Hooked: How to Build Habit-forming Products Summary

Hooked is a book by Nir Eyal that explains how certain companies are able to get their users to come back again and again.

Companies such as Facebook, Candy Crush, and Clash of Clans have found ways to keep their users engaged with their products over time, even if those users would rather not spend so much time on them.

In Hooked, Eyal explains exactly how these companies have achieved this effect with ideas from his previous books on user habits. Readers learn how to design engaging experiences from the first moment of interaction onward.

With an emphasis on designing for habits rather than usage, readers learn how to craft the right triggers at the right moments. Lessons about creating networks of triggers are expanded upon here, along with information about different types of habits (e.g., habit stacking) and various techniques for measurement and testing.

“Hooked” in 4 Steps

Eyal’s 4-step framework for creating a habit-forming product is as follows:

Establish a Trigger

To get a user to take the first step in forming a habit, that user needs to experience an epiphanic moment. This is the “a-ha” moment that drives the user to take some sort of action. When designing for this moment, a few things to keep in mind are universality, convenience, and novelty.

Build a Habit

Once the user has taken their first step, you have to encourage them to take another. And another. And another. After the user has become accustomed to the first step, you have to look for ways to make that first step easier to take.

Drive the User to the Next Stage

Each time the user takes the first step, they’ll be looking for the next stage. This is where developers have to be careful not to put too much pressure on the user. Instead of driving the user to complete the next stage, it’s much better to drive them to the next easiest action.

Lock In the User

Once the user has formed a habit, it’s much harder to break that habit than it is to form it in the first place. The best way to do this is by finding ways to keep the user coming back on a regular basis. This can be done by increasing the frequency or intensity of the trigger.

Build a habit-forming product with an epiphanic experience

An epiphanic experience can happen at any moment, but it has to be something that is so compelling that the user cannot help but take action. Once the user has that experience, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to take the next step.

If a user discovers a product that helps them solve their problem or find what they’re looking for, they will be much more likely to use that product again. However, they have to go through that epiphanic moment in order to become a consistent user.

When designing a product, it is important to make that first experience as easy as possible. It might even be a good idea to hide the product’s true complexity so that the user takes their first step without really knowing what they’re doing. This way, the user’s first experience can be more like a game than a chore.

Create a trigger to build the habit

Every habit has an underlying trigger. A trigger is something that causes a user to take a certain action.

For example, it’s easy to go for a run when you’re tired since tiredness is the trigger for running. You don’t go for a run because you want to. You go for a run because you have to.

Triggers work the same way, but rather than having to go for a run when you’re tired, you go for a run when you’re sitting on the couch. The couch, in this case, is the trigger.

This is where the principles of universality, convenience, and novelty come into play.

  • Universality means that the trigger has to be something that everyone has an instinctive response to.
  • Convenience means that the trigger has to be easy to respond to.
  • Novelty means that the trigger has to have a unique response. If a trigger has been done before, it won’t work as well.

Steadily ramp up the frequency of the trigger

When the user has formed their first habit, developers have to think about increasing the frequency of the trigger. In many cases, the user will have to have the trigger occur more than once to really form the habit.

For example, if the user has to go for a run when they sit down on the couch, they need to sit down on the couch more than once before they decide to go for a run one time. In that case, developers need to steadily ramp up the frequency of the trigger.

This can be done in a variety of ways.

The most obvious way is to increase the length of time that the trigger has to be active. A less obvious way is to increase the intensity of the trigger. This means making the trigger more noticeable. Finally, there is always the option of increasing the frequency at which the trigger is paired with other triggers.

For example, if you’re trying to go for a run when you sit down on the couch, it would be best to also make sure that you’re eating at the same time.

Drive up the intensity of the trigger

Trigger intensity refers to the amount of attention that a user gives the trigger. This can be increased by making the trigger more frequent, but it can also be increased by making the trigger more appealing.

This can be done by adding more value to the trigger. For example, if the trigger for going for a run when you sit on the couch is “tiredness,” adding more value to that trigger would mean adding more tiredness.

If the user has something difficult to do like cleaning their room, they’ll be more tired than they would be if they just watched some TV.

Lock in the User With an Investment Commitment

At this point, the user has formed the habit and they come back again and again. However, they don’t come back on their own. Instead, they come back because they have to.

Now that the user has become habitual, they have also become more resistant to change. The best way to combat this is by making the user make an investment commitment.

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