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Numbered Levels

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Image:Pattern numberedlevels.png

Contents

Problem

Participants in a community need some way to gauge their own personal development within that community: how far they've progressed; how deeply they've interacted with the community or its offerings. Additionally, these same measures can be used to compare members, to understand who has more or less experience in the community.


Use When

  • You want to enable your users to track their individual growth in the community.
  • A large (or open-ended) number of levels are desirable. For example, World of Warcraft currently allows users to advance to Level 70.
  • You want to enable easy comparisons between users. (At a glance, 'Level 1' is more junior than 'Level 5'.)
  • You're trying to encourage a more-competitive community spirit.


Solution

Establish a family of reputations on a progressive continuum. Each level achieved is higher than the one before it. Levels are referred to by their number, which makes comparisons between levels very straightforward and easy to do. (Numbered levels, however, can be perceived as cold and impersonal).

Recommendations

  • In most cases, Numbered Level systems should go no higher than 10 or so.
  • A strong-point of Numbered Level systems is that they can be added to at a later date with minimal fuss.
    • If, for example, too great a percentage of your community starts to achieve the upper limits of system (see Exclusivity, below) then consider 'opening up' new higher levels for top achievers to attain.
    • (Don't do this too frequently though, or the community may perceive that you're just dangling an unattainable carrot out in front of them.)

Cautions

  • In user-testing, we've seen some strong reactions to Numbered Levels from folks who make associations with 'being graded' or assessed. Others noted that numbers just "seem impersonal and kinda cold."
  • Be careful about noting lower-leveled users in information-dense contexts such as lists because there will be many of them.
    • For example, in a Search Results Page showing user-generated content, don't fill a table column by noting all of the Level 1 and 2 contributors.
    • Instead, consider calling out only the most remarkable Level-holders in the community. ("Level 10 Contributor!")

Exclusivity

Exclusivity in the Numbered Levels pattern relates to the distribution of reputations across the available levels. Ideally, from the high end of the register to the low, your Numbered Levels should follow a Power-law distribution. (For a good general discussion ofpower laws in a social-web context, see Clay Shirky's Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality.


Examples

Image:NumLevWoW.png
World of Warcraft tracks an individual's progress via a Numbered Level. Currently, the upper limit is Level 70, but will change with time as new Expansion Packs are introduced. New 'regions' in the game are only available to players of certain levels.


Related Patterns


As Seen On


Original Source

Bryce Glass and Yahoo!s Platform design team, The Yahoo! Pattern Library