BLOG / Gamification In UX Design: How To Use Gamification For Engagement In Apps

Gamification In UX Design: How To Use Gamification For Engagement In Apps

January 21, 2023

Gamification For Engagement In Apps

After surpassing the one million app mark in 2013, Google Play Store has continued to experience growth and now stands at almost three million apps on the marketplace. The Apple App Store is also home to more than 3.5 million apps. As more apps surface, it is important for companies to consider how they present data and functions to the user. User engagement is a particularly important factor with apps, and adding a few game elements might be just what the app needs. Gamification does not require game design skills but rather uses something as simple as a point-collecting system to promote better user engagement.

In this post, we are going to focus on gamification in UX design. We will take a closer look at how game mechanics, even in some of the more serious apps, can help increase user engagement, keep people on the app for longer, and boost revenue in the process. We will also consider the steps you need to take to use a game element as a way of driving better engagement among your users.

What Is Gamification In UX Design?

Our focus in this post is to help you understand why and how you should add gamification to your apps. First, however, we should take a closer look at what it means to add gamification elements to an app.

When we refer to an app in this post, we refer to standard application options like an educational app or productivity app. These apps generally allow users to make notes, learn something, read through educational content, or perhaps deposit money. We are not referring to games, as they already contain gameplay elements and would not need a gamification system.

When faced with a simple and boring interface, users engage less with an app. As the number of gamers increases in the modern day, making the user experience fun has become an important element that app developers need to keep in mind. The problem is app developers often find it difficult to make the user onboarding process and the app itself fun for their target audience. This especially accounts for apps that are related to more serious tasks and functions.

Gamification focuses on removing the difficulty that developers experience. It involves the use of game-like elements in a regular app. There is no need to completely reinvent an existing app, which is also why gamification is such a good idea. For example, adding an interactive process during onboarding encourages users to complete the registration process.

A solid UX gamification strategy can increase user engagement and boost customer retention – something that is always good in any industry. This is because gamification essentially adds to the customer lifetime value that the app has to offer.

How To Add Gamification To An App

There is no fixed method that can be used to add gamification to an app. You have to analyze the type of app in question and consider the user’s interaction with the app to identify the right type of game mechanics that you can use.

This is why a thorough assessment is the very first step that you need to take. Unlike game design, you are not focusing on creating a game – but rather using UX gamification to boost user engagement. First, consider the type of gamification strategies that you wish to use. This will have a major impact on what type of game elements you should consider for the app.

It is common for apps to use a points system when it comes to UX gamification. A points system generally involves a virtual currency or reward system that is awarded to the users of the mobile apps. For example, you might give the user a certain number of points when they complete the registration process, then award more points after account verification. This can also be useful in sales gamification.

Apart from considering the type of gamification elements you want to use, it is also important to understand how you will reward users. The reward system should be relevant to the type of app to that you are adding game elements.

Let’s consider an example scenario. You have a productivity app that has a free version, but there are also paid subscriptions that users can utilize. You add a point system into your game that awards the users with virtual currency when they complete certain tasks.

As the user engages with these gaming elements, they will start to accumulate points – and at some point, they want a way to use these points. Virtual rewards can include a subscription to a paid version of your app for a certain period of time.

In these UX gamification examples, you could give the user the ability to exchange a certain number of coins or points for a one-month subscription to your Pro plan.

You do need to ensure you carefully plan things out. There is no use in finding a way to motivate users to earn points when you are unable to offer them a worthy reward. At the same time, when you insert gameplay elements into your app, make sure the rewards will not set you back in the process.

Examples Of Gamification In UX Design

When you decide to implement gamification in your app, then it is important to talk to the UX designers and the developers simultaneously.

If the idea of adding gamification to the user interfaces of the app is new, then looking at a couple of examples is definitely a good idea.

In this section, we are going to take a closer look at how successful apps have added game mechanics to provide their users with a gamification experience. This will give you some great ideas to work from. While you should not copy these strategies, they should give you a foundation to work from when you want to encourage users to use your app.


Gamification has become especially popular among learning and educational apps. One of the most famous examples of this would be Duolingo, an app that focuses on helping its users to learn a new language.

While there are many language learning app options available, many of them do not come close to Duolingo – and this is partly due to the way that Duolingo uses a game element in the app to motivate users.

There are two ways that Duolingo uses gamification in order to enhance user engagement and boost its acquisition rates.

The first comes in the form of crowns and badges that users are able to earn. The app does make the user “work” for these rewards.

As the user continues with the lessons to learn a new language, they are asked to complete certain tests. Crows and badges are awarded when the user gains a high score on the tests that they need to complete.

This is an excellent example of out UX design gamification can be used in order to get users to come back to the app regularly and interact with the features it offers.

There is also a scoreboard and leagues that the company has implemented into the Duolingo app. It is human nature to have a competitive spirit.

Thus, by offering a scoreboard, the user’s journey is recorded, but in a competitive way. Progress bars are also used to help the user get a quick view of the progress that they are making and how far away they need to go to unlock rewards.


An estimated 20% of adults have some type of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, stress, and related conditions can cause unpleasant symptoms among individuals affected by them.

Headspace was designed as an app that helps to promote relaxation among its users. There is a large focus on meditation and mindfulness in the app.

In order to promote better user engagement and help the users overcome negative associations, the mobile application has decided to implement certain gamification elements.

The idea behind the gamification system in Headspace is to help users build better habits related to meditation – and, in turn, this can help to equip the user with the skills required to stay calm and reduce feelings of anxiety. This is also a good example of successful gamification.

The app essentially provides the user with accomplishments. Even just after completing the steps on the onboarding page, the user is already granted an opportunity to obtain their first accomplishment – when they complete their very first meditation session on the app.

While the app does not incentivize users with monetary value, the idea of having a page that reflects the accomplishments made is enough to keep many of the app users satisfied and motivated.


Even the food industry is looking at ways in which gamification could be used as a way of boosting sales and customer acquisition rates.

KFC is a good example of this particular factor, with the development of a mobile app that had basic game mechanics. The app was called KFC Shrimp Attack, and the idea was to add a gamification element to KFC in order to attract customers.

When customers competed in the game, they were awarded certain rewards, including vouchers that they could redeem in-store at their local KFC franchise.

The campaign came to an end much sooner than KFC initially expected, but this was because it worked better than anticipated.

The app became so popular that KFC had to end the campaign early on because the menus in their restaurant were quickly running out of shrimp-based food options to offer the customers.


When it comes to gamification examples where real monetary value rewards play a role, then we should definitely consider AccorHotels.

The company has added gamification elements to its app in order to gain an increase in bookings made through them.

The gamification system is quite simple, yet it has been working excellently for the company since its initial launch.

The app is part of the Accor Live Limitless loyalty program. The main purpose of the app is to encourage users to do check-ins directly on the app and to leave feedback. Once the user completes the required process, they are awarded both a badge and some points.

When the user collects an appropriate number of points through this gamification system, then they are able to trade them in for a discount when they make another booking at a hotel that forms part of the AccorHotels franchise.

Promoting Gamification Elements In An App

Once you have decided to add gamification to your app, it is important to ensure you update the ad campaigns that you use.

Many of the people who see your ads will likely be gamers – so showcasing the game elements that you added to your app to them is a great way to improve your click-through rate and acquire more users through your marketing campaigns.

With this said, you should still ensure you understand your target audience and create ads that will speak to them.

While you focus on the new gamification elements in your ad campaigns, make sure the ads you show are still relevant to what your app is and what it does. There is no use in promoting a new point system if the user seeing the ad does not have any idea what the app is about.

Diversity is also key when you decide to promote your new gamification elements. While considering who your target audience is, try to expand your campaigns to social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook in order to expand the reach that you are able to achieve with your marketing efforts.

Gamify your UX Design Team

User engagement is one of the most important elements that contribute to the overall success and efficacy of a mobile or desktop application. Keeping users engaged, however, is often a difficult task, which is where gamification in UX design comes into the picture.

Whether you have a language learning app, an educational resources app, or something that promotes communication among users, the implementation of game mechanics can certainly aid in the overall success of the app.

BUT! Did you know you can also use gamification to motivate your UX Design Team?!

With Spinify, you can gamify your UX Design Team’s goals and KPIs and throw them up on the big screen for your whole team to follow. Create competitions out of KPIs and goals and see which team members can hit the target first on the leaderboard. You can even reward positive behaviors and milestones with badges and incentives.Book a demo today and see how you can motivate your teams’ performance with Spinify!

Put those insights into practice.

Set your team up for success by improving their performance through gamification.

Back to blog