Learn From Calm.com’s Excellent Feedback Design
One of the most elemental concepts in good gamification design is what I call the three Fs: Feedback, Friends and Fun. They come in many forms, but together they form the foundational structure of how we create engagement. I’ve written and spoken about the three Fs at length, but I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about and designing effective feedback systems. I also love to meditate.
At the intersection of both of these interests is the excellent and visually gorgeous app, Calm. It’s a guided meditation app for iOS that’s received a number of accolades for its simple design and great programming. The premise of guided meditations it that an instructor’s voice (and soothing music) help you relax, focus and create productive, healing brain states.
The app comes with a series of music choices and basic meditations of various lengths. With a subscription, you can unlock dozens of different meditation topics (including gratitude, energy, healing, focus, etc) along with music and visual cues that span a range from natural to atmospheric. I find Calm to be incredibly useful and effective.
Since launch, the developers have incrementally improved the app, including fine tuning some of the gamified elements of the product. Principal among these is the positive recognition you receive every time you complete a meditation. At the end of every session, a modal window pops up congratulating you on completion. When you achieve certain streaks, the app also acknowledges your perseverance and even awards you a small star (aka a badge) along with a number indicating your streak count. If you tap on it, the app opens a drawer that shows your activity feed, including which meditations you completed and your achievements.
This discreet use of feedback is powerful and very appropriately designed, considering the app. It shows progress after each session and provides you with reinforcement for a job well done. Given my usage pattern of the app, it would also be interesting to see stats, have some kind of feedback loop (e.g. ask me how I feel), and to receive the messages via voice – since I’m using the app mostly over headphones, rather than visually. But these are all small points – the core experience of the app and its gamification system deliver highly effective feedback.
With some additional stats and “multiplayer” options, calm could deliver more of the other 2 F’s. I’d love to meditate with someone else and compare notes/traction, perhaps make mutual commitments to others and even integrate this into a bigger wellness practice (e.g. with nike+ integration). So many possibilities when you have a good core product and a gamification solution that is narrow in scope but well executed.
Now, let’s meditate on those options.