Top 5 Lessons to Follow when Designing Octalysis Gamification

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There we were. Speechless, and a bit ashamed at the same time. Did we really have to redesign the full Octalysis design set up we did for this client? How was this even possible? So much work, for naught…what a disaster!

We had spent weeks making sure we knew exactly what business metrics our client wanted to improve. We had analyzed who our primary users were and what motivated them. Ran through all desired actions, feedback mechanics and rewards (Octalysis Strategy Dashboard). And finally we had come up with amazing features that would be included in our visual wireframes. This would be an epic experience, filled with little gems and with great balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation!

“Everything in our system can be integrated and designed exactly the way you want us too. There are no limits to what we can do!”, said the Marketing Director. We had believed her. She spoke for the company! Surely she had checked all of this? We were happy campers…until that meeting with the corporate IT Manager: “Mm, well, you see…we are using this 3rd party CRM system. And…er…nothing is really adjustable, unless you are willing to pay BIG money”.

We just fell for the most blatant overconfidence bias ever. We should have checked with IT ourselves rather than relying on what corporate heavyweights were telling us. It felt like a beginner’s mistake. Luckily in the end we found a way out, and we managed to implement a very engaging experience. But it was a costly lesson, and one we will not repeat ever again (and we haven’t).

We don’t wish for other people to experience the agony we went through, or make other avoidable mistakes when preparing for design work. So, here are our Top 5 Lessons to follow when designing Octalysis Gamification. Learn from what we have learned, for free!


Narrow down your clients’ priorities

You always want to create a relationship of trust with your clients, but never forget that you have an advisory role. You are hired to give advice, discover possibilities and help set priorities. Many of our clients have a long list of priorities that they want to see implemented. But often it is better to be 80% great for the top 20% priorities, rather than being 20% good for the 80%.

Help them prioritize by creating Tier 1 and Tier 2 priorities to make sure that you have solid objectives to design for. Always ask them questions like: “If there is one Business Metric that would make this product a success, what would that one Business Metric be?”

Oh, and always make sure you take a firm stand on the priority setting during the design process and to avoid mission or feature creep: the tendency to want constantly more and newer features before even the basic product has been established.


Some of our first contacts with clients are through charismatic high level visionaries in companies. They are Octalysis fans and want to use the potential of our method to get an edge over the competition. Often these managers/owners are very persuasive. Since it is their role to advocate new directions in the company, they are more preoccupied with the big picture rather than the IT details. However, these details often matter a lot and can lead to huge obstacles.

So as a rule: always involve the IT managers or CTOs in your discussions from the outset. They are the people that can tell you what can and cannot be done in the app or site. Always double check with IT what is possible, lest you design a Ferrari sports car that has to drive on a 4×4 back end!


Insist on clear and timely feedback

Many start up leaders and corporate managers have many priorities that need to be addressed simultaneously. Gamification design may be important to them, but so are marketing, accounts, investments, personnel and many other areas. These can sometimes take full attention away from what you are trying to design for your client. Don’t blame them for it! Recognize that this is company reality and adjust.

Make sure that you insist on regular feedback so that you can move on with the design process. Even better, try to present a concrete deliverable to discuss with the core team every week. This way people will stay involved and constantly interested in knowing what is next (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity). Examples of deliverables: new features to be designed; the in game economy; levels, badges; and, of course, visual wireframes!


Stand behind your expertise!

A good Octalysis designer is an multi colored expert in its own right. Octalysis combines insights in behavioral science, UI/UX, project planning, game design and a few more! You have built up insights that other experts do not have: they are either too tunnel focused (maybe only on UI/UX) or are too general in what they know. Octalysis fills the gap between big picture and the overly detail-orientation of some experts.

Don’t get sold by people that say they already have created a User Journey, when all they have is a UI/UX deck of slides that show how you can get from function A to function B. That is NOT user experience, nor a User Journey. Explain them that we are interested in WHY people would want to use the UI/UX presented, not so much in the fact that this functionality is there. Also don’t give in to people who just want to add “this Gamification layer” to their existing product and expect it to be amazing or engaging (hint: it won’t). In your feedback, however, do not be patronizing. Just tell them what limitations their vision or choices will have on the ROI of their product. Remember: you are a consultant, not an oracle!


Recognize what your client really wants

Many clients hire The Octalysis Group because to recognize the power of Octalysis and how implementing it can set them apart from their competitors. However, it does mean that our products are more refined and need a bit more work than just slapping some Points, Badges and Leaderboards (PBL) on a product. Quality just needs a bit more time to shine.

It also requires setting expectations with clients. If they want something fast and launch quickly, we can still do a PBL design for them (and ensure they will have far superior in-game economy than most off the shelf products). It won’t be as engaging as the full Octalysis premium package, but it will be better, much better, than the average product.

So what’s next?

Well, that’s up to you! We showed you some of our lessons learned, but we have learned so much more over the years. Contact us to know how we can put those lessons in practice in your company or for your product. Profit from our lessons learned rather than making mistakes yourself!


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