Book Notes: Hooked

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
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Habits

  • For some businesses, forming habits is a critical component to success, but not every business requires habitual user engagement.
  • When successful, forming strong user habits can have several business benefits including: higher customer lifetime value (CLTV), greater pricing flexibility, supercharged growth, and a sharper competitive edge.
  • Habits cannot form outside the Habit Zone, where the behaviour occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility.
  • Habit-forming products often start as nice-to haves (vitamins) but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves (painkillers).
  • Habit-forming products alleviate users discomfort by relieving a pronounced itch.
  • Designing habit-forming products is a form of manipulation. Product builders would benefit from a bit of introspection before attempting to hook users to make sure they are building healthy habits, not unhealthy addictions.

If you are building a habit-forming product, write down the answers to these questions:

  • What habits does your business model require?
  • What problem are users turning to your product to solve?
  • How do users currently solve that problem and why does it need a solution?
  • How frequently do you expect users to engage with your product once they are habituated?
  • What user behaviour do you want to make into a habit?

Trigger

  • Triggers cue the user to take action and are the first step in the Hooked Model.
  • Triggers come in two types-external and internal.
  • External triggers tell the user what to do next by placing information within the user’s environment.
  • Internal triggers tell the user what to do next through associations stored in the user’s memory.
  • Negative emotions frequently serve as internal triggers.
  • To build a habit-forming product, makers need to attach the use of their solution to a frequently felt internal trigger and know how to leverage external triggers to drive the user to action.

Questions

  • Who is your product’s user?
  • What is the user doing right before your in tended habit?
  • Come up with three internal triggers that could cue your user to action. Use the 5 Whys.
  • Which internal trigger does your user experience most frequently?
  • Finish this brief narrative using the most frequent internal trigger and the habit you are designing: “Every time the user (internal trigger), he/she (first action of intended habit).”
  • Refer back to the question about what the user is doing right before the first action of the habit. What might be places and times to send an external trigger?
  • How can you couple an external trigger as closely as possible to when the user’s internal trigger fires?
  • Think of currently impossible ways to trigger your user. You could find that your crazy ideas spur some new approaches that may not be so nutty after all. In a few years new technologies will create all sorts of currently unimaginable triggering opportunities.

Action

  • The action is the simplest behaviour in anticipation of reward.
  • As described by Dr. B. J. Fogg’s Behaviour Model:
    • For any behaviour to occur, a trigger must be present at the same time as the user has sufficient ability and motivation to take action.
    • To increase the desired behaviour, ensure a clear trigger is present; next, increase ability by making the action easier to do; finally, align with the right motivator.
    • Every behaviour is driven by one of three Core Motivators: seeking pleasure and avoiding pain; seeking hope and avoiding fear; seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.
    • Ability is influenced by the six factors of time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance, and non-routineness. Ability is dependent on users and their context at that moment.
  • Heuristics are cognitive shortcuts we take to take quick decisions. Product designers can utilize many of the hundreds of heuristics to in crease the likelihood of their desired action.

Questions

  • Walk through the path your users would take to use your product or service, beginning from the time they feel their internal trigger to the point where they receive their expected outcome. How many steps does it take before users obtain the reward they came for? How does this process compare with the simplicity of some of the examples described in this chapter? How does it compare with competing products and services?
  • Which resources are limiting your users’ ability to accomplish the tasks that will become habits?
    • Time
    • Brain cycles (too confusing)
    • Social deviance (outside the norm)
    • Physical effort
    • Non-routine (too new)
  • Brainstorm three testable ways to make in tended tasks easier to complete.
  • Consider how you might apply heuristics to make habit-forming actions more likely.

Variable Reward

  • Variable reward is the third phase of the Hooked Model, and there are three types of variable re wards: the tribe, the hunt, and the self.
  • Rewards of the tribe is the search for social rewards fuelled by connectedness with other people.
  • Rewards of the hunt is the search for material resources and information.
  • Rewards of the self is the search for intrinsic re wards of mastery, competence, and completion.
  • When our autonomy is threatened, we feel con strained by our lack of choices and often rebel against doing a behaviour. Psychologists refer to this as reactance. Maintaining a sense of user autonomy and trust is a requirement for sustained engagement.
  • Experiences with finite variability become increasingly predictable with use and lose their appeal over time. Experiences that maintain user interest by sustaining variability with use exhibit infinite variability.
  • Variable rewards must satisfy users’ needs while leaving them wanting to reengage with the product.

Questions

  • Speak with five of your customers in an open ended interview to identify what they find enjoyable or encouraging about using your product. Are there any moments of delight or surprise? Is there anything they find particularly satisfying about using the product?
  • Review the steps your customer takes to use your product or service habitually. What outcome (reward) alleviates the user’s pain? Is the reward fulfilling, yet leaves the user wanting more?
  • Brainstorm three ways your product might heighten users’ search for variable rewards using:
    1. rewards of the tribe-gratification from others.
    2. rewards of the hunt-material goods, money, or information.
    3. rewards of the self-mastery, completion, competency, or consistency.

Investment

  • The investment phase is the fourth step in the Hooked Model.
    • Unlike the action phase, which delivers immediate gratification, the investment phase concerns the anticipation of rewards in the future.
  • Investments in a product create preferences because of our tendency to overvalue our work, be consistent with past behaviours, and avoid cognitive dissonance.
  • Investment comes after the variable reward phase, when users are primed to reciprocate.
  • Investments increase the likelihood of use returning by improving the service the more it is used. They enable the accrual of stored value in the form of content, data, followers, reputation, or skill.
  • Investments increase the likelihood of users passing through the Hook again by loading the next trigger to start the cycle all over again.

Questions

  • • Review your flow. What “bit of work” are your users doing to increase their likelihood of re turning?
  • Brainstorm three ways to add small investments into your product to:
    • Load the next trigger.
    • Store value as data, content, followers, reputation, and skill.
  • Identify how long it takes for a “loaded trigger” to reengage your users. How can you reduce the delay to shorten time spent cycling through the Hook?

Ethics

  • Facilitators use their own product and believe it can materially improve people’s lives. They have the highest chance of success because they most closely understand the needs of their users.
  • Peddlers believe their product can materially improve people’s lives but do not use it themselves. They must beware of the hubris and inauthenticity that comes from building solutions for people they do not understand first-hand.
  • Entertainers use their product but do not believe it can improve people’s lives. They can be successful, but without making the lives of others better in some way, the entertainer’s products often lack staying power.
  • Dealers neither use the product nor believe it can improve people’s lives. They have the lowest chance of finding long-term success and often find themselves in morally precarious positions.

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