Three Start-up insights from Octalysis Gamification

Three Start-up insights from Octalysis Gamification

When I started up my first company I was, like many other entrepreneurs, constantly bombarded with tips, tricks and “how to’s” on making it in Startup World:

“Define your value proposition!”;

“Follow the Business model canvas”;

“Go lean or go home!”;

“Define the problem are you solving!”.

The problem is that startups are often so overwhelmed that they really have no mental and physical resources to follow these models. They are helpful for producing strategic documents and internal understanding, but for me did not help enough to really push my business forward.

It was not until I encountered the Octalysis Framework that my business started growing. Octalysis taught me some valuable lessons that I want to share with you. I hope they can help you as much as they have helped us!


1.  Don’t shout out all your features!

Even if you solve a problem for your user, if there is no motivation to use your solution to their problem nobody will use it…

Humans are not machines. We all have feelings that make up our motivation. So we have to focus on how we engage clients. It doesn’t matter that your product solves all the problems in the world. If you do not create engagement around the product. Don’t expect people to use it. We need to go from function (or functionality) focused design to human focused design.


Function focused design supposes that people are like robots and  automatically interact with a given functionality. It tailors for getting the job done efficiently. Human focused design, on the other hand, takes into account that people are led by emotions in their decisions on whether they want to do things or not. It recognizes that when we deal with human beings, we need to optimize our designs for their emotions and feelings.

By looking at your Start-up through the Octalysis Framework you can understand the feelings you want to engender with your users, and design accordingly. How do you want the user to feel the when they interact with your product? Will they feel part of something bigger than themselves (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling)? Is it the curiosity that makes people enter your website? (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity)? Or maybe it’s that so many people similar to them are already there? (Core Drive 5: Social influence and relatedness)

The first step towards human focused design is to realise that humans are not machines.



2. Prioritise your metrics!

“Strategy is your ability to know what NOT to do”, a friend once told me.

The first year in most Start-ups requires a 360 degree orientation of what it is that you are building and the direction you are taking. This often results in a lot more ideas and potential markets, clients or directions than that are realistic for your business. So you easily feel overwhelmed by the lack of focus. Launching a new product or experience demands prioritisation, and knowing what not to do.

Octalysis uses the Strategy Dashboard process as the basis for its engagement design.

Defining Business metrics is the first step in the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard. What’s the most important end result of what you want to improve? Is it the amount of sold units, amount of new user registrations, or perhaps it is the amount of returning users each week? Octalysis really helped me understand the importance of prioritizing our objectives and create mental and institutional space for focus.

Let’s look at how some really successful companies have focused on their Business Metrics and have adjusted their design accordingly.



Octalysis Gamification



It is clear that Facebook optimized its design for getting new sign-ups in their system: their key Business Metric at the time. Facebook wanted growth and wanted it fast, so their design is fully focused on making it easy for people to sign up.

The Sign Up UI is centered and stands out, while the sign in bar at the top is small.


Human focused design

Amazon clearly targeted their key business metric: making it easier for existing users to come back. On Amazon you can see the large yellow “Sign in” tab, while the “New customer? Start here” is barely visible underneath. The design is designing optimised for recurring users.

Although you may think these are minor differences in design, they can have a large impact on user behavior. Clearly defined business metrics underpinned by solid design that helps grow these metrics will help grow your business to the next level.

What are  your Startups’ top three metrics?



3. Meaningful does not mean urgent.

“I want to save the world, but first, coffee”.

Many Millennials want to become Social Entrepreneurs it seems (and I am one of them!). But often their dreams and wishes do not lead to actual activity. Less than 0.5% of Wikipedia users have actually contributed to Wikipedia for example.

The thing with craving to be involved in noble causes (White Hat Core Drive 1: Epic meaning & Calling ) is that it makes you feel good, fulfilled and in control,  but it doesn’t create any urgency to act immediately. Often for action to take take place we need what we call Black Hat Core Drives. These Core Drives drive obsessiveness and urgency. If I aimed a gun at you and said “Save the world or I’ll shoot!” (Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance), it would be a major immediate trigger to start saving the world.

So use White Hat Core Drives to create that long term motivation, but get people to start with some Black Hat design. Epic Meaning and calling can be a powerful for long-term motivation as long as it is believable. If Shell promotes protecting the Arctic, a lot of people would shake their heads. Tesla, on the other hand has this believability. And it is so strong that even if Tesla cars have the same amount of mechanical faults as other cars Tesla owners are more forgiving towards the company. Perhaps because they really feel part of something bigger than themselves?

Applying the Octalysis Framework to my Start-up will helped me understand how I could combine short and long term motivational design. Now I can create urgency as well as long term engagement.

Think about how balanced your product is. Does it create urgency? Does it create longing or long term engagement?

Want more?

These are just a few of the lessons from Octalysis that I wished I knew before starting my own business. Learn from our mistakes, don’t make them yourself. Contact us for a talk about preparing your Start-Up for designing engagement that lasts!


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