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'Stars' and 'Badges' (a user engagement system akin to Reddit gold)#216

I’m a product manager looking to create an engaging feedback loop to bring myself and my team closer to our users and their needs. I want our Nolt board to feel welcoming and energetic, and above all active.

Here’s an idea for a self-perpetuating positive engagement loop: Like Reddit gold, but instead of gold, Stars.

It’s a give-and-receive system that rewards positive interactions and highly rewards exemplary board engagement.

The system follows the four principles of building a habit-forming experience:

  1. Trigger
  2. Action
  3. Variable Rewards
  4. Investment

In a nutshell, getting votes, liked comments and so on earns you engagement points, which eventually give you ‘Stars’. Stars are like ‘MEGA LIKES’ that you can give to other users who suggest really cool ideas or have really helpful, funny or positive comments. Scoring lots of engagement points shows the board owners that you’re participating in a really positive way and that you add value to the board community. Board owners can then reward the highest engagers with ‘Badges of Honour’.

Earning Stars
When your actions get ‘likes’ (heart button) or your ideas get votes, you accumulate some kind of score (let’s call it ‘Engagement Score’, or “ES”). When your ES hits a certain threshold, your Nolt account gains a ‘Star’. Receiving a Star also gives you a big boost to your ES. The scoring metric would be something like:

  • your comment receives a like: +10pts
  • your idea receives a vote: +20pts
  • your idea gets moved to the ‘Completed’ status: +100pts
  • your comment receives a star: +30pts

The 1st Star in your ‘Starbank’ is generated at 50pts, and then every 100pts after that

When you receive your first Star, Nolt would display a hint message somewhere prominent that guides you to the section of the Account where the Stars system is explained and you can see your Starbank.

Awarding Stars to other users
Stars appear in your Nolt account panel. Underneath an idea, in the feed/comments section, next to the ‘heart’ icon there is also a ‘star’ icon. A user who has a star can click this icon to award the other member a Star. There is a special animation/interaction that celebrates this moment for the Star giver and makes it a delightful experience (see: The Power of Moments).

Receiving a Star
When you receive a Star:

  • You receive an email notification, explaining that you have been awarded a Star, and with, quoting the comment that got you the star and linking to your Account page when you can see your Star and read more about the Stars system
  • An event is published to the Admin ‘Activity’ feed. Admins can click this event to go to the comment that was awarded the Star.
  • A Update event is fired to the Stars leaderboard so it is reshuffled as necessary

Stars Leaderboard & Badges of Honour
There would be a top10 leaderboard In the Admin panel. The weekly bulletin email would also list the Stars Leaderboard. Not sure if the Stars leaderboard should be publicly visible, I don’t think this is essential to begin with.

From the Stars Leaderboard (or the Admin Stars Leaderboard), an Admin (or the Owner) can give a listed member a Badge of Honour (‘Honor’ if you’re in North America). A Badge of Honour is a special icon that appears by your Nolt avatar when you are on the board where it was awarded. Badges of Honour are Nolt board-specific.

List of Badges:

  • Angel (e.g. hugging emoji, or sparkling heart) - People who look after others, make the board a more welcoming place and a nice place to stay.
  • Guide - (e.g. handshake emoji) People who answer questions and help onboard newcomers to the boards.
  • Inventor (lightbulb) - People who consistently come up with good ideas or who contribute to existing ideas.
  • Entertainer (laughing emoji) - Give to people who lighten the mood and create a fun atmosphere!
  • MVP/Custom* - ‘custom badge’

  • Each board gets 1 custom medal with a custom title (default is: “MVP”). The custom icon could possibly re-use the board favicon for simplicity’s sake.

A Nolt user can view their Badges of Honour and the boards they came from in their Account page. Admins can see a list of all Badges of Honour that have been awarded, and can remove or modify any Badge of Honour given.

Integrating Stars into the core experience

  • The ‘Star’ action is visble to all users, with a tooltip that explains that you will gain Stars through positive actions on the board.
  • ‘Starred’ comments have some visual change to make them stand out in a list of comments. E.g. colour banding. A starred comment would also have a hover tooltip that explains why it’s highlighted in this way.
  • the Stars scores would be visible to Admins when clicking/hovering on a Member name
4 years ago

Thank you so much, Stephen! Really love the detailed suggestion.

For a long time, I’ve been thinking about how Nolt boards could be gamified to improve user engagement without cluttering the experience of the product itself. It’s also a balancing act: wrongly implemented, gamification can reinforce suboptimal behaviors (quantity vs. quality). I like how the Engagement Score and Stars reward good ideas and comments instead of the amount of created content.

Your suggestion introduces 3 new elements: the Engagement Score, Stars, and Badges. Each of those concepts adds cognitive load, which can (but it does not have to) confuse users and can degrade the overall experience. On the other hand, those elements are nothing new, and their use is widespread. However, in a perfect world, there would be just one gamification mechanic that could drive user engagement.

Thanks again so much for taking the time to provide such comprehensive feedback! It has definitely started a train of thought.

(Shameless plug: You were referring to Nir Eyal’s “Hooked” principles, and maybe is something for you which I’ve created a while back.)

4 years ago

Thanks Daniel, glad you like it! A couple of notes:

Engagement Score & cognitive load
Initially I saw the Engagement Score as being invisible to most users (only the board managers would see it). While there are benefits to showing the score/leaderboard publicly (motivational tool), I think it’s better to keep the score hidden. This helps to make the first Star earned a pleasantly surprising and delightful experience! It also defers Stars onboarding until they become contextually relevant, reducing up-front complexity when onboarding new users.

Badges & cognitive load
Again, you don’t really have to explain much about Badges until they become relevant to a user. Currently Nolt has a special icon in the corner of the Avatar to denote Admins of a board. I was imagining something similar for Badges. The user knows they have a Badge, but it’s not essential information for anyone else. The Account page can include the Badges section when a user is awarded one. It’s not important information until that point.

P.S. I shared your web link with the wider team. Looks good!

4 years ago

Those are fantastic inputs, Stephen. Thanks a lot!

4 years ago