Better RFP and Product Proposals Using Gamification

This article will help people interested in hiring a design or development agency to help bring their idea to life. It will also help design or development agencies looking to create better products for their clients.

I’ve been into games and especially video games for a very long time. It’s thrilling to explore new worlds, meet strange characters, achieve the goals that are set forth and share these experiences with friends who are going through similar experiences.

Obviously, in time I ended up asking “that question”: Why am I more motivated, thrilled and focused while playing certain games than I am about some aspects of work and real life?

More importantly, is there a way to translate some of the things that give games their qualities into our lives and into our work?

If you’re asking yourself these same questions today, eventually you’re going to run into the concept of gamification which, at first glance, seems quite straightforward: you take a product, give it points, badges, leaderboards and maybe a progression system and Boom! You’ve got a gamified product. But that’s kinda like saying that improving a product’s design is about finishing the user interface and then adding some UX to it… Of course you can do a usability review but wouldn’t it be better to start the strategy and design process with the user’s needs and business objectives in mind?

So Then What the Funk is Gamification?

Games are more than a collection of points and badges, they’re a way to help us learn through activities that are both appealing to us and motivate us to “get shit done”. At the same time, they can be things we’ve never heard of, things we’re trying out, things we already know and things we’ve gotten exceptionally good at.

We’re not all motivated in the same way and we’re not all at the same level of knowledge regarding a game… but when it comes to the products we create, many of us still tend to lump all users into the same bucket.

Gamification, when considered at it’s full extent, is a mechanism that motivates, pushes us forward and rewards us as we achieve our goals while taking into account individual knowledge.

Octalysis framework used to analyze what drive people to use Facebook

For a while now, I’ve been using a gamification framework that helps me better keep track of the user’s needs and motivations — Octalysis. It’s the brain-child of You-Kai Chou and it includes 8 core drives of human behavior while at the same time taking into account people’s level of knowledge in regards to a product or service.

Better Product Proposals

There are 8 core human drives that you need to consider:

  • Epic Meaning & Calling — believing that we’re doing or working towards is something greater than ourselves
  • Development & Accomplishment — making progress, developing skills, overcoming meaningful challenges (meaningful being a key word)
  • Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback — figuring things out, experimenting, expressing creativity, and seeing the results of our creativity as well as getting feedback on our work
  • Ownership & Possession— it’s all about making things our own, whether where we live, work or on that news feed we keep looking at
  • Social Influence & Relatedness — mentorship, acceptance, social response, companionship, competition, envy and so on…
  • Scarcity & Impatience — wanting something because we can’t have it (right now)
  • Unpredictability & Curiosity — wanting to find out what will happen next
  • Loss & Avoidance — avoiding negative consequences or avoiding to quit something because of the time and effort put into it

For each user, there are also 4 stages that you may want to take into account:

  • Discovery — starts when we first discover or learn about something (either from friends, news, a marketing campaign) and think it may help us solve a problem
  • Onboarding— when we learn about the steps it takes to use a product or service, we want to quickly understand how it works… which begs the question “when should the onboarding process end?”
  • Scaffolding — when we come back on a regular basis (it can be daily, weekly, etc) to take the desired actions for the specific product or service
  • Mastery — when we believe we’ve done everything there is to do to such a degree that we know exactly what will happen next and how to overcome it

There are certain core drives and mechanics, for each of the 4 stages a user goes through, that are more likely to keep them engaged or to get them to come back.

So what if we could go through this framework every time we create a client proposal, keeping in mind how the user is motivated?

An example may be the easiest way to understand so let’s have a look at…

The Framework in Action

Let’s say that we need to create an app for a music band, we’ll call it FunkBand (since RockBand has a tiny ™ stuck to it) that needs to do the following:

  • Increase the exposure and community engagement for FunkBand by giving fans a new way of interacting with the music created by the band
  • Increase the number of song / album sales over iTunes
  • Increase the number of tickets sold at concerts
  • Increase the number of plays of FunkBand songs over popular streaming services (YouTube, Google Play Music, Zonga)
People are already accustomed to using their iPhones and Android Smartphones at concerts

We’ll skip a few steps here… so the value proposition for the app may look something like this:

“Give FunkBand fans a unique way of interacting the band’s music by making dubs and mixes of their own using the band’s music or videos”.

We know that the app is supposed to target existing fans (especially concert goers) and we also know that the app is supposed to be used both during live performances and during everyday life (most likely when people get bored or have a short break).

OK, now that’s settled and we know we want an app that has similar features to Dubmash or, basically giving users the option to record video over preselected 15sec sound bites from FunkBand songs.

Excellent! Now we have something to work with so let’s take this step-by-step…

Discovery (potential users don’t have the app yet)

Rely on the unpredictability of new audio bites and the curiosity of fans for new app content

  • promote the app content as a special surprise during concerts both to get people interested in downloading it and to get the current users hyped about new content
  • most sound bites will probably be available to all users, however by releasing new sound bites in tandem with concerts or album /single releases and mentioning them during promotions, you’re attracting new users to the app (in addition to giving users who’ve been using the app for a while new reasons to keep using it)

Play up the scarcity of certain audio bites

  • offer special codes to concert goers that can be added in the app to unlock special sound bites (either available only to concert goers or to be added later in the app for everyone else)

Onboarding (users have downloaded the app and are discovering how to use it)

Try to achieve as many small win-states for new users as possible, play up the development and accomplishment drive

  • onboarding that takes users through the step-by-step interactive instructions of creating a dub over a sound bite
  • congratulate the user on achieving small win-states and nudge them toward the next step (e.g. “Cool! You’ve got the sound, ready to record?” / “Congratulations on your first dub, be sure to let your friends know!” / “Awesome, now you’ll be able to share your dubs whenever you want!”)

Scaffolding (users are taking desired actions within the app with confidence)

Again, rely on development and achievement to get users to take desired actions within the app

  • offer a counter for the total number of dubs
  • offer an audio completionist progress bar (for how many of the sound bites they’ve created dubs and how many they still have undubbed)
  • offer badges over user’s profile images if they’ve completed a % or all dubs available within the app

Play with the idea of ownership

  • make users feel like the clips they’ve created are theirs by creating an area in the app where they can see all their clips (and all the work they’ve put in)
  • mention some of the best clips (perhaps shared to Facebook) and the name of the people who created them during concerts (preferably with permission from the user :) )

Then there’s empowerment

  • add video filters or overlays to customize the clips further
  • add a pitch setting to make the sound seem slightly different (more chipmunk-like or the opposite, for example)

Play up social influence within the app

  • share to Facebook / Instagram / Vine
  • share via WhatsApp / Messenger / SMS
  • add a clip feed
  • likes / favs for clips (this also relates to the feedback aspect)
  • popular / trending clips created by users
  • public profiles
  • the option to follow other users
  • following feed

Mastery (veteran users who have done everything they could do within the app)

Rely on the unpredictability of new audio bites (same as phase 1: Discovery)

  • add new content (new sound bites) to the app to keep the experience fresh
  • couple unpredictability with accomplishment via special promo codes at concerts and push people to collect all special sound bites (unique to each concert)

There’s more to accomplishment and scarcity

  • remind users of the next concert they need to attend and give them a preview of the number of clips they can get… only by attending

Empower people to create truly unique content

  • allow users to add their own soundbites from FunkBand music on their device and to create dubs over them (unfortunately, getting clips only from FunkBand songs may be very, very complicated from a technical perspective)

There’s always the fear of loss at this point (loss and avoidance)

  • if people can see the number of clips they’ve created and the likes / follows from other people they’re much less likely to give up on using the app

Make it seem Epic!

  • top liked / followed / shared users get to go up on stage with FunkBand during one of their concerts
  • free tickets for top users (slightly less epic but still really, really cool)

Now consider adding something like that to your RFP or proposal, alongside all the usual target audience, value proposition, metric, features, key visuals and so on.

Instead of lists of functionalities, we’re building stories around how users interact with the product (or service) and we’ve found that one of the best ways to get people invested is to make them (or in this case their product) the hero of that story. Most of the time, when starting out, we want to know the impact a product should have much more than a list features.

In conclusion… give it a try and come to your own conclusion. After that, let me know how it worked for you ’cause I’m really curious :)

Just remember… 8 core drives & 4 stages that every user goes through.