Gamification does sound like an interesting idea. Can we make business software more enjoyable by adding game mechanics? Embed things like leaderboards, badges, etc to make our applications more engaging. It’ll be fun! 2010 saw a surge of buzz around this idea, followed soon enough by a backlash. I’ve read way more anti than pro gamification posts in the last year.
Well, maybe that’s just because of poor, lazily thought out implementations? A recent article on New Scientist [paywalled] suggests not. Adding these kinds of mechanics can actually reduce productivity and user satisfaction. You get a similar unintended consequence with, for example, paying school students to read books; research seems to show that these children become less likely to read books when they’re not being paid. The intrinsic motivation of reading because it’s actually fun has been replaced by an extrinsic motivation of reading in order to get rewards. Not really the desired outcome!
OK, so forgot gamifying the interface. What would make the user experience for business software, if not fun exactly, then at least more enjoyable? In the realm of content publishing and curation, here are some ideas:
- You can always undo whatever it was you just did
- You don’t have to repeat the same action a thousand times like a mechanical monkey
- You can update a whole bunch of documents in one go
- You can leave work half-finished without getting errors (aka “go to lunch”) and come back to where you were
- You never have to drill down through deep hierarchical folder trees (unless you’re a developer. Developers love that crap)
- You don’t have to jump through irrelevant workflow hoops dating from when the system was installed
- You never lose work because something crashed
- You don’t have to translate what you want to do into a language the system understands
I think you see where I’m going with this. Usability is the new fun! Goal oriented design is the new gameplay!
On a completely unrelated note: I’m in Florida atm, working on getting Contentment’s first product to beta release while waiting to watch the space shuttle launch. It’s sad to see the shuttle program coming to an end. But it’s interesting how the smaller and more agile approach has yielded better returns in space exploration over the past decade. As with space exploration, so with content software?