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Game Mechanics 101

How websites use tactics honed in video games to increase page views and sales


Users earn access to special offers or features that expire after a short time

On the Web: Sales at discount luxury goods retailer Gilt Groupe usually last 36 hours. The ticking clock creates a sense of urgency in shoppers


Sites dole out rewards to users who return at a predetermined time

On the Web: American Express cardholders can receive special deals by visiting the site Daily Wish at specified times three days a week

Badges & Trophies

Users get quirky, colorful emblems for performing specific actions

On the Web: The location-based smartphone app Foursquare gives out a "Fresh Brew" badge after users visit 30 coffee shops


Sites award points for completing tasks and rank high-scoring users

On the Web: At, the Philadelphia Inquirer's homepage, visitors earn points for viewing and sharing articles. High scorers appear in a "Top Fans" feature

Progress Bar

Sites display a gauge that subtly urges users to complete specified tasks

On the Web: The progress bar on LinkedIn, a social networking site for professionals, encourages new members to fill out their profiles and work histories

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