Anyway, for no real reason, I’ve decided to pen a post on questing, which in this case, refers to adding a set of steps that create an incentive for your users to add information to a system.
Questing is one of my favorite mechanics because it’s:
- Easy to add.
- Relatively unobtrusive.
- Not obvious gamification.
- Psychologically fulfilling.
Everyone is familiar with questing from games; it’s a long arc, achieved by completion of many short arcs, and there’s a reward at the end. Ever played Super Mario Brothers or Donkey Kong? What about Risk? Like I said, everyone knows questing.
So, how does this game mechanic fit into software design? Here are two examples.
Dropbox is one of our favorite tools. They use a simple quest with a reward, 250 MB of free storage.
Dropbox offers you a reward, i.e. more free storage, in exchange for completing several small tasks. They even elevate you to Dropbox guru. Not that this is reflected anywhere as a badge, not yet anyway, but it’s clearly part of the quest.
This is a classic win-win quest that also benefits the service; the minor tasks–installing the native clients, spreading the word, adding and sharing files, taking the tour–all force you to familiarize yourself with the service, which is how you find value and stick as a user.
Dropbox didn’t have this when I started using it back in 2008, but obviously, someone has been paying attention to trends. I wonder how much of their recent success in attracting users can reasonably be attributed to adding a quest.
Dropbox has dabbled in other quests too, recently offering users a scavenger hunt called Dropquest for more free storage and other prizes.
LinkedIn offers an older example of a quest that is probably more familiar, profile completeness.
I completed my profile long ago for no reason other than to move that progress bar. I remember once I started the quest, I had to finish it. Over the years, they have tweaked the completion process and made it more transparent, adding new features to the process, like profile pictures, that benefit their overall service.
As with Dropbox, this quest is win-win. LinkedIn benefits from having more complete profiles. They have emphasized profile attributes that make their service more valuable to their users, especially the paying customers. As a freemium service, LinkedIn offers tiered subscriptions, and profile completeness offers a way to vet profiles. While LinkedIn doesn’t actively encourage vetting by profile completeness, it does provide a quick way to determine how engaged the user is.
Aside from a maniacal desire to get to 100% complete, the user also benefits by vetting. Right-wrong-indifferent, profile completeness is used by recruiters and other users to judge your LinkedIn profile. A quick search reveals just how important that simple quest is to recruiters.
So, there you have two quests. I’m a fan of adding quests to UX because, when done right, they’re mutually beneficial and engaging without feeling like forced gamification.
Plus, quests can also benefit a broader range of goals for a service without looking cheesy, and they have an end. Not everyone wants to earn badges for performing tasks, and even for those of us driven by bling, the game tends to get dull after a while, especially with no end in site.
Have you seen quests in other software/services? Share them in comments.