Points or badges? Which is king? Neither?

When it comes to gamification, there are lots of ways to incentivize and reward your app users as they interact with your platform. The two most popular choices, by far, are points and badges. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of each tactic:


  • Points may be used to gamify an experience on a website or mobile app, to create a sense of learning, competitiveness and fun, in an otherwise routine experience — remember, points can be a feedback mechanism for your user
  • Once you have a points protocol established, leaderboards and a ranking system may be created
  • The effect of giving out points is to create an entertaining experience, using game mechanics—right in the heart of gamification
  • Points may then be redeemed for prizes, discounts, rewards, recognition, and much more


  • Badges give people a sense of overall accomplishment — it means more when you actually have to work for it
  • They create a competitive environment, which may be applied to customers for social sharing, as well as employees, for training and advancement
  • Badges do not require a system for exchange — versus points, which need to be redeemed for something
  • Badges can be branded uniquely and made fun for the user and the provider too

So which is king? Points or badges? Since points can be exchanged for badges, it would appear that the versatility of a points structure is more supreme than that of badges. Maybe neither points nor badges is king, compared to other engagement tactics. These days, many gamification gurus say that points and badges are actually bad for gamification because they tend to hold less value in people’s minds (see our previous post: Badges—does anyone really care?). We should be looking at more intrinsic motivations (see our previous post: Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators).

Still, there are so many implementations of points and badges out there today. They are often masked behind fancy terms such as “experience levels”, i.e. badges. My feeling is that the reason we still see them today is because points and badges, although very basic in engagement nature, are better than nothing at all. Otherwise, you see just plain digital text. So, it’s a good start, but there is so much more you can do from an engagement and traction perspective.

What do you think?


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