11.2. Motivation and Retention
Attracting users is just one essential aspect when designing a mobile application reliant on its contributors for its development and maintenance. Usability plays a crucial role in assuring that the majority of the users are satisfied and stimulated when returning to the same application. Poor user interfaces can lead to a sharp growth in dissatisfaction and frustration, including unresponsiveness of the interfaces, poor choice of UI components, clashing colour schemes, lack of readability, poor user flow, etc. It is therefore important to list the main criteria to be followed when designing applications for better retention and attraction. Following a list of prescribed measures that we consider indispensable:
Make it a side effect/implicit work. When users are new to the app, they might not necessarily know the set of functionalities at hand. We recommend that the optimal way to introduce the users to the features and functionalities of the framework is to make the act of contributing to the content, a ‘side effect’ of the user experience. As the application gathers the GPS information of the user, this is capable of recognizing when and if a user is near a particular POI. It can also notify the user when in the proximity of POIs. The notification can include information about the POI and where it is exactly, and ask if the user wants to add extra information. This can range from taking a picture, adding a story or simply reviewing other people’s contributions. The user can add content to the app without actively going to a certain POI, thus lowering the effort to contribute. This functionality can be optional, so people have the chance to turn the notifications off.
Use Proximity and Familiarity
. This is very important and useful because the app works with geo-spatial data. Everyone has a place or neighborhood they know a lot about because they were born there or have lived there for a long time. That is why they think they are an expert with regard to knowing things about those places. They also want the information about their neighborhood to be correct and don’t want to see it go extinct. This may even make them feel obligated to add and review content about POI in their neighborhood. The app could ask the user to review POI in his neighborhood and add his own authentic stories and pictures to it. For this to work the user is asked to indicate which area they live in, was born in or knows a lot about. This is not mandatory of course. This is in line with Linus’ Law, a quality factor discussed above [59
Use user-tasks or missions. Up until now, the term task has been used. We would actually suggest that the app uses the term mission, as this has a way less compelling and compulsory sound to it. It is also a term used in a lot of games, which is in line with the gamification mechanics that will be used. The best way to gather geo-spatial data is to actively ask users to perform missions that require them to gather and upload geo-spatial content in a fun way. We recommend having a wide variety of missions, so users don’t get bored or feel like they can’t do any of the missions provided. Different geo-spatial user tasks and types for data input. For instance, imaging can be achieved by taking a picture of a POI, contextualization is done by adding a story to a specific POI, sharing can be the interaction with other users, validating is achieved by doing a quality check by reviewing and voting on other people’s contributions and geo-referencing is done automatically or manually when someone adds a new POI. These missions can be divided over different levels of expertise. When a user has a higher level, quality checks could be done more often for instance, because that user probably has more expertise than lower level users.
It is also important to see the progress of a mission. When the mission is to invite 5 friends to the app, it should have a visual display showing how many people the user has already invited and how many are left. The missions should be clear and small-scale, so users know exactly what to do and do not get bored that easily because it is a small mission. Too many users on one mission should be avoided, as this has a negative impact on participation.
Use a user-profile
. As mentioned before, we recommend using a user-profile. Without a user-profile, it is not possible to implement a reputation system, use leader boards or even hand out rewards or points. A user profile is the foundation for all of these mechanics. User profiles can include all sorts of information, ranging from basic personal information to avatars, all of their contributions, their level/rank, reputation, badges and amount of points. The user should be free to decide what he wants to show other people, with a few things being mandatory, such as name and avatar. This also opens up the possibility to have friends on the platform, send each other messages and challenge each other. This positively influences the lineage and reduces the amount of malicious and mischievous content [59
]. Making an account should be an option though.
If users want to use the app without an account, that should be possible. You only need an account if you want to participate in any of the activities that require you to have a user-profile, like uploading content, voting, leader-boards and adding friends.
Use a point system. Award points or in-game currency for completing missions. The number of points that can be earned should differ for each mission, based on how difficult it is and how much time it requires. More points can be earned when a user is the first one to visit a certain POI than when the user visits a popular POI. More points can also be earned when a user adds a new POI than when a user just contributes to an already existing POI. Points can be earned by just checking in at POI to increase the number of visits and potential new content.
These points can be spent on in-game content, like gear for the user’s avatar and other features. It is important that points are present throughout the entire application, as this keeps reminding and motivating people.
Use leader boards. Because players can earn points and have a user profile, it is possible to implement one or multiple leader boards. Some users are motivated to rank highly on the leader boards and thus will perform missions to earn points. Leader boards should be short term and have different dimensions. This means that if you have performed two big missions you score higher than someone who has completed two small missions. The benefit of having short term leader boards is that it does not disincentivize users, because they have a new chance of ranking high every week. It is important that the application lets the user know how to rank highly on these leader boards. The top three players on these leader boards could win a reward, or have a chance of winning a bigger award after a longer period of time competing with all winners.
Use competition. Because the app uses points, leader boards, and reputation, there is automatically a competitive element to it. Implementing competitions that users can participate may increase the motivation of some users to participate in the project. Users could invite their friends or other people to a friendly game, which could give them rewards/awards when they win. This competition could be to add as much content as possible in a certain neighborhood in a given time-frame. However, whilst competition should be available, it should also be easy to ignore for those users who are not motivated by competition.
Use a reputation system
. As mentioned before, using a reputation system has a lot of benefits and uses. People can up-vote and down-vote other users, and based on those votes get points for their reputation. Being able to vote also makes sure that the quality of contributions is good enough (logical consistency) and it decreases the amount of malicious or mischievous content [59
]. Having a better reputation, may mean more influence on new features, more privileges, and even a chance to become a moderator. Having a low reputation may mean restrictions on certain features, such as being unable to vote on and review the quality of other contributions. The app should not disclose every negative ranking or reputation from the user, as this can discourage them to keep using the app. Having a good reputation can result in being recognized in the community and thus will boost the user’s confidence. The only way to achieve this is to actively do a lot of missions and have high-quality contributions. This positively influences retention and the quality factor Hierarchical Structures for Quality Assurance [59
Use rewards. This mechanic has also been mentioned before. Rewards can be monetary or non-monetary. Non-monetary rewards can be in-game content, gear, currency or a big amount of points. Rewards can be earned by winning a competition, ranking high on a leader board or performing unique missions. We suggest that players should not be over-awarded as this might encourage active players to contribute too much and dominate, and thus disincentivizing others from contributing. When monetary rewards are being used, it is important to combine it with other intrinsic motivational factors, as the monetary reward will otherwise be the dominant factor for contributing. This can ultimately lead to users not wanting to contribute anymore without having the chance to earn money.
Use badges. Badges are a type of non-monetary status reward, which people get for achieving something unique. In this case, that could be completing unique missions that require particular skills or much time. People can show badges off on their user profile. This is also a sign of expertise and results in a better reputation. Badges should not be confused with points, as badges are achieved by completing unique missions and are visualized inside the app.
. This includes both direct and indirect feedback. Composto et al. [66
] found out that volunteers wanted to receive direct feedback from the platform they are using as an incentive for future contributions. When an application or platform gives their users feedback on their contributions, it gives them the feeling they are actually doing something and their efforts are recognized and valued. This will prompt the user to participate more in the future. Ways to do this is to have a good visual display of their POI. So, when a user adds something, they and other users can see the contribution right away. We also suggest that the application should highlight a different contribution every day or week on the main page of the app, so everyone can see that contribution. Another way to do this is to have a blog, forum or mail where the newest and best contributions are showcased every week. These emails can also be used to frequently communicate with the users, like talking about new updates or news, which is also good feedback.
Indirect feedback is when a user sees that the contributions of other users are being used and gets motivated by that. Research has shown that crowdsourcing projects that made use of a lot of visible feedback, had longer and more sustained participation [68
]. Feedback can also go the other way around. Users should have the option to give the application feedback on what can be better or improved. It is crucial to know the needs of the users to satisfy them [69
Add a timeline to POIs
. We suggest that POIs should have a timeline linked to them, so the content that is added to that POI can be linked to a time in the history of that POI. When more people contribute to it and add a timestamp, it can be added to the timeline. 1001 Stories Denmark has implemented a screen for every POI at the same time [71
], while we think doing this individually for the POI is a better idea. This increases the Temporal quality of the contributions [59
Use filters. Because it could be possible to add (Facebook) friends on the application using the user profiles, filters can be used to our advantage. We could give the users the option to only display content that has been added by their friends, thus giving them a more authentic, reliable and trustful experience. The other way around also works. Users can decide to make their contributions only accessible and visible to only certain users (friends). Another filter that can be implemented is to filter on keywords (that other users need to fill in at the template). This way users can choose to only see certain buildings that are interesting to them.
Use collaboration. The fact that the app uses user-profiles and the option to add friends, opens up the possibility to collaborate. Friends could decide to explore a certain POI, smart walk or mission together. Doing things together is always perceived as more fun, so this would be a nice functionality. As is mentioned in the ‘use competition’ section, users could also challenge each other, like uploading a certain amount of information in a certain time frame.