One of the main questions I get about my User Types, is how do you actually make use of them?

What I have provided is a simple framework to look at basic motivations of users who are using your system. However, if it was just an analytical tool, it would not be all that much use really! The main reason I developed the user types was to help you in the planning and design phase – not just with analytics and improvements!

There are two main ways to go about using the user types in the early phases of your design.

Survey the populous

The first and the one that most people want to ask me about, is a survey of potential users. I built a basic one that can define your user type and how influenced you may be towards rewards. You could get a representative sample to send you their type results and then start to build a system that caters for the most prominent types.

Whilst this is a reasonable thing to do, it does have a couple of drawbacks. It assumes the test is right – which I would like to think it is, but it is still an assumption. It also requires people to answer honestly, something that we all want to do, but at times we don’t realise we are not being honest on these things. We give the answers we either want to see or hope that others want to see.

The final and actually most important drawback is the nature of people themselves. You see, the test can give you the type for a potential user at that moment in time – before they have started using the system and out of context. One of the things that Richard Bartle found when he was looking at Player Types was that over time the type would change. So they might start off a Killer but after months of play they would develop into a socialiser. This is because as people master or get bored of certain types of playing, they evolve.

So the user type you are when you first start using a system, may not stay the same. So surveying and building your system based on initial types may actually be counter-productive.

This is the approach if you are looking for a short term campaign, you just need to work out what your potential users want over the immediate term.

Build it for the people you want

So, the alternative is to come at it from another direction. Define the problem your gamification is trying to solve. Next work out what kind of user types are most likely to be able to help solve it – and build the system to encourage and support them.

For instance, if you are looking for innovation in your company and you want to get people to submit new ideas, what types of people are most likely to give up time to do this? Well, initially it would make sense that Philanthropists would be up for the challenge. Their “joy” comes from helping others and adding to the greater meaning of things. This being the case, you need to create an environment that allows them to give their ideas, but also to advise others and support them with their ideas. You may also want to consider Free Spirits. They are creative and could be the ones who have explored areas where there can be innovation the most. So you would create a system that encourages and supports their involvement. You give them tools to think creatively and develop their ideas.

That is not to say you ignore the other types. You can create social networking opportunities for socialisers or add voting systems with points and badges for the players, but they are not the ones who will be helping you directly solve your problem – the need for innovation. Also, remember that different motivations appeal to people in varying degrees and combinations. Whilst they may be a socialiser, they can still have traits that a philanthropist may have.

This approach will help you build a system that solves your problem. Yes users may evolve their type during usage, but the system will still encourage others to come along and use it. Also, designed well, you can keep the evolved users on board in other capacities. The point is, solve the problem!