Grow your audienceTwitchUI/UX

Twitch subscribers and donations rethought

By 24 April, 2015 One Comment

This is only speculation, sure it has grounds in psychology and extended research but it’s nothing I’ve seen being used on Twitch yet. Let me start by saying that I’m not a Twitch livestreamer and have no intention on becoming one. What I am is someone that have worked with an different Twitch livestreamers over the years and making, problem solving and thinking about overlays is what I do.

One thing that haven’t really been brought up and have been controlled by the system that is used and not by someone with UI/UX experience. It’s something that I should have thought about sooner but it’s actually something that I read that made me rethink the way we should look at donations and Twitch subscribers.

That’s Just The Way It Is

Before I get into exactly what my theory and design solution I want to explain a bit about what it is right now. At the moment the donation and Twitch subscriber plugins are made by programmers, and that’s really where it ends. It pops-up, make a sound and then displays a name somewhere… that’s really it. Sure you can upload a .gif and have a animation on that but it’s not really solving any problems it only creates them. Programmers isn’t focused on UI/UX, it’s more about function, make it work and when it works that’s where it ends unless there’s someone giving direction. I have seen a few custom systems that do something different but still it’s more a display than what I want to do. I want to engage the audience and make it the best experience as possible for the audience while giving the livestreamer a better outlook on converting undedicated followers to dedicated followers.

Changes to Twitch subscribersChanges

I need to state that this will not work for everyone and you still need to have value in your content no matter what.  You know your audience better than I do and this is not a step-by-step guide but guidelines that you can take way and apply to your Twitch livestream. So where do we have to look to get a better understanding how to engage the audience in both donations and Twitch subscribers?

Goal-Gradient Effect

Photo by John Cooper

Photo by John Cooper

Let’s breakdown how our brain enjoys rewards and how we are motivated to reach a goal. The first thing we need to talk about is the Goal-Gradient Effect, this effect is best illustrated with the coffee loyalty card stamps. “Choice 1″ is 10 stamps but none is filled, and “choice 2″ is 12 stamps and 2 are already filled in. There are the same amount of empty stamps but since we already are able to see that we have mode some progress, when we bought that first cup of coffee, we want to keep going faster. This is the Goal-Gradient Effect and it states that the closer we get to a goal the fast we want to reach it. An issue arise when we get to the goal at that point we are no longer interest in another goal and that’s where the biggest fall of will be.

A great example is the XP bar in a MMORPG. When you’re 1 or 2 fifths of the way you’re thinking “I’m almost at the middle I might as well keep going”. When you get to the middle you’re halfway to the finish line so you might as well keep going. It’s when you get to the end of that cycle the danger is, the big fall off, you’re done, you’re out, this is called the post-reward reset phenomenon (Google it, there’s tons of articles and research about it).

How do you use the Goal Gradient Effect in your Twitch stream and how do you work around the fall off? The best place to apply it would be with Twitch subscriber goals or donation goals. An easy way would be to randomly give out more “stamps” verbally. Make a game out of it or use hidden goals either in your gameplay or in the progress, give a few extra when the first one donation or someone becomes one of your Twitch Subscribers after the last goal ended. Another, and even more powerful way, is to give random awards, this is described in Mark R. Lepper, David Green and Richard E. Nisbett study Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward. The end result is that if you’r rewards are unknown, unpredictable you’re stimulating the dopamines in the brain.

In 1958 Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Åke Hillarp did research on the areas dopamine effects. There’s three areas that we want to stimulate for the Twitch livestream audience; attention, motivation, seeking and reward. We can then apply it as Kent Berridge describes, he gives two different ways to look at how dopamine effects us, the first one is “liking” and the second one “wanting”. We should hit both of these. Wanting will call for action while liking will give satisfaction. Action is the donation or the Twitch subscriptions and the liking should come from the reward.

We’re used to see Twitch subscribers goals, when someone hits 10 Twitch subscribers this or that happens and then we rinse and repeat. You don’t want to be predictable so we can actually remove the system in use all together. Keep your notification, keep your sounds on (I’m going to write a article about how you best can use these to give your audience the best experience) and keep a Twitch subscriptions counter if you want. What you should change is the goal. The only one that needs to know the goal is you. If it’s donations you set a secret donation goal and if it’s a Twitch subscribers goal you set a secret goal for that as well. Announce when you hit it and what the reward is and keep giving out intrinsic awards. You have effectively used both the Goal Gradient Effect, our thirst for knowledge and our curiosity.

You can adjust the frequency or pattern depending on your audience and the effect you’re seeing. Remember that the reward till have to be relatable to your personal brand and your Twitch stream.

(If you want to go further into motivation you should watch Daniel Pink’s lecture Drive. I have some great thoughts about how to implement these things even further but I need to think about it a bit more and it will be a different article.)

How to use it in a UI

Twitch subscriber progressBack to a bit more psychology. We love progress, we love mastery and we love control. But how do we reflect this in our UX and UI for the audience? Click on the image to get a better view of some of my ideas. I’ve put them in a very rudimentary UI to better illustrate each component. When creation the actual UI there’s room for a clearer UI related to your personal brand and Twitch livestream.

  1. First thing we add is a progress bar instead of a counter. Since progress is such a good incentive even if small it works towards mastery and completion.
  2. We’re adding a new type of notification (and sound, but use the concepts behind sound design) it will pop-up only where the progress bar is and where it end up after the donation. You can either graphically show bigger or smaller steps, this will work best when competition is small, or you can have the same amount of progression for all donations, better when there’s a lot of competition (this is based on the research by Stephen M. Garcia and Avishalom Tor called the N-effect).
  3. Our reward system isn’t written out but as we hit different goal, randomly set by you, there will be a quest to find where and what these goals are. Style the progression bar and such according to what fits with your livestream.
  4. At the end of a longer goal you should present a small task for your audience. It should be unrelated to donations or Twitch subscriptions, instead it should be used to give those initial “stamps”  on the loyalty card towards the next goal.
  5. This is not the same progress bar but rather one that tracks a specific subscriber. Showing progress only for that re-subscription. Adding rewards along the way could be used but I’m actually unsure as I write this how that would be made fair to others, for now I would actually not give random reward there.
  6. Instead I would give a reward here instead. Let’s say that at 10 months re-subscription in a row that user get some type of reward. What type of reward should be up to what works with your personal brand and your livestream.

These are only a few of the ideas that I have right now but these are also the most broad and that will work for almost anyone. While researching for this article I came across a lot of interesting studies and articles that should be used to improve the way we livestream on Twitch. I feel as if the innovation have stopped and at this point all that is happening on Twitch is re-inventions of the wheel. I would rather see big changes that have basis in research instead of it only looking good. Hopefully this will be a starting point for change and for a better and interesting experience for the audience.


I know this won’t be implemented over night or even in the coming months. It’s going to take time to develop something like this. However you can still take all this information and use, even if the tools isn’t there. I already have several ideas around how that could be done, but that’s my job.

There’s a lot more that can be done and implemented and these are general ideas and won’t work for everyone. For it to work for your stream you will need think how to implement it in a way that makes the most sense to your audience.

Take these notes to your developer, or if you’re a developer yourself, and if you’re thinking about implementing these ideas, have started or are thinking the same? Do give me a shout on Twitter @visiblespeech and we can have a discussion about it. If you want my help, only business related, send me a e-mail instead and we can talk more in-depth.



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