what does this have to do with gamification?
Throughout SIME we heard speakers talk about new paradigms and the web/app divide. Essentially mobile web is taking over and has a different set or boundaries than the desktop web. So how to we make sure our mobile interfaces are good enough and engaging users? You know where I’m going with this aren’t you?
Mobile interfaces is a perfect place to start adding the fun.
Summing up gamification at SIME 2011
The passion at SIME was amazing. The energy was great. The game we played at the conference, bad. Basically we’re all looking into how to engage and interact with people through digital mediums. The only industry that has really done it is the games industry. Moving their knowledge to the rest of the web is gamification. Elisabet doesn’t think it’s through external motivation. Ola thinks it might have something to do with horses.
The only thing we know is: however it’s done, it’s going mobile.
Added a short explanation of what SIME is, thanks to @kenneth_aa for making me realize it was needed.
The last day at SIME, Sweden’s largest digital/web conference in Stockholm, a panel of guests took to the stage to have a panel discussion about gamification.
Gamification is the latest and greatest buzz word in a long line of hype from digital marketing companies. But gamification is different because unlike social media and the like the Gamification concept is loaned from the hugely profitable games industry.
At SIME this year the panel consisted of representatives from World of Horses Online, CCP games and an associate professor from the Stockholm School of Economics. The topic was gamification and was simply introduced as the concept of using mechanics and design from the games industry to market products and services in non entertainment industries.
Elisabet, from CCP games, really gave a show with clear and consice ideas about gamification.
She started off by describing the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
An extrinsic motivator, which are mostly used in gamification today, are external rewards given to the player for achieving certain tasks. Such as points to shoot a bird accurately or a badge to check in at a location
An intrinsic motivator is an internal reward the player experiences because he/she achieves something in the context of the game. Internal rewards are feelings based on. Social recognition or completing a challenge.
One of her most memorable quotes was saying she’d like to Gamify the games industry by moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivators.
Another one was a sharp critique to enforced seriousness while stating a point about humans being playful creatures:
why can we hug at a soccer game but not in the board room?
Elisabet also rocked the end of the panel by giving an example of how she would revolutionize boutique shopping by gamifying a H&M shop into a “minecraft retail experience” to, in her own words, “create a platform for creativity and self expression”.
The audience and the panel alike seemed almost shocked by the simple truths laid out by Elisabet on gamification. I bet that if she has any say, gamification will be less of a buzz word and more of a business strategy from now on.
One can only hope.
I’m writing this on an iPad balanced on my knee while I’m eating so if this post is in shambles, please check back in an hour or so and I’ll try to polish the turd.
Robin from the Stockholm School of Economics mailed me an update, apparently I got both her school and her title wrong.. Sorry Robin, keep up the great work!
Hopefully this will be awesome. I’ll be live tweeting the event all day and half the night and writing about what she and the other speakers had to say as soon as possible.
So visit again soon for updates.
CCP link works now! Sorry about that.
A week ago I was contacted by Bloggbyrån to be a theme blogger for SIME, Sweden’s largest web/tech conference. I would write about how the conference talked about and around gamification. I’ve been talking gamification since I started studying game design, long before it became a buzzword, so how could I refuse?
My first day here and I’m amazed
Normally the Swedish conferences are timid and partly boring events as the swedes are quite reserved and the production values are quite low. Not so at SIME.
The production values are through the roof and people are talking fast to get around the room. None of them make it.
The topics are wide but the theme is central
The speakers here at SIME are varied and well drilled, no slow moments for the audience. From representatives of the BBC to new web startups to multinational investors playing the piano somehow it all ties in neatly with our moderator Ola Ahlvarsson’s set theme: “Passion Wins!”.
My head is buzzing
Not from the champagne but from the pace. The comedian wrapping up spotted my tweet and made me a bit and none of us can move more than 3 feet without talking to someone. This is not the usual environment for a Swede and for anyone interested in entrepreneurship it’s amazing.
Tomorrow is another day
Of SIME and with the schedule ahead of me it seems to be even more packed than today. Right now this rundown is the best I can do. Now I’m off to the bar to find out if there is more champagne and anyone interested in discussing gamification.
One more thing
I was apparently the most active twitterer today, even after the comedian made fun of me, and my tweets were picked up by a Swedish newspaper and retweeted widely.
Dagens media – de leder SIME twittrandet
I decided to start a new project that is closer to my heart than anything for the passed three years. A blog dedicated to explore gamification and game theory for products.
Originally meant to be a short book I decided doing the research and most of the writing as a blog might help the project along. Who knows, it might actually be better for it.