‘Drive’ engagement and behavior change through safe-driving gamification


Web (Mobile Only)


Research, UI/UX, Design System

Turning telematics data into a gamified experience

Root Insurance is a car insurance provider that was seeking to funnel new and existing users into using their current Root mobile app. There, users are asked to take a test drive to gauge how good of a driver they are and their driver scores were used to determine the insurance rate offered by Root.

Root was seeking to turn their monitoring and tracking driving data (telematics) into a gamified experience by introducing regional sweepstakes, achievements, and eventually a “Best Driver in America” national challenge. They tasked us with figuring out how to make an engaging and effective gamified solution that would increase test drive app adoption and retention, but to keep the process lean, assumption-based, and agile.

Revealing challenges via discovery

We held discovery workshops and uncovered that their test-drive users were often feeling duped by the app. They would be given a rate estimate based on some qualifying information before using the app’s test drive, then the test drive app would nearly always increase that amount.

It turns out that nobody is as good of a driver as they think. Root had the data to prove it. We decided to tackle this challenge by sticking to the core tenant that any gamification should aim to help improve safe driving habits with users so they earn a score that will give them a good rate.

Additionally, during our discovery it was revealed that due to technical and security reasons, the experience we would create would need to be separate from their test drive app, but also use data from it. We would need to understand what tokens and API calls the existing test drive app had available to us to inform our feature set.

How do you make safe driving fun anyways?

We immediately began working on developing a feature set that would help Root achieve its objective of making safe driving enjoyable and promoting good driving habits. To accomplish this, we utilized various methods, including researching successful apps and games, to identify the techniques being used to engage their audiences. During our competitor analysis, we discovered from video games that achievements aren’t just simple milestones that are unlocked, but they can also be compounding and rewarding for both new and long-time users.

Our research also drew inspiration from several habit-forming apps, including those focused on fitness and language learning. We recognized the critical role of daily engagement in keeping users interested in the experience. Our challenge was to find ways to ensure our users kept coming back, and we identified two key trends in the habit-forming space: time-locked challenges and daily statistics summaries.

To develop a coherent product vision, we engaged in brainstorming sessions with Root’s stakeholders, considering some high-level features. After much discussion and collaboration, we held a minimum viable product workshop, resulting in the identification of four critical modules: Challenges, Personal Summaries, Achievements, and Leaderboards.

How chess inspired our leaderboard

Armed with a feature set, our next step was to focus on creating the best possible user experience. We began by mapping out the product experience, producing story maps to illustrate how users might perform various tasks and exploring different branching paths they might take. Additionally, we reviewed Root’s existing telematic data API calls to identify potential challenges and achievements for users. These challenges varied from casual, such as not hard braking for four recorded drives in a week, to competitive, like a rival face-off to see who can drive safer than a randomly selected driver near their driver score.

In the early stages of our ideation process, we realized the need for a more robust leaderboard system for challenges since driver scores were based on a 100-point scale. Taking inspiration from chess, we implemented an Elo ranking system that compares users based on the relative skill levels of how safe they drive, and lets them identify the safest driver on the road while participating in competitive challenges. The Elo system also has the added benefit of not penalizing worse drivers too severely when matched up against a safer driver in a rival face-off challenge.

Teamwork makes the dream work

As we progressed to high-fidelity designs, we collaborated with Root’s marketing department to create on-brand assets to complement our UI. While Goji focused on wireframes, Root produced assets like achievement badges or onboarding graphics. This partnership resulted in a polished design that we are incredibly proud of.

We also worked closely with Root’s developers to ensure that the functionality was feasible on their end and that implementation didn’t require massive efforts. To help their development process, we provided detailed annotations for the product’s screens and behaviors and included all possible states (e.g. empty, loading, partial data, etc.). This lead to a streamlined hand-off to their team.

Driving off into the sunset

Working with Root Insurance was an exciting opportunity for us to explore new ways of making safe driving more engaging and enjoyable. Our research, discovery, and collaboration with Root resulted in a polished design that we are incredibly proud of.

Our focus on creating a user-friendly experience that prioritizes engagement and safety was well-received by Root Insurance, and we were thrilled to have been part of their journey to revolutionize the car insurance industry.