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In our online education app, we use a badging system to show progression through categories of work. These categories now need to change and the tasks within them have to be re-categorised into new categories. This requirement is enforced by external factors (specifically, a change in the national education system) which some (but not all) of our users will be familiar with.

My challenge is that some users will have completed badges in the past that are effectively 'deprecated' as part of this process. We can store a record of these achievements, but how should they be presented to users? They are ultimately of lesser value as an indicator of progress against educational attainment, so I could hide them away in an 'archive' or similar, but this might be potentially de-motivating to people who have 'lost' a lot of previously achieved badges.

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So essentially the new badges are set by external authority? (I wonder if you could give people a sort of "old hand" meta-/pseudo-badge for having old-style badges in their archive to sweeten the medicine. This of course wouldn't work if you can't influence these things.) –  Ulrich Schwarz Aug 4 at 11:37
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If you keep them in some sort of 'archive'-section I'd even say it makes people proud because they have something that nobody else can achive anymore. I am not sure how this applies to your application. i.e. all players of team fortress 2 who owned the game before it was free2play ( = those that actually BOUGHT it) got some items and a hat, which indeed soothed my pain for having spent money on it, a bit –  Mark Aug 4 at 11:53
    
I think the assumption that those badges are of lesser value is questionable. You could even argue that those old badges are worth more than new ones to the user who got them, because no one else will ever get them again. Every "beta tester" badge works this way, the ones who got them are proud of being part a small group that used the app early. Makes them feel elitist. –  kapep Aug 4 at 12:10
    
You can sell them as exclusive no longer available things, though that way you might run into the opposite problem of annoying new users who can't achieve them. –  CodesInChaos Aug 4 at 13:21
    
@kapep - as a general rule I agree but in this case they really will be of slightly lesser value because they are linked directly to success in a nationally set and recognised system so showing that you have the most up to date versions is of greatest value. It's a great idea for some of 'bonus' badges though (i.e. ones beyond the core educational system). Might think about some 'early adopter' style ones. Thanks. –  Willl Aug 4 at 13:42

10 Answers 10

up vote 31 down vote accepted

I quite like Foursquare's method for this - they use coloured badges for achieved, grey ones for unachieved, and add a 'Retired' banner to those that are no longer available:

Foursquare retired badges

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Nice. I hadn't seen this before. This would work well for our requirements I think. Can you filter by 'live' and 'retired' in Foursquare? –  Willl Aug 4 at 10:43
    
@Willl No you can't. Furthermore, with their new app (Swarm) Foursquare basically retired all of their badges and it's just an archive now. However this isn't clear to most users as they don't say it on their page (only in one blog entry I read by chance) –  msparer Aug 4 at 13:56

All the answers here are glass half empty. Good news is, the glass is actually 90% full for you.

World of Warcraft (clearly what you should emulate if you're talking gamification) has this exact 'problem', and turns it into an opportunity.

Many of their in game achievements become unattainable, due to a variety of reasons. Do they delete people's achievements? Of course not. Do they downgrade them to 'retired achievements'? No.

They 'upgrade' them, from an achievement to a "feat of strength". In addition to 'deprecated' achievements, feats of strength include some preposterously difficult achievements, either too much effort for most people, or only a certain number are available. Examples for you could be, whenever a new module comes out, give out feats of strength for "Finish new module A first" or "be in the first 100 people to get 100% in 3 consecutive tests in module A". By including these very difficult feats of strength, you give "feats of strength" value above what a normal achievement has.

People do not think "What's the point of getting achievements, they might become deprecated eventually anyway". People think "I had better get that achievement now while I can, before it becomes deprecated."

Scarcity provides value. Something that is going to be unattainable in the future has value because of this.

Oh, and don't actually call them feats of strength.

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Last line cracked me up. Great answer though. –  Dirk v B Aug 5 at 6:05
    
I was working on a post that explained how World of Warcraft did this, but then I read this one which also explains it. here, have an upvote. –  Nate Kerkhofs Aug 5 at 8:50

An interesting clue in your question is:

"this might be potentially de-motivating to people who have 'lost' a lot of previously acheived badges."

How can you avoid disappointment? I think you need to re-frame the issue of "lost" or "depreciated" badges in to be more phrased in a positive way. Instead of presenting the old badges like "You've lost these badges" present it as if to say "This is record of all the badges you've worked hard for. Look how many you've earned!"

This way the old badges still contribute to an achievement—the total number of all badges earned.

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If the current badges make use of colour, presenting the deprecated badges in greyscale might work in this situation.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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Thanks. I should have mentioned that we currently grey out badges that haven't yet been unlocked and use colour (like your green and red mockups) to differentiate between different categories. –  Willl Aug 4 at 10:25

A possibility would be to mark the 'old' badges with a 'retired' label, as others have suggested, but maybe also include a new 'current' badge signifying accomplishment of the old badges. Maybe levels of a badge based on number of historic badges.

'badge buddy' 'badge all-star' 'look at the piles and piles of badges!'

Still see the old badges, get a new badge rewarding for the past accomplishments, and still not detract from the current badges.

Or, maybe not even with a 'retired' label, but rather a display of the year earned. An "xyz" badge that has a year on it woundt have any major negative connotation to it aside from 'not this year'.

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In addition to Whillingx I would use an icon to ensure all colour perceptions are catered for.

enter image description here

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This icon seems too negative. It gives the impression that the user lost something, or that they got the badge because they suck. –  user2357112 Aug 4 at 10:42
    
The icons I posted are representative, how the user interprets them is up to the developer, see Graham's answer for how Four Square implemented their icon. –  DarrylGodden Aug 4 at 10:49
    
It looks like I can download the right star, that's misleading. –  A.L Aug 5 at 13:56
    
You need to look up "representative" –  DarrylGodden Aug 5 at 13:59

Can't comment, so it comes as an answer:

I agree with edeverett that you must phrase it in a positive manner to lessen the disappointment. Is some sort of legend or hover-tooltip acceptable, or do you need it so be self-explanatory? If you CAN provide explanation, I´d vote for a e.g. a scholar hat as icon for the deprecated lessons. Why scholar hat?

Give the explanation "Extracurricular achievements." The message is "You are great for doing more than you have to." - even if it´s not quite what happened.

Anyway, the worst thing you could do is mark them as nullified, either by graying out or by striking out.

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Don't show them.

To keep deprecated features in a live product means to find solutions to justify their integration -as you are now doing-, to document them internally, to maintain something that is essentially useless.

You are actually moving forward in time the act of planning and executing a final retirement of these features.

Since the national program will probably have impacted other areas as well, you could group these changes in some sort of document, post, or page that the users can read if interested (I'd like to see the stats anyway).

In my opinion your company is wasting money that should be spent on other areas that could impact more profoundly the final user experience.

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It rather goes against the whole purpose to without comment delete a ton of badges. –  emodendroket Aug 5 at 17:56
    
I take your point but I don't think it's a waste of money to think through the detail of a decision like this. Needless to say this isn't the main or only thing we're working on either (if only it were - I'd be kicking back and enjoying a beer)! –  Willl Aug 6 at 13:23
    
I agree, this is definitely a good question to pose and can impact negatively the experience for some users. But. From a project management point of view I believe that if you take the amount of resources (people, time and ultimately money) needed to ease the abandonment of some deprecated badges, the costs outweigh the benefits. I would run a quick survey to ask x users what would be their reaction if they lost those badges. I believe that really few of them -if any- would find them that important to justify these expenses. –  Luca De Angelis Aug 6 at 13:37

I'd totally agree with Scott's answer. You shouldn't use "deprecated" or similar, it sounds like those achievements are demoted and lost their value. You should "upgrade/promote" them as they will become unattainable. They shouldn't be hidden, but maybe another section for them should be created. It's like e.g. football(soccer) world champion of the past - even though you may not be current champion, that achievement isn't "deprecated", it's the mark of strength.

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Good point. I always like to use the Olympics analogy at work. If you won the gold in a sport and then the rules changed you're still a gold medal winner. I think I'll aim for some wording that makes the 'deprecated' badges something like 'classic badge'. –  Willl Aug 6 at 13:20

I like the grayscaling approach mentioned in some of the other answers. Here's an alternative approach for your consideration:

Be up front about the change and explain to the users what is happening. Make a clear transition from the old system to the new system together.

The implementation details of this approach may be:

  • Show a screen at first launch explaining the changes in the badging system
  • Use only the new badges in the app in place of the old ones
  • If applicable, translate any of the old badges to their new counterparts
  • Provide a place ( maybe in their profile ) that lists their current badges. Show the new badges prominently but also provide a way to view the old ones. Maybe as a grouping below the new badges, or maybe theres a button to view a separate screen. You can allude to the old badge listing in the first launch explanation, e.g. "You can still view your old badges in your profile."
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