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Rewarding Users for Good Behavior

Using a digital product isn't always easy. It often includes a sign up process, forms, repetition, or ticking away terms of use without reading, but with a slight existential dread. As product designers, we need to reward users who complete hard tasks for us.

So what is a reward and how does it work? Should we be sending our users an envelope with cash, or is the pleasure of using our product or service enough? Well, neither.

A reward is not something that takes place on the screen, but in our user's brain. We are looking to release a slight surge of happiness, in the brain, immediately after completing the task. A slight surge of endorphins, attached to a thank you note, is all anyone really needs to feel loved.

This can be done in a few simple ways:

Entering the promised land

A sign up process is a lot like climbing a small mountain. It's all about viewing a lifeless form screen, while typing in a series of depressing words numbers. Many designers are tempted to make the form screen beautiful and engaging. This is a mistake. Though the form must be as simple as possible, it is important to leave the beautiful to the end.

The user has scaled the mountain and clicked the 'finish' button on the screen. This is where we ramp up the beautiful, with an amazing image, a view of all the great things the product can do, and a thank you note.

It's an image. It's a a color change to the user icon when users go premium. It's the extra weapons slot in the video game interface. That's all we need to feel great again.

Comparing to others

We've been over the basic concept of our caveman brain in previous posts, and it continues to pop up. Humans compare themselves to each other all the time. They will make up a set of rules (doesn't matter what those rules are), and work like crazy to beat their neighbors at those rules. This is called the social hierarchy.

If a product has social elements to it, a great reward would be a badge signifying an achievement. Achievements are the cornerstone of gamification, and with good reason. They give users the feeling that they are going up the social ladder. They are now level 10, whereas the friends might still be at level 9.

A good word

Nothing works better than saying thank you. The thank you message is central to any reward system. It aims to give users a small, personal, note that lets them feel appreciated.

A properly crafted thank you message would include some simple conversational text, such as:

"Thanks for joining! Before you get to using our product, we wanted to take a second to let you know how much we appreciate you being here. Now go have fun."

It's best to place this text on top of an image of a happy person. Perhaps the person users would imagine is in charge and saying thank you. A human face, especially a non-threatening, smiling one, will immediately make people feel at ease.

And finally, the 'let's get to work message'. A call to action that prompts users to make their next investment into the product. Thanks for joining up, now let's get to work to make the world a better place.

People love rewards. Every LIKE on facebook is a reward, and users will check in every few minutes to see how they're doing. Reward well, and you can increase customer satisfaction and engagement. Ignore rewards, and you can expect others to beat you to the punch.

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