Coolinarika is an immensely useful and eye appealing cooking and recipe sharing online community launched in 2003, that we’ve been lovingly grooming since 2006.
And although it’s been on a steady rise in all kinds of numbers for more than a decade with around 156.000 recipes, 153.000 registered users and an average of 54 million page visits a month, when we sat down with the owner of the site, food production company Podravka, an idea sprung up.
True, Coolinarika was already delicious, but why not add even more flavour to it? Let’s gamify the site!
With a carefully crafted achievement and title-awarding system, let’s make sure there is more fun and motivation throughout the site, with quality of user generated content going up along the way.
Play where you used to work
Users get awarded with titles and badges for reaching pre-set milestones in certain activities.
The idea behind gamification is to apply game design elements and mechanics into a non-game context. Most humans like to play games and all humans love to get acknowledgement for their actions. This makes engagement more fun and challenging with a wonderful side effect of users paying more attention to the quality of their recipes and photos. Simple example: a better recipe will be liked and praised by a higher number of other users hence rewarding the author by earning him a valuable title that other users recognize and appreciate. You get the idea.
Achievement distribution across the categories
And this idea works great. We launched Coolinarika gamification with an initial batch of 12 multi level achievement categories and 12 single level ones. This yielded 93 achievements and 29 titles, each in need of a special message for the user. The trick was to make the messages easy to understand, fun, personalized and daring in their witt without stepping over the line of good taste. Something as colorful as this (take a look at those badges) would never work if the site addresses the users in a corporate, stiff and serious tone of voice. We’re deliberately having fun in a couple of places, but post-launch user reactions to this type of talk have been great! Want the gamer to feel you’re friendly? Talk like friends.
When achievement dedicated badges came out of the oven, we were delighted (and so was the client)! Usually we iterate quite a lot until we come up with the real deal but this time, thanks to the smart use of kitchen utensils and food motifs, our designers gave us a delicious set of achievement badges right of the bat.
Coolinarika user milicza (Milica Beličev) is one of the most active in the Coolinarika community, with numerous titles and achievements next to her name, with recipes having been favorited by more than 10000 other users. Need we say more? This is what milicza had to say about our gamification of Coolinarika:
"Gamification of Coolinarika spurred interest among the users in a completely new way. Formally I had the feeling of being alone behind the computer screen, trying hard but getting minimal feedback from other users, but now it is easy to be motivated when you know exactly how many people liked your photos or recipes, or added them to their list of favorites. Cooking and recipe sharing have become a real game now, a plus for the site and a benefit for the user. On top of all that, the wording of the achievement messages is just great. The tone is very friendly and warm with the right amount of humor added into the mix. It makes me want to know what comes at the next level. And I will put in some effort to find out."
Under the hood, the system consists of two parts: event processing and game evaluation. As these are quite distinct, we decided to implement the system as a microservice which we call “game engine” (or GE for short), with both systems communicating via a REST-style API.
EVENT PROCESSING is basically looking at what the users are doing, inspecting that data by various aspects (number of recipes created, number of favorites a recipe got, etc.) and assigning the outcome to one of GE’s predetermined variables, triggering the game evaluation.
GAME EVALUATION begins on the GE after at least one variable has been altered: we check if the change affects the current state of the game (ie. user has uploaded enough photos to cross the threshold for the next badge) and, if it has, we change the state (award the user with the achievement), notifying the main system about the change.
Insights and data driven decisions
A tough cookie
We had to jump a few obstacles along the way, of course. How thick or thin should we spread out these achievements of ours? Do we hand out titles to just about everyone or do we make them hard to reach? If we’re generous from the start and set the bar low, the titles will not mean anything. Go too hard on the users - only the top few percent will ever get anything. It took some serious diving into our Coolinarika data pool from the past 14 years to get the answers to these questions. And dive in we did. The scale is now set just about right: new users do get recognition for basic engagement, just to get a taste of things. And for those eager enough to really take a crack at it, some real treats lie ahead.
Souped it up
Both quality and quantity of user generated content have gone up. On average, user engagement ramped up 48% in major categories compared to the same period last year. Users loved the gamification of their favorite cooking site.
And how do we know that? We have an opt out feature available for those not in the gaming mood. Out of roughly 143.000 Coolinarika users, only 43 decided to hit that “off” switch. We think one could just about call that number a success.
Rise in the number of friendships compared to the same period last year.
Trophies awarded daily.
More engagement in major categories compared to the same period last year.