Ever find yourself checking your Facebook feed absent-mindedly, on the off chance that there might be something new and interesting there?
Ever follow an eBay auction obsessively, or get a burst of happiness when someone gives you a high seller rating?
Ever spend a day in anticipation, wondering how many views your YouTube video will accrue?
There’s a lesson in all these experiences in how to make an online journalism app successful. We’re talking basic principles here.
All the apps I mentioned above are successful at least partly because they have adopted principles of game design in their user experience.
There’s more to game design than actually making video games – though I think they can be good for journalism, too.
The principles of game design can be most usefully implemented instrumentally, to make other applications better.
Fundamentally, it’s all a question of user experience. Design a winning user experience, and people will want to interact with your site or app, for the sheer fun of it.
I just re-found a post by Paul Bradshaw that I should have blogged about way earlier.
Paul writes the Online Journalism Blog and founded HelpMeInvestigate.com, a very cool 4ip-funded project. In this post, Paul talks about exactly what I’ve been saying about game design as a fundamental component of User Experience in online applications.
“Every medium has its own genres and conventions, and the web is no different,” he says. “You can’t just shovel print or broadcast or campaigning content online. It’s interactive. It’s communicative. The most successful sites on the web know that, and they use game mechanics.”
The take-away lesson, for me, is that a site/application with good graphic design and good UX design (incorporating game design principles) is so attractive on a basic, brain pattern-matching level that users will want to interact with it, and they’ll do what we want them to do there for the sheer fun of it. (This is something I touched on with Five Lessons ARGs can teach Journalism.)
Implementing game design features like customization, social exchanges, collecting, points, and feedback into web apps makes them more engaging, more fun,and generally a pleasure to interact with.
Any app designer that can make people interact with his creation obsessively for hours and hours has clearly learned something important about the way people’s brains work. Implementing game design principles in online journalism is about putting these lessons into practise.