Foursquare says goodbye to gamification with new redesign

By Chloe Della Costa

With its recent redesign, Foursquare has shifted its focus from check-ins and badges to social updates, deals, and algorithmic recommendations. The app was long overdue for a revamp. Once popular with users wanting to check in to locations, compete, earn points, and even reach “mayor” status, Foursquare’s success has certainly fallen off. When the company realized that users were no longer using Foursquare to check in, it was time to look for a new solution to engage its user base.

The redesign was built up with days of intriguing tweets, including some with the hashtag #allnew4sq. Now unveiled to the public, the new Foursquare emphasizes discovery, rather than gamification. It’s a mobile tool to navigate new places as well as your home city.

The company is wisely tapping its huge reservoir of data gleaned from users’ check-in habits, collected since the company launched in 2009, to remake itself as a social media application, recommendation engine, and deal service, all in one. According to Alex Rainert, Foursquare’s head of product, the redesign was largely motivated by user feedback and recommendations. With this help, Foursquare has become a sort of souped-up Yelp for mobile, with more than just user reviews, but also reviews from publications, deals and coupons, tips, and tagged photos.

The app features a more seamless user experience, design elements inspired by Path and Pinterest, and a simplified navigation bar, with three tabs rather than five. It also boasts “smarter” recommendations for restaurants, bars, and other venues. Not only that, but your recommendations are based on your friends’ habits and activities as well. The new “Explore” tab (which has replaced the check-in tab) is integrated with Google Maps, so you get a visual of what’s nearby. “Explore” also allows you to browse (rather than solely search for new venues), much like the Facebook newsfeed or trends on Twitter.

Now that check-ins are low priority, the core gamification features that once defined Foursquare, including the mayorship, have been pushed to the very bottom of each venue’s page. So it seems the company is putting its full faith in the redesign and the new focus on recommendations to garner more success.

But will it be enough to keep the company going? Foursquare recently announced the departure of its co-founder, and the core staff is rumored to be somewhat unstable as well. This may be Foursquare’s only chance to reinvent itself and escape the fate of becoming a forgotten trend.


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