Gamification is a word that has been bouncing around the business web and software development circles for a decade or more, but only recently has it begun to pick up real popularity among decision-makers and lead business website designers. It is, essentially, the art of adding game-like elements to your web pages, mobile apps, and business software that increase engagement by activating the same motivation centers in the brain that games do. The desire to earn points, to get a high score, to earn badges and a little friendly competition are incredibly energizing and have been found time and time again to enhance the experience of both customers and employees who are offered gamification features in their otherwise serious software.
Gamification and Mini-Games
But gamification doesn't have to stop at simply spicing up your UI or rewarding users for taking actions on your website. Modern businesses with the freedom of custom web design have every reason to go all-out and provide actual mini-games on their websites to delight, entertain, and occupy customers in times when they might otherwise become frustrated or dissatisfied. Mini-games can be used to kill time ranging from a few seconds to several minutes, take a customer's mind off their troubles, and subtly show that you value customer time by making sure they always have something to do.
Here are the top eight ways that mini-games built into your website can be used to enhance customer experience using your website and mobile app.
1) Waiting for a Customer Service Rep
While the digital world is moving us closer and closer to fully-automated customer experiences, customer service is far from over. Today, almost every business website has a live chat box and a 'contact us' page at a minimum, but that doesn't actually mean that you have enough service reps to help every customer exactly when they want to start the conversation. While asking customers to wait patiently for their turn is the traditional route, it's also boring, frustrating, and often taken as a sign that you don't value or can't handle their patronage.
Instead of leaving your customers hanging or hiring additional customer service reps, a simple mini-game can make a huge difference. Let's say a customer has opened the live-chat window during a very busy day and is greeted by your customer service chatbot. The bot qualifies their need and determines that a real rep is required to solve the customer's problem or question. Rather than trying to maintain robotic chit-chat or asking the customer to wait 5 minutes (which you know they won't), the bot instead offers to play a game of memory-match or checkers with the guest. By the time a rep is available, your customer will be in a good mood and may have completely forgotten that they were waiting at all.
2) Updating the App
Sometimes your mobile app will need to update or download new resources for itself. While many app updates can happen in the background with no trouble caused to the user, there are also many situations where a user's choices will cause the mobile app to need to access new data, download a new theme, or process a request. When this happens, you can show a spinning waiting icon but no matter how clever the icon, customers are going to get frustrated waiting any longer than about 3 seconds for anything.
Unless you have a mini-game. Rather than asking your app-users to wait, pop-up a quick mini-game that is easy to play on a small screen with taps. Something like whack-a-mole or a tap-race might be exactly the right speed for your customers. Then, when the wait is over, summon a glowing 'move on' button but give users the opportunity to keep playing if they want to.
3) Downloads and Installations
For businesses that offer software, provide more complex web application services, or require downloads for certain features, these aspects of digital business all come with their own unique delays. Any download tends to also incur a certain amount of waiting while software requires time for both downloading and installation.
For these, consider a mini-game embedded in the web page itself rather than a pop-up. On your download page, a mini-game that helps wait out the download duration is incredibly helpful to some customers, especially because every device and computer downloads things at a different speed. For those whose next step is working with the download but they have a few minutes to kill before that is possible, a fun balloon-shooter or even a puzzle game might be the best way to spend that time enjoyably.
4) When Internet Connection is Lost
Here's an interesting one. Do you know about that little dinosaur jumping game you can play when the Chrome browser loses internet connection? If not, try disabling your wifi, hitting 'refresh' on a page, then pressing the space-bar when you see the no-connection dinosaur and enjoy.
The reason this works is that the game is already loaded in as part of the browser. Believe it or not, you can emulate this fun trick in your own web-page by including the game in your cookie package. Then use your page to detect when the connection is lost, inform your visitors, and offer them a fun game until the connection is back and their website experience can resume.
5) Multi-Factor Authentication
Password security has become a hotly debated topic in IT security circles and many (quite reasonably) argue that passwords are no longer the most practical and secure way to handle individual authentication. Among the leading alternate trends is multi-factor authentication (MFA using a combination of clues, picture selection, and possibly even sounds or voice recognition to identify a person beyond a string of characters.
If you choose to implement multi-factor authentication, rather than making it a tedious process, make it an interactive matching game instead where the 'winning' sequence is different for each person. This is also a way to provide a little fun and enjoyment every time a user logs in.
6) As a UI Tutorial
Many businesses have begun using a small amount of gamification in order to give quick engaging tutorials for new UI layouts, but there's no reason to stop 'playing the UI game' after the tutorial is complete. If you have, say, an adorable company mascot that peeks out from behind UI elements and can be clicked for points in order to introduce your UI, consider keeping this 'mini-game' around for users who want some quick entertainment by making it available again with a friendly button. You might even design a few different levels and activities that can be played this way.
7) In Kid-Mode
Parents are always handing their phones and tablets to young children to need temporary entertainment in order to sit still and quiet for a few minutes. While parents usually have to close all their serious apps and open of a specific game app for the children, your brand might line up well with offering a 'kids mode' for your app instead. A kid's mode might allow parents to open a few semi-educational mini-games while simultaneously locking the rest of the app until the password is entered. This can provide a quick source of child-distraction without putting their account controls at risk.
8) Subtly Gather Survey Data
Finally, don't forget that quizzes and surveys can absolutely function as mini-games if created and written in an amusing and entertaining way. Working with your marketing team, you can include a fun survey in your rotation of mini-games where the answers to the questions are subtly gathering valuable marketing data on customer preferences, style, sense of humor, and personal habits.
Unless your brand is built on being completely serious all the time, you have a lot to gain from considering just a few mini-game features in your customer's web and mobile app experience. Of course, this kind of personalized feature set is only possible through custom design. For more web design tips, trends, and strategies contact us today!