I am working for a company that is looking to crowdsource some tasks in a fun, engaging way. The problem is that the task is very tedious. How do we keep our users engaged long enough to complete the task and continue coming back?

Ideas we came up with include using game dynamics to motivate users and creating a community platform where users can connect with each other, much like Foursquare and stack overflow does. However, unlike the badges/awards/points you receive in stack overflow, users would not be getting these achievement markers based on knowledge and skill. There doesn't seem enough connection there to have users wanting to participate more and acquire more badges.

Another idea we had was a sort of marathon-type campaign. Say, I'll finish these really tedious tasks if you pledge a certain amount for me to complete them. I liked this idea because it brings in a larger community - the users and the supporters of the users.

We want to avoid completely turning the tasks into a game because it would detract from users understanding the impact of their work to real life situations.


6 Answers 6


Thinking deeply on the motivations behind your users might help more than a specific mechanism. Knowing why a user might care enough to actually complete a task should lead you in the right direction. For instance:

  • personal improvement
  • helping their fellow man
  • vanity
  • raising awareness of a cause
  • reputation in a community of peers
  • being the first or best in a category
  • receiving money
  • receiving any unit of value that can be redistributed

Once you've played out a few scenarios with co-workers or testers in various roles you will see the important information that needs to be displayed to your users to show them where they are in the process of achieving that motivating goal.


Real World Motives Trump Game World Motives

Presumably, there is something to motivate the users or else they wouldn’t get involved in the first place. If not, then you’re being unfair to the users and you should provide some extrinsic reward, such as paying them. However, it sounds like you’re relying on volunteers motivated to do something for a worthwhile ultimate goal. If that’s the case, then understanding the impact of their work isn’t a barrier to engagement –it’s the key to engagement. You should periodically or continuously remind users how much they’re making a difference.

For example, progress stats (which, as other answers attest, is generally a good idea) should be expressed in real-world terms. Instead of just saying “1536 words corrected in scanned documents,” also say “on average enough corrections to spur 3 new historical discoveries,” or whatever the real-world impact is. Provide real-world feedback, such as a homepage news item of what was achieved (e.g., “Thanks to your corrections, Dr. Jones of Indiana U used our documents to show that the Incas were vulnerable to conquest by Pizarro due to political instability in the northern Andes” -link to publication).

Types of Boredom

Beyond the extrinsic and intrinsic motivators of the task itself, you can do a lot by addressing the nature of the boredom. When you say your task is boring, what do you mean exactly?

Is it tedious? That is, is there a lot of pointless work? While the overall task may have a point your users believe in, maybe there are some steps that are really unnecessary. Make sure you UI is clear of all “excise” work that can be streamlined. This can be as simple as pre-positioning the cursor in the text blank with each page load so users don’t have to click there themselves.

Is it monotonous? That is, is it the same thing over and over again? If so, see if you can support more automation. For example, allow the user to multi-select objects and perform the same operation on them all at once, or a macro facility to apply common sequences of operations at difference times. If you can’t automate the process, then automate the user: design the UI so the user can do the task by habit with minimal thought. Walking is the same thing over and over (left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot), but it isn’t monotonous because we do it automatically. Include consistent, easy-to-use controls and tools that can become habits for practicing users (e.g., keyboard shortcuts). The idea is to get the user to the point where they can do something else while doing your task (e.g., listen to a music or a podcast, talk on the phone, check their email or newsfeed, or even watch a video).

Is it dull? That is, is it not sufficiently stimulating for the senses for the level of thought needed for the task? If so, you can try adding sensory stimulation, such as using brighter colors, or interesting animations, or background sounds. You could provide social stimulation, such as by having users linked by audio or chat. This allows them to discuss how best to do the task and motivate each other (especially if it’s structured such that they coordinate), but it also allows them to socialize to counter dullness. However, consider that users may want to fight dullness by providing their own stimulation (such as described for monotony), so allow them to turn off the animations and sounds, and make it possible to accomplish useful work on their own.

More details at Professor Q. Bert.


Break tedious tasks into smaller simpler ones. As the user completes those tasks provide positive reinforcement to help them continue on.

Make sure they always know where they are in the process/flow (breadcrumbs for example). The further they get the more engaged and likely to complete the process. When we see that we've come part way, we are less likely to stop because we're loss adverse to losing the progress that we've made. So make sure they know they're making progress and make them feel really good about gaining every inch. A simple "Nicely Done! Let's keep it up" will go a long way.


Use multiple forms of positive reinforcement based on progress e.g.

  • Percentage of inputs out of total

  • In quantity of pages out of total

  • In quantity of inputs out of total

  • Comics that advances with each page, so that you have to complete all the pages to get to the end. This also provides a break/distraction that help prevent the task from becoming tedious.

Positive reinforcement for returning users e.g.

  • New comics each time

  • Accumulative reputation (per completion), badges (fastest answerer, 10 answers in a week) and leagues (most answers in a week)

  • Gifts for heavy or top users (e.g. Amazon/Pay-pal/... gift certificates)

  1. Make the tasks simple and straightforward, so that they can each be achieved in a single process, where possible. There is nothing worse than a tedious task that takes a long time, especially if that time cannot be broken. If each task achievement can be done in 15 mins max (the less the better) then there is some sense of finishing stuff.

  2. Can you provide a progress indicator, so that participants know how far through the tasks they are. If they are generic tasks being achieved by a group, record the total completed, which can provide encouragement.

  3. Ensure that at the end of the tasks, there is a real reward. Money or managerial approval might work. A picture of a gold medal won't.

  4. Why do you need people to do tedious tasks? Are there any that can be done automatically (often the answer is not without spending far longer than it will take people to do them, but it is worth considering).


Additionally you can use "hungry design". Create only well designed typography, quite a bit of graphic... just allow visitor concentrate on Sign Up goal. We have created a launch page for http://apexter.com (for freelancers) with "hungry design"

  • 2
    Can you go into more detail about what this 'hungry design' term means, rather than just spam your website? If your site does do this hungry design thing (which I see no evidence of because it's just a confusing website) then can you explain what it is trying to do, why it does this and what impact it has to motivate people? Otherwise we'll have to delete this post as without any reasoning or information it's not much more than spam currently.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 9:10
  • I don't know why it has confused you (maybe it's your personal prb). But try to look to design at all. 1) About 2) why user need it 3) quite a bit of graphic 4) green big button 5) user is not distracted by unnecessary things Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 9:58
  • So user see all important information about website and can decide what to do Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 10:01
  • 1
    Your site is not a good example though. The HTML headings are all over the place, the language is confusing, the grammar is poor, there is a field and button with no indication of what to put into it, the field has no label, the logo has no alt text... If you're going to reference your own site as a piece of design then I don't think you've achieved that aim there.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 10:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.