Gamification in enterprise mobile apps - The Angry Birds Space approach
What could IT departments learn about creating smartphone-friendly software from the most popular mobile video game?
By Shane Schick | CIO Canada | Published: 15:55, 03 April 2012
Revenge, it turns out, is a dish best served on a smartphone.
After the hugely successful launch of Angry Birds Space recently, every IT department should stop playing it (for a minute) and ask themselves what makes the game so addictive and how they could begin to tailor their own mobile enterprise applications to adopt a similar approach.
I'm not suggesting for a minute that entering sales data or accessing corporate databases will ever be anywhere near as fun as attacking a group of renegade pigs. It just won't. But Angry Birds has become a phenomenon in part because its creators have tapped into a few key usability elements that are redefining the way people make the best use of mobile devices. To wit:
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Mobile apps need to be "surface-native"
Angry Birds has the advantage of being free of any legacy associations with gaming consoles, desktops or other traditional devices for playing video games. If you're new to surface or touchscreen computing, it's easy to figure out how to manipulate the birds and go after the pigs. Contrast that with many enterprise mobile applications, which try to somehow migrate (read: squeeze in) the kind of menu items associated with PC software and frustrate users by getting them to delicately finger their way through poor navigation and menu buttons.
Opt for direction over discovery
There's no confusion around the key goal in Angry Birds: Get the pigs! Too many business apps on smartphones give users a dizzying array of options that suggest it's up to them what they want to do, whether it's inputting data, calling it up or doing something with it. Figure out the critical tasks beforehand and make it as easy as it is repeatable.
Identify the emotional core
Murder is fun! At least, it is when it's happening on the video game where there are no real-world consequences, as Call of Duty and countless other games have demonstrated. Angry Birds not only sets up a mission (just as any good organisation should do), it provides a sense of purpose behind it that resonates without almost anyone: the pigs stole our eggs. Retribution is energising next to, say, filling out a mobile form. The enterprise mobile apps that get the most takeup will likely be spurred on by similar feelings: correcting incorrect information, registering a strong opinion or vote, promoting someone's expertise.
Like all video games, Angry Birds is also a welcome break in the daily routine. Unfortunately, business tend to see smartphones as a way to bring the daily routine to employees wherever they are. With stress and workplace pressures being distributed far outside the office, no wonder so many of us can empathise with Angry Birds.