Northell’s Experience with Gamification: How to Create a Truly Engaging Solution

1062 Updated 07.21.2023
Anna Holishevska

Design Team Lead at Northell


Table of contents

You might have seen many people running in parks, especially in the mornings. Nothing unusual, but some of them might look way too excited or even scared. Why? They are running away from zombies. Zombies, Run! is an immersive app that motivates users to exercise in a rather interesting way: by making them believe they are chased by a bunch of zombies via audio and augmented reality. If all of this sounds confusing, you might not be familiar with the concept of gamification. 

We all get bored from mundane tasks quickly; for example, it is hard to stay motivated to study every day. That’s when gamification comes in handy it plays on human psychology. Reward, competition, and goals are the strongest gamification instruments: they are why we get back to Spanish lessons in Duolingo or can’t stop planting trees in Forest. Some other gamification mechanics include the feeling of community and achieving a certain status.

To make gamification mechanics work, numerous elements are applied. Any of them serves one goal: to provoke action. It can be achieved either by inspiring or rewarding activities. Some examples of the most common gamification elements are:

  • Badges
  • Levels
  • Leaderboards
  • Challenges
  • Points
  • and many more.

One of the best things about gamification for business is that there is no need to transform an existing solution entirely for it: gamification elements can be seamlessly added to any product leaving its core structure untouched. Gamifying also requires a certain level of simplicity: you don’t want users to get confused in the overcomplicated system or shift the focus from the app’s main point.

Our experience: three examples of effective gamification solutions 

At Northell, we implement both web and mobile app gamification strategies. We always strive to choose the most fitting elements considering each product’s specifics. There is a difference between designing gamification apps for education and fitness, right? Let’s take a look at some fascinating gamification solutions we worked on: 

  1.   Zettlo: taking challenges for social engagement 

There is a common misconception that gamification is applicable for learning and productivity solutions only. Of course, that is not true. For example, recently, we worked on redesigning Zettlo. It is a mobile app that promotes social engagement among young people. 

Zettlo combines real-world settings with augmented reality to engage users in a game-like experience. In the Zettlo app, users can participate in different social activities and challenges, explore new locations, meet people, and engage with friends. It is a location-based app that attracts users with unique features, exciting gameplay, and rewards for completing events and challenges. 

 For this solution, we added such gamification elements as 

  • Challenges
  • Points
  • Levels
  • Achievements
  • In-app goods.

These features are highly interconnected and complement each other: the user gets points for completing challenges while those points are needed to move to the next level. What is more, some app features, such as private rooms, are available only after reaching a certain level. We all know what the fear of missing out is, so it is a pretty good encouragement to get to a new level.

Our team leader Virliana shares that community is the most important aspect of this app:

Users should enjoy communication while not getting bored with many challenges. That’s why the team decided that level and reward systems can be the most powerful gamification elements for Zettlo. Each user gets a character who they can associate with and track their journey through the app. Reaching a new level allows users to upgrade their character and get both virtual and real-life rewards.

  2.   Racers360: achievement system for better learning

One more platform with gamification elements that we had a chance to work on is Racers360. It is a SaaS solution that offers online motorsports training. Users can upload their racing videos to get personalized training sessions from a top professional. In this way, Racers360 makes pro-coaching accessible to more enthusiasts.  

The main gamification mechanics in this platform is the achievement and reward system. Racers360 utilizes achievements to motivate users to actively engage in the learning process and facilitate their progress. Users can get a reward for completing such tasks as

  • Getting sessions with a particular number of coaches
  • Reading a set of articles
  • Reaching the goals outlined by the coach.

Gamification in Racers360 helps users stay inspired to keep on learning, says our team lead Virliana:

While redesigning Racers360, our biggest challenge was to make the solution accessible for those people who never used such services before and might be uncertain about navigating them. To encourage them to come back and continue their training, we suggested an achievement system, so learners can clearly see their progress and be confident that they are moving in the right direction.

Being rewarded for one’s effort is always a good feeling: it stimulates users to come back to the platform to try more features and engage in new activities. What is more, such a system enhances a positive impression of the service.

  3.   SecureFlag: competitive spirit for study motivation 

One more platform that utilizes gamification for education is SecureFlag. It is a secure coding training platform. Its main purpose is to allow users to practice their programming skills through exercises based on real-world vulnerabilities. 


SecureFlag features a set of gamification elements to make learning truly interactive and fun. These elements are:

  • Tournaments
  • Points
  • Levels
  • Leaderboards
  • Trophies.

The main gamification mechanics used in SecureFlag is competition: it is a highly effective motivation tool. Users can participate in tournaments to compete with others or simply challenge themselves and earn some points. 

The tournaments also help users track their progress and understand if they have any knowledge gaps. Each tournament has a leaderboard showing users how long their way to the top is. It is also a way to make one’s performance visible and, of course, show off a bit.

Gamification totally changes how SecureFlag presents learning: users are not doing exercises for the sole purpose of practicing. Each task they complete helps learners get into the next level, earn some points or a trophy. Thus, learning becomes a real journey, and each exercise is a step towards a bigger goal.

How did gamification enhance these platforms?

Gamification is a valuable UX tool that evokes motivation and engagement. It is not simply adding the element of fun for users, even though it also matters. Gamification can significantly improve the following aspects:

  1.  User engagement     

No matter how old they are, people still enjoy playing games. Challenges, trophies, and badges arouse curiosity and excitement; users want to move to the next level or get as many points as possible. No wonder that gamification might boost up user engagement rates by nearly one third. For instance, Racers 360 encourages users to try out as many platform features as possible through gamification.

  2.  Standing out on the market

Simply good products are not as interesting anymore, so there should be some extra details to attract users. Gamification is what can distinguish an app among dozens of similar solutions. For example, SecureFlag is not just one more coding training platform: gamification adds an entirely new experience to it. 

  3.  User acquisition

It is a well-known fact that people tend to share information about something they like. The word of mouth is a simple yet effective way to promote a product. Additionally, competition is one more engine that encourages sharing: it is always fun to dare a friend. For instance, Zettlo suggests inviting friends to get an app and participate in the challenge.

  4.  User retention

Proper gamification reinforces user retention for two main reasons. First of all, an engaged user is likely to stay active for a longer time. That’s one of the reasons why creating value should be a priority for any solution: no one will quit a product that offers a unique experience. 

Secondly, having passed many levels and gained numerous badges, it is not easy to give up all the achievements. For example, in SecureFlag, each completed exercise contributes to the user’s level. Thus, users are not likely to simply abandon the platform and their position in it.

Final thoughts

Overall, gamification is a powerful tool for making any task more captivating and fun. It is an excellent idea for businesses looking for broader audience outreach and trying to establish their competitive advantage. 

What is more, gamification usually does not require a huge budget and is relatively easy to implement: it pays off. Gamification elements can be implemented both in existing solutions and those being created from scratch. 

These factors make gamification a perfect instrument for engaging and retaining more users as well as genuinely providing a memorable experience. 

If you need a gamification solution that will stand out, don’t hesitate to discuss your idea with us!

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