Book Image

Gamification for Product Excellence

By : Mike Hyzy, Bret Wardle
Book Image

Gamification for Product Excellence

By: Mike Hyzy, Bret Wardle

Overview of this book

Are you trying to build a product that your audience loves to use? Game mechanics and psychology have been used for decades to increase engagement, convert users to buyers, and increase audience retention. Learning when and where to implement these tools can take your product from the middle of the pack to a must-have! This book begins by helping you get a clear understanding of gamification, its key concepts, and how product managers can leverage it to drive user engagement in non-game scenarios. As you progress through the chapters, you’ll learn different gamification frameworks, mechanics, and elements with structured ways to implement them while designing a successful gamification strategy tailored to a business case. You'll get a chance to implement and test the designed strategy prototype with the users for feedback. You’ll also discover how to sell your strategy to stakeholders to get full buy-in from the top down, along with how to gamify your product development process to drive innovation, engagement, and motivation. By the end of this book, you'll be primed to harness the power of gamification, and will have benefited from proven case studies, best practices, and tips, ensuring you are well-equipped to apply gamification principles to your work as a product development professional.
Table of Contents (15 chapters)

Gamification increases user engagement

So now that we have the expectations of the product manager out of the way, let’s get into why gamification, when utilized correctly in a situation where it is valuable, can be a game changer (pun intended).

If you are in charge of developing and launching a product and feature, and you build the most unique, incredible, fantastic product or feature ever, and no one uses it, you didn’t succeed at your job. When we develop products and features, we want people to use them. Gamification can help you with that.

User engagement refers to the level of involvement and interaction with a product or service. It measures how often and how deeply users engage with the product and can include metrics such as time spent using the product, frequency of use, number of actions taken, and social sharing.

For product managers, user engagement is a critical factor in the success of their products. High levels of engagement indicate that users find value in the product and are likely to continue using it, which can lead to increased revenue and user retention. Additionally, engaged users can become brand advocates, sharing their positive experiences with others and driving new user acquisition. Product managers must understand user behavior and preferences to design engaging products that meet their needs. They must also constantly monitor user engagement metrics and use this data to make informed decisions about product development, marketing, and customer support. Overall, user engagement is a crucial metric for measuring the success of a product and is essential for building a loyal user base.

Here are the reasons why people use digital products and how they succeed:


  • Solves a real problem or meets a genuine need
  • Offers a unique value proposition or competitive advantage
  • Has a clear target audience and addresses their specific pain points


  • Is user-friendly and easy to understand/use
  • Provides an intuitive and seamless UX
  • Offers reliable and consistent performance
  • Has a high-quality and visually appealing design


  • Generates positive word-of-mouth and customer referrals
  • Has a strong brand identity and reputation


  • Is scalable and adaptable to changing needs
  • Continues to innovate and evolve based on user feedback and market trends
  • Maintains a competitive edge through ongoing research and development

Benefits of gamification for user engagement

Gamification increases user engagement by leveraging psychological principles of motivation and reward to encourage users to engage with a product or service. By incorporating game-like elements, gamification creates a sense of competition and achievement that motivates users to interact with the product or service more frequently and for extended periods.

Gamification also provides a sense of accomplishment and progression, which can be particularly effective for products that involve repetitive or mundane tasks. By offering rewards and recognition for completing these tasks, gamification can make them more enjoyable and satisfying for users.

Additionally, gamification can increase user engagement by tapping into social dynamics. Multiplayer games and social leaderboards can create a sense of community and encourage users to interact with each other, fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty to the product or service.

Overall, gamification can be a powerful tool for product managers to increase user engagement and retention, ultimately leading to tremendous business success.

Let’s take a fictional example, a social media app for product managers called Product Management Media (PMM), and show how gamification can significantly increase user engagement on a digital product:

Figure 2.2 – Product Management Media – social media app for product developers and creative teams

Figure 2.2 – Product Management Media – social media app for product developers and creative teams

Why the app was created

Its unique value proposition is that it’s the only social media and education platform for product development professionals. It creates a space where users can learn about product development, share stories with their peers, and learn from the community. Gamification helps its value proposition by giving points for the messages and insights you share with the community and badges for education or articles you post. As people earn more points for posting and connecting, they are more engaged, as are the others that read it. Since the users know that new content on the platform posts constantly, they are more likely to open the app more frequently, therefore driving higher engagement.


In PMM, the structure to progress through the app contains levels, so once you complete the tasks for a level, you progress to the next one. The structure is easy to understand because progressing through a game is familiar to the user. As a user, I read three articles and posted a story about my favorite product launch so that I could progress to the next level. The structure provides an initiative and seamless UX that the user falls right into and doesn’t take brainpower to navigate. When a user wins a reward, progresses to a level, or accomplishes a mission in the app, visually striking effects fill the screen, congratulating the user and getting them excited by design.


The next gamification tactic is widespread, and I’m willing to bet you’ve seen this a couple of times before. PMM will send you a coffee mug for inviting 5 project managers to the platform, a T-shirt if you invite 25 friends to the platform, and an all-expense paid trip to spend a weekend on Mars with Elon Musk if you invite 1,000 project managers to the app. The reward is a gamification technique to increase user engagement on the app; more users inviting more users will drive more engagement, driven by the psychology of the rewards. And sometimes, it’s a social status play as well; you definitely want to be seen in your PMM T-shirt at the next product management meetup in your area.


PMM continues to evolve, and it does that by keeping a close relationship with users and their needs. It just sent out a super fun survey to all of its users; there are quirky questions to keep them engaged, a progress bar so they can stay informed of their accomplishments throughout the journey, and then a reward at the end, a chance to win a $1,000 Amazon gift card. Does this sound familiar to you? Gamification tactics are more common than you might realize, and they are common because they work.

It also gamifies its continual feedback loop. Within the app, when you accomplish a task or move up a level, there is a benefit popup for you to submit feedback, and you’ll get points for submission.

Through the survey and the feedback mechanism included in the app, you’ve learned that product managers think formal education is way too expensive and want some informal training programs embedded in PMM so they can get certified in certain sections of the “elite eight” product skills. You’ve gamified the feedback process to gain insights that help you grow your product, competitive edge, and user engagement.

The impressive user engagement numbers got around the tech community, and you’ve just secured your next round of investment funding! Woohoo!

For product leaders, you can also gamify your product research and development. Have your teams participate in a pitch competition, where they collect research, form a business plan, and then pitch to you and other members of the leadership team what their idea for the next big thing will be, based on completion of the feedback loop and market research they have done on their own. The social and competitive factors will drive fresh new ideas, and the rewards can be feasible: dinner with the leadership team or “Pitch Winner 2023” pullovers. Break your team out of their comfort zone, and if timing allows, even run a design sprint, popularized by Jake Knapp of Google Ventures. You can run a half-week or half-day version of the design sprint based on your team’s availability and the priority of the new features.

Gamification can be a highly effective strategy for increasing user engagement by incorporating game mechanics and elements into non-game contexts, making them more interactive, immersive, and enjoyable. To successfully implement gamification, product managers must design experiences that appeal to users’ intrinsic motivation and emotions, while providing a sense of achievement, progress, and reward. You can achieve gamification parity by offering personalized and engaging experiences that encourage users to pick your product in the first place and stay engaged, fulfilling your engagement and retention goals as a product manager.

The benefits of gamification extend beyond just increasing user engagement. It can also provide valuable feedback and data to product managers, allowing them to refine and improve their products over time. To effectively leverage gamification, product managers should carefully consider the specific goals they want to achieve and design the gamified experiences accordingly. By doing so, they can create a more compelling and enjoyable UX that drives engagement, fosters brand loyalty, and ultimately, contributes to the product or service’s success.