I have felt strongly about this for the longest time.
And it isn’t a new concept either. The moment I started really learning about web design 10 years ago, I was already hit with seemingly radical guides like this one. Look around some more and you’ll find newer ones like this.
I’m just gonna say it…I think game design is a hundred times more evolved than web design. And should game designers ever want to take over the web design industry, they could do it in a heartbeat.
Here’s where they’ve got us beat…
WEBSITES are made to be pretty, GAMES are made to be addictive
Yeaup…think about all the websites you’ve ever made. And see if you can remember their most important objectives:
- look pretty
- be organized
- MAKE MONEY
For a game design, that’s low-level shit. Every freaken game is PRETTY, ORGANIZED, and EASY-TO-USE.
- There’s thousands of games out there right now that have all kinds of complicated user actions and complex screenflow…and yet being played by 10-year olds!
You know what game design focuses on?
- BEING ADDICTIVE!
Visuals and audio that draw you in, immerse you into another world. You feel what the characters feel. You aren’t playing the character, you BECOME the character. That’s powerful stuff.
What’s even more powerful? The game isn’t just UI. It’s a drug that hypnotizes you into doing what it wants. What does the game want? (What does the character need?) More coins? More sword-slashing? More jumps? More ammo? What???
They’re games out there that aren’t even that pretty and yet they draw you in again and again and again. You just want to play one more time. Even if it does nothing for you. Doesn’t solve any problems. Doesn’t save the world. Doesn’t cure cancer. Doesn’t give you any money, or make your life better in any substantial way. It simply appeals to your reptilian brain and hijacks your ability to do anything else.
That, my friend, is the power of gamification.
Most websites need more gamification
Being pretty is not enough. Being informative or help, or organized, or easy-to-use…all those things are not enough. In fact, they’re overrated.
- Because those things are only UI. They only help users understand your site. They don’t reward your users.
Your website needs to REWARD users.
- Like a slot machine.
- Like Facebook with it’s notifications, likes, emails saying “somebody liked replied on your post/comment”.
- Like Amazon which acts like you won at life every time you make a purchase on their site. (Getting an email saying your package is shipped feels like “winning”, doesn’t it?)
- Like Google rewarding your search in endless ways. (Articles, videos, bullets, images, or more keywords for more goodies!)
Does your website make users feel like they’re WINNING?
- Is the home page filled with joy and toys?
- Does browsing and searching products make them feel like they’re winning?
- Does submitting a contact form make them feel like they won? Does the follow-up email make them feel like they won?
What are they feeling when they click something? Does clicking the heart icon to wishlist a product just fade out the heart? Or does the heart change colors or fly up into the menu? Is there a sound? Is there anything that can make the user feel something?
It’s crazy because nobody consciously knows what feels like winning to them. It’s all in the reptilian brain. We just do more things that feel good and do less things that feel bad or don’t make us feel anything. We’re just dopamine addicts, right?
I can tell you this much. Users need to see reactions to every action. The website has to respond or acknowledge their actions somehow. Forget about clicks…sometimes even hovering the mouse over should have some reaction (like color changes on links/buttons). Or how about those annoying Shopify sites with the “so and so just bought X widget right now in Minnesota!”.
What’s truly clever is when you create possibilities for new actions that didn’t previously exist. Like imagine the person who thought of the idea of “comments” on a blog. And the person after who thought of thumbs up or thumbs down on comments. And the person who thought of making clothing images flip to the back side on mouse-over. The world is still full of unlimited possibilities. Limitless ways to create new actions and new reactions.
And even more so than just a reaction, is a feeling. To draw them more into your world. This isn’t a digital box with text and images. It’s another world! You need to transport them into another dimension. That’s the only way to make them feel something.
And how you engineer all this is a whole other science in itself. (I’ve been working on that craft for several years now. And I’m still not very good at it. But I marvel at its infinite power.)