Cooperative Design the Kickstarter Way

What makes Kickstarter’s game-like core experience & path to mastery so compelling?

Kickstarter is an incredibly successful crowdfunding platform that continues to evolve and stay on the cutting edge. How do they do it? How does Kickstarter deliver an experience that pulls new customers into the platform — and entices them into learning what they need to know to succeed?

The answer, of course, is multi-faceted — there’s no “silver bullet” solution. Kickstarter is executing well on many fronts. But there ARE a set of smart practices that set Kickstarter up for early success, and helped them stay nimble in a fast-evolving digital landscape.

When Kickstarter began to gain traction and visibility, there were many opportunities to align with celebrities and add “exclusive benefits” to the platform. But Kickstarter was founded on a strong vision of creating a level playing field for artists and creators to “test the waters” and get their projects off the ground. So they said “no” to many lucrative sponsorship & ad placement opportunities — and instead, grew into the leading platform for creators of all kinds.

A Learning Loop is a repeatable, pleasurable experience that helps your customer get better at something. Games are filled with Learning Loops — and so are compelling products.

Check out Kickstarter’s Learning Loop, which is nothing short of brilliant.

  • You discover an intriguing campaign on social media, and follow the link
  • You watch the video, check out the rewards, browse through the community messages, and decide to donate to the campaign
  • Then — right when you’ve put skin in the game — you’re prompted to share your story and help the campaign get funded.
  • So you write a social media post — and the cycle continues all over again.
  • Then you follow the campaign… checking the stats, reading the updates — and do what you can to help it succeed.

Kickstarter is resolutely open to first-time campaigners — that goes back to their core mission and reason for existence. Kickstarter offers many resources to help campaigners succeed — but at the end of the day, it’s all about making a great video and mobilizing your community into action.

For Kickstarter campaigners, the learning path is built around mastering the art of online campaigning. Although it’s a level playing field in terms of submission, successful campaigns are rewarded with visibility and support resources as they gather steam

The best way to reward mastery is with real impact — and Kickstarter now has an emerging marketplace of experts who’ve mastered the system, and offer their help and support to new campaigners, with Kickstarter’s blessing.

Like Slack, Kickstarter struggled internally with the temptation to juice competition with zero-sum mechanics and head-to-head competitions. And like Slack, Kickstarter largely resisted that urge, and built an environment where each campaign is competing with the system to get funded by the deadline.

Check out the stats on a Kickstarter campaign page. You can see the total amount raised and size of the crowd — and if you want to dig deeper, click through the see who else funded it and what they’re saying. But you won’t see ordered lists of who the biggest funders are — instead, the stats are built to support group identity and commitment to a shared goal.

Kickstarter made a smart move by resisting the urge to juice competition. Another sign of this is the spotlights they’ve used for many years to showcase excellence. On the Kickstarter home page, you can browse a “spotlight list” of categories and see great campaigns in each one. These spotlights change regularly, and give campaigners in every category a chance to be acknowledged.

Want more? Check out our game thinking programs and learn how to build deep, game-like customer engagement into YOUR product.


Game designer, startup coach, author, entrepreneur