Inside Treehouse: Badges

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Gamification and social media currently play a huge role in web design and in our newly launched e-learning website, Treehouse. “Brochure style” websites are quickly becoming outdated, and instead users expect beautifully designed environments that are interactive and encourage exploration.

Badges are just one example of a gamification feature that we use at Treehouse to provide instruction, inspire and reward achievements, establish and maintain reputation, and create a community. Let’s dive in and take you behind the scenes of how and why we’ve implemented badges as a major feature of Treehouse.

Treehouse Badges

Why Treehouse embraced gamification:

Badges provide instruction to the user.

Badges can be a great way to provide visual instruction for a user within the mobile or web application environment. At Treehouse, we use badges to guide the user through the curriculum in a way that makes the most sense. If you take a look at our badge map, you’ll notice that the HTML badge can’t be achieved without first unlocking all of the child badges. This creates academic structure and work flow in a fun and rewarding way. It also means there’s no shortcut around learning and understanding tables to unlock the HTML badge, no matter how much you might despise them. :)

Badges challenge the user to set goals.

Incorporating badges into a mobile or web application challenge users to set and meet goals. Upon joining Treehouse, a member may only plan to learn HTML but when they realize the design foundation badge can’t be achieved without also unlocking the CSS & CSS3 badges, their goals are broadened. This forces the user to step outside their comfort zone to learn topics they might otherwise have avoided, creating self motivation. It also introduces content to a user who wouldn’t have initially explored it on their own. That sounds like a win-win to me!

Badges are an affirmation of a job well done.

Once a Treehouse member has watched the videos, passed the quizzes, and succeeded in the code challenges, a message and the awarded badge pops up, affirming their success. Badges in application design serve as a virtual trophy to make the user feel as though all their effort (beyond the knowledge they retain) is worth it in the end. The virtual trophy can then be displayed on their virtual shelf – or profile page – to remind others and themselves of a job well done.

Badges encourage users to establish and maintain their reputation.

At Treehouse, a user’s collection of badges are a visual representation of their experience, expertise, and accomplishments. Much like a resume, it allows a user to advertise what or who they know without blatantly bragging. Humans are instinctively competitive, so collecting badges can be motivating and exciting to unlock. The more you have, the more it appears you know (and hopefully actually know, too!). In turn, the user is more inclined to collect badges since they know other users can see how many and which badges they’ve earned.

In addition to quantity, exclusivity of badges can also be a way to establish and maintain a user’s reputation. For example, our Future of Web Design attendees who participated in the Treehouse LEGO contest received a unique limited edition badge that no one else can unlock.

Badges create a sense of community.

Treehouse encourages members to interact with each other and the content, ask questions, and share what they’ve learned – much like a real classroom environment.

Publicly showcasing unlocked badges on users’ profiles and announcing achievements through social networks creates buzz for non-members and inspires current members to keep learning. It also allows the user to see what badges they have in common with other Treehouse members. It is this bond with each other that emphasizes it’s a journey they’re all taking together.

Websites should no longer be something you simply see and read, but something you explore and interact with. It’s with the help of our badge system that we have broken down that invisible barrier between the 2 and 3-dimensional worlds. The concept of combining education and gamification is a modern and effective approach that the team at Treehouse is hoping will change the way we learn in the web industry.

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11 comments on “Inside Treehouse: Badges

  1. Great article, very nice to pass on to colleagues and inside of agencies who don’t quite get gamification or aren’t using it the right way.  Look forward to following your articles!

  2. Great article, very nice to pass on to colleagues and inside of agencies who don’t quite get gamification or aren’t using it the right way.  Look forward to following your articles!