Points, badges and leaderboards – the staple of gamification is found in so many places nowadays that the act of avoiding a numerical designation of your worth or status is nigh impossible. Regardless of your personal feelings toward the concept though, there’s no doubt that rewarding users for specific actions on your website, such as sharing posts or commenting – increases engagement and brand loyalty dramatically.
But how easy is it to actually add gamification to a WordPress blog? As it turns out, it’s quite easy actually – and it needn’t cost a bomb. Here’s 3 plugins, compared and judged.
CaptainUp is a relative newcomer to game mechanics, but appealed to me right off the bat. It has a distinct cartoon-esque visual style that really makes it seem user-friendly – much more “game like” than some other systems, which come across as mere corporate marketing.
Setting up requires a total of 4 or 5 form fields, and starts on the captainup.com website. Click sign up, and enter your:
- email address
- brand name
Copy and paste your API key from the WordPress install tab, and paste that into the Gamification WordPress plugin setup page. I swear life would be so nice if all gamification systems were this simple.
For the most part, that’s all the setup you need. You can connect to a Facebook page to give points for liking the page, and the plugin automatically detects when something has been shared by a user.
I say for the most part, because we use the ShareThis plugin to provide a share button; it correctly detected a Google +1 share, but not a Tweet. As someone used to dealing with these systems, I know it’s due to the use of “native” buttons vs custom coded ones; Google does not provide any kind of customization or API, so you get the button they give.
ShareThis has customized the Tweet button however, so it’s serving custom code. The easiest solution to make share buttons work with Captain UP then is to just serve native buttons – most plugins will do this, it’s just that ShareThis has a particular style to it. (Digg Digg is a very simple set of share buttons, and works fine). I only mention this because most site owners might just assume it’s broken.
The only thing I’m not too keen about with Captain Up is the basic widget overlay on every screen – not the popup, that’s nice. The overlay just seems a little garish.
CaptainUp has a superb set of features including:
- Points for various actions, configurable values. Focused on sharing, visits, and even watching a video.
- Levels as your points increase.
- Badges for completing set challenges, such as liking 15 things in 2 days.
- Leaderboards and activity widgets for your sidebar.
Creating new badges is also incredibly easy, and can be integrated into your own custom site functionality thanks to a target condition based on “clicking on specific element”.
The only downside to CaptainUp is that it doesn’t appear to have paid plans; whether this is because the service is still in beta isn’t apparent, but this ultimately limits it’s reliability. There’s also no rewards program: just PBL (points, badges and leaderboards).
By far a more established gamification program, PunchTab covers everything from rewards and giveaways to single sign on – though not all in the free package.
PunchTab is separated into 3 sections, each of which is a distinct UI component:
- Loyalty Program
- Achievement Program
The loyalty program are rewards given for attaining a certain number of points, similar to what we run here at MakeUseOf. On the free plan, you have no control over what rewards are offered – but they’re pretty impressive even so, and offered at absolutely no cost to you.
For example, installing a loyalty program, any visitors who gets 8,500 points will get a $5 Starbucks eGift card. To get your site licence key, visit the punchtab dashboard, create a new loyalty program, and go to developer. Copy and paste your access key from there.
The paid plan for running your own rewards starts at a very reasonable $99/month.
The achievements program is your standard badges, levels etc – “traditional” gamification. It’s not quite as comprehensive as the achievements provided by CaptainUp – you can change badge images and description, but not specify custom actions to be rewarded as easily. Also, if you do want to change anything, you need to disable all the default badges.
Thirdly is the Giveaway program. This is for running a DIY giveaway, and is very comprehensive. Just provide an image and description of the prize (and obviously, the prize itself), specify how users can enter, the time frame, and any additional entry methods you want to provide – “liking” your Facebook page, tweeting the contest.
This one struck me as a scam initially, especially given their “$100 free promotion” (for your site visitors though, not you, similar to PunchTabs default rewards program).
After signing up, just copy and paste the access key into the WordPress plugin. You should then get a large and kind of obnoxious black bar at the bottom of your site.
Hovering over the present or any of the icons reveals the message that I should sign in to win an Amazon gift card; unfortunately, only the Twitter and email buttons actually worked – Facebook did nothing. Added to which, it’s not clear where adding your email will actually go – I still can’t help thinking it’s some kind of scam to gather emails.
The control panel is decidedly lacklustre compared to the other systems available, so given all of this it’s to recommend anything other than staying the heck away from Kazooky Loyalty.
There’s actually not that many decent gamification WordPress plugin; InCrwd was an exciting contender, but the domain is dead and the plugin developer appears to have stopped last year sometime. Others require BuddyPress, or manual assigning of badges, so I haven’t included them.
My favourite for the average blog has to be CaptainUp – it’s just such an easy plug and plug system that’s it’s hard to fault it. The lack of a premium option and rewards ultimately limits the system though. PunchTab on the other hand is a well developed product and more focused on actionable, business-led objectives – sharing, rewards and giveaways.
Have you had a chance to try gamification on your site, and what do you think? Do these systems just annoy you?