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How Duolingo uses gamification mechanics to build a habit-forming app


  • Which gamified elements can build user’s habits

  • How to trigger users’ motivation with simple but effective gamification mechanics

  • How to keep your users engaged over time


Have you checked out Duolingo yet? It’s hands down the most popular language-learning app in the world, with a whopping 54 million people using it each month and a total of 98 million downloads in 2022. And it’s so much fun! The app uses well-thought gamification mechanics that make learning a new language feel like playing a game.

However, their expansion was not sudden.

Attracting users to your app may not be the most challenging thing in the world, but keeping them engaged and motivated to use your app more than just a few times, requires creativity and knowledge. And that’s exactly what Duolingo used to go the extra mile with their gamification strategy.


The premise was straightforward: Duolingo had to find a way to motivate its users to use the app daily in a fun and engaging way.


Duolingo used simple but clever gamification mechanics to build users’ habits and increase everyday engagement:

1. Badges as a form of achievement

Badges are obtained by accomplishing different tasks in-app, such as completing streaks, learning during weekends, or inviting a friend to join the Duolingo app.

duolingo badges app gamification

2. The streak system

This gamification feature tracks the number of days in raw that a user completed a lesson. It all started from the hypothesis that if you repeat an action enough times in the same context, it will become automatic.

app retention example duolingo

3. A gamified design for unit levels

Duolingo came up with the idea to “crack” the levels that users already completed a long time ago, so they would return to take again the lesson. More than that, to encourage users to practice cracked units, Duolingo added a small but effective gamified element – a circular progress bar that shows the user’s progress.


After implementing gamification, the results were fire!

By introducing the badges system, in-app purchases increased by 13% and the number of friends added increased by 116%.

With the streak system, thousands of users shared their achievements on social media daily, and now there are 6 million people with a 7 days streak or more

With the cracked levels and the progress bar, the users were motivated to repair the “cracked” levels and engagement metrics improved substantially.

So if you want to keep your customers engaged over time, you can follow the example of Duolingo and employ effective gamification strategies to increase engagement and incentivize users to return to your app.