Playful design: Gamification of business software

It’s a sad fact that enterprise software is stuck in the past. More often than not, it’s slow, dated and somehow seems to work against you. More than that though, it makes even the simplest of tasks, well… boring!

It’s often assumed that enterprise software can’t be fun. It’s there for a purpose, a serious purpose. A playful design would undermine and distract from that.

Here at Qozo, we have the exact opposite belief. I’ll go into our approach in more detail later on. For now, though, let’s talk about emotion in design.

The emotion in design

It’s no secret that good design adapts to and even changes our emotions. In fact, this is all around us. Let’s take a living room for example.

A room such as this one has a purpose. It’s there to be a comfortable place to live in. We use it to chat, watch TV, have a quick snooze, and maybe even have a cheeky glass of red wine after that long day at work.

However, if we just took that into account, we would take away the art, the plants, and yes, even those trendy pots 😮 Heck, while we’re at it, let’s paint over those easily stained white walls and replace the sofa with one that has a more practical colour palette.

I think you can see where I’m going with this…
The truth of the matter is that the bright colours shout ‘be happy, you’re home!’ The plants scream, ‘relax!’ In fact, it’s all designed to be the exact opposite of that stark office you were sat in all day and the cold, quiet train coach that you travelled back in.

The problem is, we can never get away from our emotions and feelings. Not even when using enterprise software at work.

The issue with disregarding emotion

Have you ever lost a Word document after spending hours toiling over every word in it? If you have, I’m sure that describing the experience as ‘painful’ and ‘frustrating’ is an understatement.

On the opposite end, we’ve all experienced that little shot of joy when we have checked that super difficult admin task off the list.

So, if we can’t get away from our emotions, why is business software often designed with a complete disregard for them? We’re all still human when we’re sat behind that desk, so we should design like it.

We can never get away from our emotions and feelings. Not even when using enterprise software at work

So, what does playful design in enterprise software even look like?

Turning everyday productivity tasks into a game

Gamification is the technique of taking game mechanics and putting them into a non-game environment such as an app. It’s had some hype in the last couple of years and the main reason for this is because User Experience has become more of a priority for many brands. Users now expect software to be simpleenjoyable, and engaging. Gamification does all this by giving users a goal to achieve and then the motivation to accomplish it through rewards.

Gamification in Qozo

For Qozo, we are applying gamification by setting achievable goals such as sharing a specific number of quotes or using a certain part of the software for the first time. When you achieve a goal, you collect a Qozo and coins. To make things even more interesting, we are adding a leaderboard which will let teams and individuals compete with each other.

The whole idea behind this is that scores and achievements will give users something to work towards. Rather than just leaving productivity tasks as a means to an end, we want to make interacting with the software fun and engaging. That way, our users are a lot less tempted to switch back to email or avoid productivity tasks altogether.

Friendly UI and colour schemes

Nothing says corporate design more than ‘safe’ user interfaces that consist of sharp edges, blues, greens, and stock images.

For Qozo, we use confident and playful branding that makes use of bright colours, round edges and large bold fonts. The idea is not only to ‘turn the mundane into a fun experience’, but to communicate the message that Qozo is on your side. While dark blues can often feel ‘cold’ and ‘disconnected’, the Qozo colour scheme and UI communicates ‘friendly’ and ‘homely’ tones.

Copywriting that engages

In Qozo, we use copy that directly relates to our users. Rather than using phrases like ‘there is an error’ or ‘you’ve submitted…’ we use real and descriptive language that our users can relate to.

On a basic level, by using the language of our users, we are improving usability. In addition to this though, the thoughtful copy is playful and engaging. That makes it much harder to ignore.

It’s all in the detail

Playful design needs to reach much more than the surface level. While branding and UI can go a long way, it’s important that enterprise software is engaging at its core.

We put our users at the centre of everything we do through user research and testing. While this requires more of an investment (in terms of time and money) into our design process, it helps us create an easy and intuitive experience. If a user can complete a task with a couple of quick steps when it used to take them 20, their work will feel like play. When that happens, productivity will soar, and the use of the software internally will go up.

Conclusion

There’s been a lot of innovation in digital product design and it’s about time that it filters into enterprise software. Play and enterprise don’t necessarily have to be separate, they can go hand in hand. If they do, we can build thoughtful and productive software that outperforms the crowd.

Caleb Kingcott, UX Designer at Qozo