Why Playful UX Makes Explorers Out Of Users

There are generally two kinds of successfully engaging User Experience. The first is the kind that you don’t even notice. UX that is seamlessly woven into the fabric of any good digital experience.

It guides you through the page, down pathways toward the ‘one thing you were looking for’ while expanding your knowledge of the subject subconsciously. Rarely fancy. Covertly designed.

The second kind of successful UX is the playful kind. UX that refuses to apologise for presenting itself on the screen. The kind of UX that insists you stay longer and explore pathways that hitherto had presented no interest. Then guide you to the places you had no idea you were interested in… until you arrived.

It is this playful UX that often makes the difference between an experience for users and one for explorers. Playful UX intrigues, ask questions and prompts users to enter into a journey. As a creative agency, it is our job to question which kind of UX is appropriate for the objectives, then use that to springboard ideas. Ask yourself the same question when you consider your next digital project. Are my audience users or explorers?

As an example, we tested this theory a while back on a project for our property client, Goodman. The challenge was to take a project that had traditionally lived in print and enhance the digital experience so that time-poor users would be encouraged to venture beyond the home page. The objective was to create a User Experience ‘feature’ that would be simple enough to develop, yet pique enough engagement to make the website ‘sticky’. We employed a simple tactic. Make it simply playful.

We looked to the cornerstone feature on any site… the navigation bar, then set out to reinvent it as a game of completion. The idea: to redesign the navigation so that it encouraged the user to visit every key location on the site and travel to the end of each page.

Our theory… once a user realised they were on a journey, they would want to complete every step of the trip.

So we set out to support the traditional top down, sticky nav that users were accustomed to, with a ‘gamified’ journey bar. Our sketching and testing led us to design a completion marker-focused navigation. In the same way that Netflix display and encourage their customers to ‘keep watching’ and complete content that they have invested in, we wanted to ask the user to explore the paths they had traveled. Our theory… once a user realised they were on a journey, they would want to complete every step of the trip.

Gamified storytelling supported by visual bread crumbing. This theory can be applied to the most vanilla of projects and content. In fact… it should be!

The reading bar design allowed us to integrate custom Google Analytics reporting. The users’ completion percentage was tracked in tiny increments and passed back to metrics as they moved forward. This gave the client granular reporting to study not only how sticky the site had become, yet also to see just how far down the page users would venture. This data allowed us to determine just how willing people were to explore new destinations within the site.

The result? On average the users stayed on the site significantly longer (in some cases up to 3 times) than previous digital versions. Importantly, the discoverability of the experience increased, with users choosing to explore on average, more than 40% extra of the website.

When considering the user experience for your next digital project, ask yourself whether you should ‘keep it playful’.

You can play with our reading bar UX feature at these digital experiences:
Goodman Investor Insight
Goodman Annual Report Digital Experience

Author – Galvin Scott Davis