The importance of user engagement
As I’ve spoken about in previous posts on the gamified process, gamification is a method to create engagement with your audience. However, in the context of user engagement in this article, it must be said that the gamified process facilitates engagement for the user with specific elements and goals, such as narrative, a sense of belonging, mastery, knowledge acquisition, and so on. The gamified process itself, therefore, is not the engaging aspect as such, it is the elements within that that grab the users attention and engage it.
User engagement then, or rather the user’s attention level to be engaged is a finite resource and a highly valuable resource at that. When you are able to engage them, it certainly confirms that what you are offering has value for the targeted user.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the first steps to ensure that you are correctly engaging your users, and to improve your user engagement, is by finding out ‘what it is that your users want and what they find to be of value’ (Griffin, D., van der Meer, A., Press Start, 2019, p. 190). This process of figuring out what your users want is generally done in conjunction with creating and developing persona sub-groups that segment your users into easy to understand collections of wants, needs and interests.
Once you have discovered their wants and needs, and you are engaging with and receiving engagement from your users, this should firstly affirm the value of your product/service to them. But secondly, it will also offer you the opportunity to communicate with your users directly. Communicating with them will allow you to improve the accessibility and usability of what you are offering and thereby further increase its value. This organically leads to your users becoming even more engaged and motivated with your offering and promotes a sense of loyalty and trust with what you are doing.
Motivational affordance is a great term for what can best be described as the overall quality of what you are offering that the user engages with. The clearer the user can recognise the affordance that the offering gives or has, the quicker they will connect with that motivator and engage with it.
Therefore, having clear intrinsic and extrinsic motivational levers that the user can recognise, the better for your offering. The recognition of these can be due to the fact that the user finds them to be intriguing, amusing or because of an outcome that the user desires, and can, therefore, be afforded if they engage. Such as a beneficial reward for them.
As discussed in our book, Press Start, the combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and rewards, has a delicate balance. In the short-term extrinsic motivations can be used to quickly and effectively engage the user, but to ensure loyalty and longevity of that engagement, the user has to transition to more intrinsic motivations in the long-term. And it must be said that in both motivational cases, the user must choose to take part voluntarily. If at any point they feel they are being forced into something, then all engagement will be lost immediately and all your work will have been for nought.
The six intrinsic motivational levers that you need to focus on to transition your users into a long-term and healthy engagement with your offering are Purpose, Mastery, Autonomy, Belonging, Esteem and Safety. Some other experts may have more or may have less, in general, though these are what we have found to be the main levers for effectively engaging users. Having less than these is possible, but obviously lowers your chances of success, and having more may improve your chances. Though do always be careful to not overwhelm your users, this will also alienate them from your offering.
For more information on each of the motivational levers, you can have a look at our book Press Start or explore the blog section for articles on them.