Game design playbook for products

Recently came across an amazing talk by Rahul Vohra on how to incorporate game design principles in any software product (Superhuman has, of course, nailed this). Sharing my notes from it below:

#1 Similar to how games have levels & rewards that create instant gratification, create in-product goals for the user that are concrete, achievable & rewarding. For instance, the #inboxZero goal that Superhuman sets for users. Goals take any product beyond just utility & make it fun 🎯

#2 Design for nuanced emotion. Product value needs to be defined beyond just tangible jobs-to-be-done, to include “how it makes the user feel”. Emotions like joy, pride, achievement, trust, fun! Eg. showing a serene pic 🏞 to the user on achieving the in-product goal.

#3 Similar to how games have complex control sequences that are fun to master and expand the game’s potential, software products too, can have rapid & robust controls that match the user’s context of multi-tasking & expecting instant gratification. Eg. smart keyboard shortcuts 🎮

#4 Introduce toys that increase the fun quotient and incent users to spend more time with the product, while also strongly gelling with core features and enhancing value delivery. Eg. fun universal search bar with surprising auto-suggest elements 🔍

#5 Help the user get zoned into the product experience to create extraordinary engagement (almost a “flow” state💻) by making each next step obvious and minimizing energy to be spent in any sort of decision-making. Eg on archiving, moving the user to the next message in milliseconds 🚴🏼‍♀️

#6 Continuing the objective of creating an in-product “flow” state for users, giving clear and immediate feedback to users with no distraction

#7 Final strategy for creating a “flow” state within the product is to introduce certain challenging skills and make it a little hard for users to master them. Overcoming challenges create dopamine, a feeling of achievement within the user. That feeling will stick with users for a long, long time 🧗🏽‍♀️

Finally, these game design principles need to be executed within the wrapper of your product’s core design language. This includes design principles that you have specifically chosen like say, minimalism, full screen to minimize distractions, there when you need & away when you don’t, etc.

If I have to summarize my overall takeaway — in this era where any software is cheap to replicate, products can stand out by designing for what emotions your target users will feel as they use the product. And making it fun!

PS: Suhas Motwani, great job in organizing this session!

Note: this article first appeared on the Workomo blog here.

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Building Workomo & Investing at Operators Studio, ex-VC, US-India-China Tripod

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Soumitra Sharma

Soumitra Sharma

Building Workomo & Investing at Operators Studio, ex-VC, US-India-China Tripod

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