Should You Gamify Your UI?

Absolutely, but not in the way you’re thinking. If you’re considering adding gamification elements to your app’s user interface, you’re not alone. Gamification has become a staple in UI/UX design, but it’s important to understand that it’s more than just flashy animations and cute characters. It’s about tapping into the psychology behind games to create an engaging and rewarding user experience.

Why Gamify?

The argument for gamification applied to UX mainly is supported by the desire to boost three key principles that drive and influence user behavior. These are motivation, reward, and engagement. 

It is no surprise that users are more prone to engage with a certain app or website when they feel motivated. To generate motivation, it is necessary to define the goals as well as the rewards for achieving them. Users will feel hooked when they know that reaching a certain milestone will bring them achievements and determine their advancement within the app.

UX professionals have a responsibility to make user journeys more rewarding and dynamic, but also engaging. Turning basic tasks into challenges and quests is an excellent way to gamify your UI and increase user engagement at the same time.

UI/UX Design’s Gamification Roots

This might come as a surprise to some, but many common UI and UX principles are actually rooted in gamification. In recent years, as efforts towards gamification in the design world have increased, the lines between the two spheres have become blurred, with common UI elements becoming decidedly more similar to those of game design. Let’s have a look at some of the main ones.

Progress Bar

Progress tracking has been around for long in the gaming world, as it’s the main way to convey advancement. But these days they’ve become just as essential in UI design. Their rise in popularity is due to their effectiveness in conveying how one is performing and how close one is to achieving their goals. Progress bars have been integrated into onboarding systems, article pages, and in many other instances where a need to effectively display advancement is needed..

Social Interaction

Interaction between users is an essential part of the Internet these days. But it wasn’t always the case. With the appearance of message boards, instant messaging as well as the first social media platforms towards the end of the 1990’s, people have been able to interact with one another on the web. Gaming embraced the social element that was made available by online gaming, as that boosted the players’ desire to want to play those games, as they could interact (and play against) their friends.

Similarly, by integrating social elements such as liking or upvoting to UI design provides users with an avenue to appreciate and acknowledge content that resonates with them, and make them feel like their voice is heard by others. This not only serves as a form of validation for creators, and in return encourages users to explore and discover popular content that’s generated within a particular community.

Badges and Achievements

One of the main things that people look for in games are the dopamine rushes when they accomplish something. In gaming and UI design alike, badges and achievements can serve as powerful catalysts for engagement and accomplishment in users. These rewards are not just symbols of one’s accomplishments: they directly impact how users (or players) perceive one another.

That said, it’s important to note that the integration of such elements can sometimes be to the detriment of not just one’s app, but even to users themselves. Lack of understanding, irrelevance, lack of effect, and ethical issues such as cheating are one of the most reported downsides. Having badges and achievements may be fun when used in the right context and timing, however, overusing it would cause a backlash on your app.

Could you imagine JIRA having animations and a cute progress bar to indicate your task is checked? Yeah, me too.

Challenges and Quests

Similarly to how badges and achievements trigger engagement and accomplishment in users, goal-oriented tasks can bring a sense of purpose and excitement in them that will turn into accomplishment as they successfully get past each challenge. Challenges and quests are essential tools in the world of app design, serving as powerful motivators to encourage users to take specific action.

These features also add structure and progression to the app, as users are guided through a series of steps that provide a roadmap for their journey. Having different types of challenges and quests in your product will make sure that dull and uninspiring experiences become exciting and purpose-driven adventures.


Gaming has taught design a great way to foster healthy competition and collaboration among users. I’m of course referring to leaderboards, one of the key elements of game design, that has now become a common feature of UI design.

Visual representations of rankings, points earned and other stats related to performance creates a competitive environment that motivates users and often results in higher engagement. Having an emphasis on the rank changes instead of showing rankings will be more appealing to users. Remember that having a leaderboard in gamified apps should only be a media for competition rather than the purpose of your app.

Should You Gamify Your App?

In conclusion, we will once again underline gamification’s essential role to boost both user engagement and promote a more enjoyable experience in UI design. However, as with anything, it shouldn’t be overused, or, even worse, abused.

To ensure a smooth and successful integration of gamification into your UI, make sure to do a thorough evaluation of the extent and type of gaming elements that your app needs. Quite often, those depend on factors such as purpose and target audience, and it’s fundamental that they align with the goals of the app and provide value to the user.

While adding many gamification features to your UX is certainly tempting, one should not forget that its overuse can ultimately do more harm than good. A thoughtful assessment of the extent of gamification necessary will prevent you from making the mistake of over-gamifying your product, ensuring that the game-like elements that you do include have a beneficial impact to the overall user experience.

. . .

Elsa Djohan Avatar

Elsa Djohan / Visual Designer @ Phase

Designing dreams part-time with a full-time passion for giraffes and creativity.