Gamifying WordPress: Is It Worth It?
No one wants their business to be represented online by a mundane website. That’s especially true for businesses that rely on heavy customer engagement levels with the brand (and sometimes among other members) in order to grow. But aside from writing some pithy copy and designing bold visuals to complement that message, what more can you do to excite visitors?
Last year, I wrote about the topic of gamification. Specifically, I looked into various examples of gamification used around the web as well as some features I thought were worth exploring. Today, however, I’d like to dig a little deeper into this concept and talk about the nuts and bolts of gamification:
- What is gamification?
- What kind of websites would benefit from gamification?
- How can you add gamification to your site using a WordPress plugin?
What Is Gamification?
Gamification is a pretty cool concept. Basically, you take the principles of gameplay and integrate them into the website UX. This doesn’t mean that your entire website becomes a mission-driven, animated game board. Instead, it means that you’ve adopted certain gamification features in order to drive engagement and, hopefully, compel more customers to convert.
If you think about games (board, video, digital, social, etc.), the goal is to get players to interact with the game as well as with others. No one sets out to play a game expecting it to be a passive experience where they kick back and just mindlessly follow along with the action playing out before them.
Instead, players willingly enter into games because they’re engaging, entertaining, and sometimes even educational. Ultimately, what motivates players to participate is the reward attached to it; usually some kind of glory or bounty. And this is why WordPress developers use gamification on their websites: to give visitors a clear goal to work towards as well as a “reward” of sorts that they can achieve either at the end of it or throughout the process.
So, rather than think of gamification as a way to add games to your WordPress site, focus on ways in which you can use game-like rewards to motivate visitors to engage with your site. For instance:
WPMU DEV rewards its members with points and different statuses based on the amount of engagement they have with the site (like leaving a comment on the blog) or with the community at large:
This is not only a great way to inspire users to continually log in, digest content, and participate, but it’s also great in that it really fosters a sense of community here. Everyone’s contributions are valued as we all are in the same boat, just trying to learn more about WordPress and do our jobs better in the process.
Membership websites can use points and status levels to increase engagement with the content on a website. For e-commerce websites, however, it needs to go beyond that. As your main goal is to compel visitors to make a purchase, those rewards need to really pay off in their favor, which means cold hard cash.
Let’s use the Gap website, for example. (Or any major online retailer really.)
See in the top corner how it says that I have $20 in rewards that need to be redeemed? That’s not because I’ve spent money recently to get that type of cash-back “reward” (though e-commerce sites can do that). Nope, that’s simply because I collect different monetary amounts throughout the year for being a valued member.
Just seeing that note at the top of my screen makes me want to make a purchase right now… it’s a definitely a powerful ploy.
I’d also suggest that marketplaces that aggregate products, tools, and services from others have a unique way to use a gamified rewards system. In the case of a site like the Envato Marketplace, the payoff with the rewards is two-fold:
Firstly, contributors get different badges and elite statuses based on their accomplishments on the platform. The more they obtain, the easier it is for them to sell customers on the quality of their digital product.
Secondly, the site itself reaps the benefits of this rewards system as it gives customers insights into the quality of offering available. The better-rewarded the products are, the more likely customers will be to buy from the site.
Habitica is an online productivity app that helps you “gamify your life”. Upon first logging in, you’ll find yourself looking at a very game-like interface:
After being taken through the helpful setup tooltips, you’ll encounter the main dashboard where you can create your activities and reward yourself accordingly for completing them:
Mint is a money management tool that enables people to more efficiently track finances in one place. However, as you know, finance management is tedious, even when you have a tool like this that automates it all for you.
As you can see inside Mint, however, it lets you know what percentage of your profile you’ve actually completed. The more you fill out, the more information and resources it will provide to help offload some of the finance management piece off your shoulders. There are other parts of the site that use gamification too by displaying your credit score on a speedometer as well as a tracker of how well you’re doing in terms of month-over-month improvements.
It’s these motivating visuals that keep users coming back into the system to keep their profile updated and check on their credit score status and overall financial health.
If you’ve ever played a video game where you get to check off different missions and tasks as they are completed, then you know how good it feels to get those accomplishments off your plate. Not only is there something satisfying about checking off another item, but it also feels good knowing that you’re working towards a larger goal.
The Insightly app has something similar whereby it allows you to create a list of tasks and check them off upon completion.
Like many other task manager and CRM tools, this is a nice feature to have as it inspires users and other visitors to return and actively keep their accounts up-to-date.
While you may see quizzes and polls listed as a type of gamification to use in WordPress, you have to be careful with this. A pop-up poll that simply asks visitors a question as a means for collecting data on them is not gamification. There needs to be a reward associated with it, like how AARP handles it:
In exchange for users taking the time to fill out quizzes (which are also informative), they earn points that they can cash in.
What Kind of Websites Would Benefit from Gamification?
Clearly, there are certain use cases that make more sense for the kinds of gamification I referenced above. For instance, it wouldn’t make much sense for a traditional business website to start offering clients cash rewards for each visit to the site or client portal. So, before we go looking at how to get gamification features onto your site, let’s figure out which of your WordPress sites this is even right for.
First, let’s look at the reasons why people use gamification. In sum, it can:
- Build more interest in a new or growing brand.
- Attract a younger audience.
- Create a more encouraging environment as you build a community around the site.
- Inspire more people to sign up for memberships.
- Compel customers to buy more products.
- Provide users with a much-needed break from the work the site or app otherwise demands.
- Help you increase your site’s engagement levels to improve SEO.
Obviously, those all sound like benefits you’d like to reap, but hold on just a second. Gamification won’t work for just anyone. Building a system of rewards on a website needs to make sense within the context of the site itself. Here are some specific kinds of websites that should consider this:
- Membership sites that need users to do more on the site.
- Marketplaces that need to encourage sellers and buyers to do more.
- Educational or training websites to motivate users to complete courses.
- Popular blogs or forums that are currently lacking in commentary.
- Productivity apps with large numbers of signups and low amounts of activity.
- Internal company websites to motivate employees to accomplish more tasks.
- e-Commerce sites with cash rewards to give away and motivate more purchases.
- Websites where the audience is predominantly millennial and younger.
You may find other use cases for gamification if your website falls outside of these categories, of course. But, as a start, I would say these would be the easiest ones to integrate gamification into and expect a more seamless transition for its users.
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How to Add Gamification Features to WordPress
On that note, let’s talk about how to add gamification features to WordPress.
For those of you building educational websites–whether it’s for an actual school or you sell online courses–you would do well to have the CoursePress Pro plugin on your side. Not only does this simplify the process of building a learning management system in WordPress, it also comes with some great gamification features you should take advantage of:
- Creation of quizzes in a sequence, so that students must complete one before moving on to the next.
- Creation of customized and personalized completion certifications to give to your students.
- Interactive classrooms and discussion boards.
LearnPress is another learning management system WordPress plugin. With this one, you will need to invest in premium add-ons in order to add gamification features to your LMS (which might be worth it). Here are some of the things you can get with the upgrade:
- myCRED integration (more on that below)
- Certificates of completion
- Integration with Paid Membership Pro
This is a great WordPress plugin if you want to add quizzes and surveys to your site for the purposes of building engagement. While it does give you the typical quiz creation capabilities you’re likely to find in other quiz plugins, here is why I think this one is perfect for gamification:
- You can set it so that only registered users can take the quizzes.
- You can issue certificates of completion to users.
- You can also set up a leaderboard on your site so that users can track scores, answers, and standings against the rest of the community.
- You can use this plugin to create flashcards if your site serves students.
- There is a gradebook add-on that allows you to display to users what their average scores are for tracking and improvement purposes.
The GamiPress plugin was built specifically with WordPress gamification in mind. The main goal of this plugin is to allow developers to add a rewards system to their websites quickly, easily, and for free. In addition to giving you the flexibility to determine what kinds of accolades you want to shower on your visitors, you can also determine what they’re able to do with them.
Because this plugin integrates with tools like:
- Easy Digital Downloads
- Contact form plugins
- And more
…there are a ton of possibilities of what you can reward users for (i.e. comments, purchases, course completions, forum participation, etc.) And if you’re looking for something that can grow with your website, this is a good plugin to keep on hand as it comes with a number of upgrades–like a leaderboard, purchase discounts, progress maps, daily login rewards, and more–that would make for a truly premium gamified experience.
myCRED is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create and manage a points system on your site. Points can be acquired on your site in a variety of ways–it’s up to you to determine what makes the most sense (e.g. leaving comments on a blog, purchasing a new item, publishing content, etc.) And with this plugin, you can automate how those points are doled out to users, so you don’t have to worry about manually managing the system.
While there are a number of really great membership plugins available for WordPress, I would recommend you use the Ultimate Member plugin for gamifying your site. In general, the membership plugin does everything you need it to do to equip visitors with the ability to create and manage their own profiles. However, it’s the integration with the myCRED points system that you will need for gamification.
Remember: gamification can’t be used as a gimmick. While the allure of playing a fun quiz or setting up a vapid member profile might seem like fun to your visitors at first, there is nothing of real substance there to motivate them to dig further through your site to discover what you offer there.
The point of gamification needs to be the delivery of a valuable reward in exchange for their patronage: if you take X action, we will give you Y in return. The tips and tools above should give you a good place to start if you’re considering using gamification on your WordPress site.