How to Gamify Your Website

Fun for users, Gamification is being taken seriously by today's Web brands

Gamification is a way of adding game mechanics such as points, levels, leaderboards and badges to your website. If applied correctly, these mechanics will encourage users to come back to the site more often, share content on their social networks and, ultimately, generate revenue for your business.

Gamification is extremely popular right now, but it is much more than a passing fad. In fact, eMarketer has predicted that it will grow from a $100 million industry in 2011 to a $1.6 billion industry in 2015.

But how do you go about implementing gamification? The following three tips will help you gamify your website and make it work for your users:

Add More Than a Leaderboard

Before jumping on the gamification bandwagon, slow down and think about exactly why you're adding game mechanics to your site.

It's easy to add a pretty layer on top of your site that doesn't do much of anything. Adding a leaderboard or some badges may look cool, but how does it encourage user engagement? It's not just about picking the right game mechanics but how those mechanics work together in a sophisticated way that appeals to your users.

For example, if your website has a lot of diverse content such as video and audio clips as well as a wide range of articles and infographics, you may want to create a quest that guides users on a path to the freshest material. Another idea is to invite interaction by rewarding users for commenting on your blog and sharing your posts on their social networks.

Build in a Social Referral Program

Believe it or not, many gamified sites forget to implement a social referral program. They set up a system for earning badges and points but then what? If users are proud of what they've accomplished, give them the opportunity to tell the world about it. Achievements mean more if they're made public and people are more likely to share right after they've won something.

It's not just about Likes, Tweets and +1s, either; you should reward users on how influential they really are. The referral mechanism from Dropbox does a good job of this by tracking shares and referrals and rewarding new recruits and the people who referred them. A good gamification platform measures how many clicks a shared link gets and how many people register by following that link. This is known as measuring virality:

- Shares: any Like, Tweet, or +1 that results in content or links being shared outside of your site.
- Influence: a unique click on a shared link
- Recruits: a unique signup from a shared link
- Virality score: (# of Shares x 1) + (# of Influence x 25) + (# of Recruits x 200) ‚àö‚àë daily active users (DAU)

Make it a Profit Center, Not a Cost Center

Let's face it, gamification is still relatively new and its effectiveness is promising but not guaranteed. It doesn't make sense to throw thousands of dollars at a solution before you know it will work. However, there are a few different approaches businesses can take.

If you want to gamify the site yourself, you're going to need some decent coding chops or access to some pretty serious developer resources, in which case you will most likely be looking at a sizable investment.

Another option is to find an off-the-shelf solution that you can implement yourself. A good solution lets you install, configure and measure the effectiveness yourself - no devs needed. The solution should ultimately be customizable, and with a robust API a developer can customize your gamification system in a short amount of time.

You could also pay a provider to design a gamification system for you. You would save yourself the headache and the developer resources, but you would need to sign a contract and pay up front for it. Yet another option is to try a solution that charges a low upfront fee but takes a share of the revenue that the solution produces. If it doesn't work, then at least you didn't spend a lot of money.

But if it does work, your company will benefit from increased user engagement and increased website income.

About the Author: Carrie Peters is the vice president of marketing at BigDoor, a technology provider for powering social engagement and loyalty as a service through the use of game mechanics.