Gamification in UX Design: How to Boost User Engagement

Gamification in UX Design: How to Boost User Engagement cover

Looking to incorporate gamification UX strategies into your product design?

You clicked the right link!

This article covers the key types of gamification and real-life examples to inspire you. We also explored how to avoid common gamification challenges and maximize product engagement.


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What is gamification?

Gamification is the application of game-like elements to non-game contexts to increase user engagement and motivate users towards achieving goals.

This differs from game design, which primarily focuses on creating standalone games for entertainment.

What is gamification in UX design?

UX gamification follows the same idea—introducing game design elements when designing websites, mobile apps, and other digital products.

The goal of gamification in UX design isn’t to turn your product into a full-fledged game but to leverage games’ fun and engaging aspects to achieve specific objectives.

These objectives could include increasing user retention, improving onboarding completion, or driving account upgrades.

Duolingo is one of the most iconic examples of UX gamification—every stage of the user’s interaction with the app is infused with gamification.

For example, consider this welcome survey.

The visually appealing design and progress bar are all game elements that encourage users to complete this vital onboarding step.

Applying gamification to user onboarding.

Why Is gamification important in UX?

Done well, UX gamification:

Let’s discuss these benefits in detail.

Driving user engagement

Gamification introduces fun, challenge, and reward elements into the user experience. This can turn mundane tasks into engaging activities, making users more likely to interact with your product.

Increased user engagement means more active users, higher session durations, and better retention rates.

For example, here’s a form of gamification—giving users a pat on the back for completing key milestones.

Seeing in-app messages like this will motivate users to continue the onboarding process and hopefully adopt your product.

In-app messaging created with Userpilot.

The above aside, there are many other tools you can use to enrich your onboarding flows and boost user satisfaction. Common examples include checklists, progress bars, and interactive walkthroughs.

The best part? You can easily set these with Userpilot without writing a line of code.

Optimize your onboarding process with Userpilot.

Improves usage frequency and boosts motivation

Gamification encourages users to return to your product more often.

By providing a sense of progress, competition, and achievement, it creates a loop of positive reinforcement that drives continued engagement.

Higher usage frequency leads to increased user loyalty and a stronger connection to your brand. This can result in more repeat customers, word-of-mouth referrals, and, ultimately, increased customer lifetime value.

Example: Asana showcases magical celebratory creatures each time new users complete an onboarding milestone. This encourages users to continue interacting and see what creature will appear next.

How Asana applies gamification in UX design.

Improves user retention

People are more motivated by avoiding losses than by acquiring gains.

Game elements like streaks, daily challenges, or limited-time rewards create a fear of missing out and encourage users to continue using the product to avoid losing their progress or rewards.

This contributes to driving retention and increasing your bottom line.

Again, Duolingo leverages this concept. By providing leaderboards, daily rewards, and recording learning streaks, the platform encourages users to keep visiting.

Duolingo’s gamification strategy.

Types of gamification elements for UX (+examples)

Gamification takes various forms, but the core principles remain the same. This section discusses UX gamification types and examples so you can be inspired to create your own.

Challenges and achievements

Challenges and achievements are gamification elements that engage users with specific goals and rewards for accomplishing them.

These can range from simple tasks like completing a tutorial to more complex objectives like mastering a skill or reaching a high score. You can leverage these game elements to drive feature discovery and improve adoption rates.

Example: Nike’s Run Club app sets personalized challenges for users, such as running a certain distance or beating a personal best time.

Completing challenges earns users badges and virtual trophies.

Source: Nike.

Points and rewards

Points and rewards are fundamental elements of gamification. They involve awarding users virtual points or tangible rewards for completing desired actions or behaviors.

Rewards create a sense of progress and reinforce action, leading to improved engagement for your platform.

Example: Productivity and habit-forming app Habitica reinforces action by gamifying task completion. Users earn points for completing tasks and forming good habits. These points can be used to level up their character, unlock in-app rewards, and customize their avatar.

Habitica using the points system to encourage engagement.

Badges and stickers

This gamification type follows the sample principle—recognize and reward users with visual symbols of accomplishment.

People are naturally drawn to completing collections. Badges and stickers tap into this drive, motivating users to keep earning rewards until they have the full set.

Example: Language learning app Memrise awards users badges and stickers for reviewing words, providing a sense of achievement as users advance in the learning process.

How Memrise keeps users engaged.

Levels, progress tracking, and journeys

Levels, progress tracking, and journeys are interconnected game elements that give users a structured path to follow, a way to visualize their progress, and a sense of accomplishment as they advance.

They’re particularly important for new feature onboarding and driving customer loyalty.

Example: Calm utilizes levels and progress tracking to help users establish and maintain a meditation practice.

Source: Calm.

Another example: Loona’s users unlock new sleeping stories as they progress through their journey in the app.

Source: Loona.


Leaderboards are ranking systems that display the top performers within a gamified system. They typically showcase users with the highest scores, most completed tasks, or other relevant metrics.

This game element facilitates social comparison, encouraging users to improve their performance and achieve higher rankings.

Example: Ambition provides gamification software with leaderboards to motivate sales teams and drive performance.

Source: Ambition.

Time constraints

Time constraints in gamification refer to using time-based limitations or deadlines to encourage specific actions or behaviors from users. This can take various forms, such as limited-time offers, timed challenges, daily missions, or countdown timers.

Example: Coursera uses visual representations of course progress to help learners see how much time they have left and motivate them to keep moving forward.

Source: Coursera.

Negative scoring

This game element involves deducting points or applying penalties for undesired actions.

By associating negative consequences with specific actions, you can deter users from engaging in those behaviors.

For example, Grammarly—the writing assistant—incorporates negative scoring as part of its gamification approach.

When users make grammatical or spelling mistakes in their writing, Grammarly deducts points from their overall score.

Knowing your points will be deducted makes you want to avoid writing mistakes as much as possible.

Source: Grammarly.

More great examples of gamification in UX

Getting inspired? Here are three more examples. See if you can identify the game mechanics at work!

  • Todoist

Todoist rewards users with karma points for completing tasks, and users can progress to higher karma levels as they tick off their daily goals.

This gamification strategy drives product stickiness because it’s attached to the product’s core value.

Todoist reward system.
  • Fullstory

Fullstory provides a detailed onboarding flow, using progress tabs to show users the steps they’ve taken and how many more are left. This gamified approach improves onboarding completion and contributes to product adoption.

Using progress tabs to sustain user motivation.
  • Dropbox

The platform rewards users with badges and points for completing specific tasks, such as sharing files or completing tasks.

Dropbox’s gamified onboarding.

Key challenges in UX gamification (and how to avoid them)

Although highly effective, UX gamification can have counter effects if misapplied. Here are three main challenges you’re likely to encounter and how to avoid them:

  • Balancing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: To solve this problem, ensure you design the core product experience to be inherently enjoyable and engaging, regardless of rewards.
  • Overuse and fatigue: Extensive gamification shouldn’t be a requirement. Give users the ability to customize their experience as desired.
  • Defining clear goals: Establish clear objectives and outcomes for gamification that align with user needs and enhance the overall user experience.

Example: LinkedIn utilizes a balanced approach to gamification by strategically incorporating features like profile completion progress bars and endorsements. This ensures that users are motivated without feeling overwhelmed by gamified elements.

Source: LinkedIn.

On the other hand, when it comes to Duolingo, some users mention that the daily streaks can be stressful. Have you seen memes like this on Twitter?

Duolingo meme.

Again, the key is to strike a balance. Listen to your users and determine what they’re comfortable with.


Successful gamification is a user-centric endeavor. It’s about understanding your audience’s needs, motivations, and pain points and tailoring your approach accordingly.

Tools like Userpilot make the process much easier, helping UX designers collect valuable customer data and craft in-app experiences that truly connect with users.

Ready to build or improve your gamification UX strategy? Book a demo now to discuss with our team.

Try Userpilot and Take Your User Experience to the Next Level

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