Last week, we shared with you Five Ways to “Gamify” Your Website. Here are five more to chew on…

Iterate, Iterate Again

Every few months, many video games are updated automatically by the designers. New characters are added, new missions—and a thousand tiny tweaks are made to the mechanics and stability of the game.

How do video game creators know which updates to make? They watch. They test. They experiment. They ask the users.

They review how people play the game—every action, expectation, challenge, mistake. Then they make changes in pursuit of a more perfect gaming experience.

But websites are never perfect. And left unattended, every website has an expiration date. After all, users’ expectations evolve almost as quickly as the Internet itself.

If you aren’t treating your website like you’d treat your greatest salesperson, your website will be more or less outdated in 2-3 years.

Which is why more and more clients partner with us under a “retainer” approach to managing their Web presence—i.e., instead of doing a comprehensive redesign all at once, we instead do a quick re-design, followed by ongoing enhancements and upgrades every month.

The Retainer Approach in a Nutshell

  • Identify specific and measurable online goals
  • Get a great new website up quickly
  • Adjust in the direction of perfection

The retainer approach is a no-brainer for many organizations. In addition to being flexible and highly responsive to changing business conditions, the retainer approach forces organizations to think more about their online presence. It necessitates engagement.

Grab Your Niche and Go!

Consider the first-person shooter—i.e., video games in which players shoot other players from the first-person point of view.

There are thousands of first-person shooters, but only a handful become mega-blockbusters—e.g., Halo, Call of Duty, and DOOM.

But these games aren’t simply in the “first-person shooter” niche. They go a step further, defining themselves as a particular kind of first-person shooter.

image from Halo 4 video game

For example, the niche for the Halo franchise is “first-person shooters with space Marines.” While the niche for the original shooter, DOOM, is “first-person shooter with monsters in a scary dungeon.”

Here’s another way of thinking about it:

When you have to get a new tire, do you think of Walmart or Discount Tire? You think of Discount Tire.

Why? Because they have zeroed in on a single, uncomplicated service: fixing and selling tires.

When you offer everything, you offer nothing—at least nothing of perceived value. Exclusivity is its own reward.

Keep Your Wish List

Video game designers love Wish Lists. Here’s why:

Jane is a video game designer. This month, her job is to create the animation of a dragon breathing fire. All day, every day, Jane painstakingly creates the size, color, and physics of the dragon fire.

Jane notices something. Embers. When dragons breathe fire, there should be some embers—little nuggets of fire that evaporate quickly. And Jane thinks, “If an ember touches a tree, or maybe a wooden roof, it would catch it on fire. Or at least leave a small black smudge.”

But there’s no time or money left in this project to deal with embers. Embers will either be cut altogether, or they’ll just be basic animation.

But Jane also knows that embers could make the difference between a good game and an exceptional one. So she makes sure to scribble “Embers” down on her Wish List.

The analogy for website designers is this:

When we set about redesigning a website, we ask a thousand little questions. Why? When? Who? What? Why? Why? Why? And each answer spawns more questions—more ways to dig into the minutiae of user behavior.

True online success—i.e., fulfilling you digital potential—is found in the minutiae.

So while many Web agencies (understandably) focus on quick fixes, we prefer the long view. We know we can’t optimize everything all at once. It’s literally impossible. But if we ask the right questions, and interpret their answers with an open mind, we’ll create a Wish List of beauty.

The moment a new website is launched—or a new marketing campaign gets underway—we turn to our Wish List and get right back to work.

Grab a notepad. Keep it by your computer. And every random thought that floats through your “professional” brain should end up on it.

Momentum & the Bright Shiny New Thing

Video game executives look for when a product’s sales begin to slip—and then they launch a game update or new title.

Your website is no different.

Keep a close eye on your site’s analytics­­. Pay attention to your digital goals:

  • Are conversions drooping?
  • Are users spending less time on your site?
  • Is one of your AdWords landing pages drying up?
  • What’s the open rate of your last three marketing emails?
  • How do site visitors compare now to this month last year?

You’re on the hunt for digital momentum—where one online success fuels another, and you’re regularly engaging your users in new ways. Or, as Steve Jobs put it, “One more thing.” He was always looking to create velocity toward “one more thing.”

In other words, don’t think just of the lifecycle of your website, but also how to sell it. What do you need to be ahead of the curve—to get your users to take the actions you want when you want?

One way of generating momentum that shouldn’t be ignored: The bright shiny new thing.

Video game companies have nearly perfected this tactic. It’s why, for example, they sell the “Firedawn Battle Suit Armor” long before the actual game is released. Doing so builds buzz and, more importantly, ensures users will show up the day the game goes on sale.

After all, they bought that cool new armor. They want to finally use it.

For Goodness’ Sake, Make it Fun

Life is short, folks.

Don’t position your organization in a stark, stagnant corner of the Internet. Don’t let your website make you sound or appear … uninterested.

Have fun with your website, your products, your services, your marketing language, your advertising. Ask ridiculous questions. Ask tough questions. But even if it keeps you up all night re-writing a webpage—or imagining a new tool your users would love—don’t talk to the world like you’re reading assembly instructions for a model airplane.

If you love your product and your people, they will too.

In my former life as a game designer, we had gameplay days. The whole staff would spend the days playing our prototype and talking about it. At the end of the day, the critical question was, “Was it fun?”

If it wasn’t fun, we kept designing and developing. Fun was the criteria because fun was the point. Sure, there were Revenue KPIs and Investor Returns to aim toward–but if we weren’t having fun, neither would our users. And no fun means no sales.

Let your clients and your customers connect not just to your product, but to your culture. We keep it relational at TradeMark. We hold parties for our clients. We send personal cards of congratulations to those who’ve been promoted, or have had babies, retired, etc. At a new project kick-off, we show up with fresh cookies with our clients’ logo in frosting.

If you love people and give them a great experience, you’ll have a new advocate. And that’s invaluable. You can’t buy that.