Nir Eyal — Hooked Book Review
Today, we are offering a book review of Hooked from author Nir Eyal which goes into depth about why forming habits is imperative to the survival of products.
Hooked is a book that will teach you how to build habit-forming products.
ImportantIf you are currently building an app, this book can help you create a great app that people will habitually use and love. It explains a four-step process that makes using an app become habit so you can use that for your own app.
Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us?
Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit?
Nir Eyal’s important book Hooked explores the mechanics, economics, and ethics behind technology products that draw us in and hold us rapt.
He offers an instructive methodology for product leaders considering what it takes to design habit-forming products; and, crucially, a framework for considering the ethics of what has the potential to become an instrument of manipulation, if not engineered addiction.
First-to-mind products will always win.
Warning79% of smartphone owners check their devices within fifteen minutes of waking up. Industry experts believe that we check our phones around 150 times per day!
This article is a book review of the great book Hooked, which has clear explanations on the psychology behind what drives our behaviour in a world where there’s so many apps competing for our attention.
Hooked is a valuable read for Product Owners and Designers, but you may find yourself wishing for a bit more meat as you work your way through it. if you want a quick overview of the hooked model without needing to read the entire book, you can find my book review of Hooked below.
The Hooked Model
Habits are action we do often, without even thinking about doing them. If you see your phone on your desk, grab it and open Instagram without intending to do that, you’re hooked!
The hooked model is a virtuous — or virulent — cycle.
ImportantNir Eyal suggests that habit-forming products create an itch that demands to be scratched. The “Hook” model he proposes begins with a trigger, which drives an action, which yields a reward, which compels the user to make an investment back into the product — which, in combination, compels them to use the product over and over again.
If you can create a product that gets people hooked, it will be a success and you will benefit a lot from it!
We don’t just view these products as tools we sometimes use, they have quickly become an integral part of our day. We use them multiple times a day and feel like we can’t live without them.
Because habits are tough to break, we usually become very loyal and long-time customers of the companies that sell habit-forming products.
ImportantThose products also gain an advantage over the competition, because in order to replace the habit they create, a competitor’s product would have to be a lot better to make us break our habit and replace it with a new one.
Habit is an automatic behavior which happens without a conscious thought. On the contrary, addiction has a negative connotation associated to it. You’re addicted to a substance or a behavior which is negatively affecting your life. Although sometimes the word addictive is also used in a positive sense, meaning that a particular product has been designed so well that one is compelled to use it again and again.
Habits develop when the behavior has solved the problem continuously in the past.
Habits are a shortcut for your brain — you execute automatic behaviors without having to think hard about it. Habit-forming products use a 4-step loop to hook you and each successive loop makes the next loop more likely to occur, causing a flywheel effect.
The Hook Model can be used to get users addicted, but it is better to create apps that will have a positive impact on them.
WarningNir Eyal believes that the principles on the hooked model can be used to create apps that are addictive. And he advises against it. It’s better to create an app that can solve people’s problems or fulfill their needs.
The Hook Model starts with the trigger. Triggers cue users to take action and can be divided into two categories: external and internal. For products, behaviors often begin with external triggers. Then, as the habit forms, the behavior becomes associated with internal triggers.
External triggers tell the user what to do next by placing information within the user’s environment.
ImportantThese are the manufactured stimuli that drive initial engagement and trial, often through advertising and other paid means; through relationships and social pressure; and through conveniently located product real estate co-opted to trigger new user actions.
Internal triggers happen more organically. They tell the user what to do next through associations stored in the user’s mind.
These are the side effect of the product experience itself, where the designed elements and game mechanics of the product create impulses with users that can become habits.
To scratch the nagging itch that negative emotion brings, we resort mindlessly to the top-of-mind solution: googling is a click away every time we feel unsure or logging on Facebook promises validation every time we feel alone. To build better habit-forming products, companies need to understand deeply their users’ behaviours, needs, fears, and desires.
Internal triggers are ones that manifest in your mind. Emotions are powerful triggers and influence our daily lives.
This is the case when users have already gone through the Hooked model once or several times. For example, you yourself trigger a need or want to open the Instagram app, without any external interference.
We often think the Internet enables you to do new things. But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.
ImportantLastly, customers of habit-forming products are not very sensitive to price changes, which means the creators can charge a premium and increase prices as they go, without losing a lot of business.
Nir Eyal describes the action as the simplest user behavior in anticipation of the reward. An action consists of three aspects: motivation, ability, and trigger. This is also called the Fogg Behavioral Model, represented as B = MAT.
Motivation comes from an understanding of the user and his or her desires, goals and needs.
ImportantThere must be motivation present for the user to take that action. Humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain, seek hope and avoid fear, seek acceptance and avoid rejection.
Ability is the most basic element of a product experience, offering the fastest possible path from trigger to reward.
WarningHere, friction can mean frustration — and frustration can mean failure, where the user never bridges the gap between the trigger and the reward beyond.
Triggers exist to prompt users to act and, without action, triggers are useless.
ImportantHabit-forming products leverage two basic pulleys of human behavior to increase the likelihood of an action occurring: the ease of performing an action and the psychological motivation to do it.
Take a simple example: the behavior (or action) of doing groceries. If you do groceries you need to be 1) motivated to do so, 2) able to do so, and 3) you need a certain trigger. So if it’s Friday night and you don’t feel like going outside (motivation), if your car has stopped working (ability) or if you have a full fridge (trigger), you’re not very likely to go to the supermarket.
An action is more likely when there is motivation to do it, and when it is easier to do.
Empathy allows us to design rewards systems that compel users to take action. Simplify what it takes for the user to take action — increasing motivation is expensive and time-consuming.
WarningWith this relationship in mind, it is important for product designers to remember that the greatest returns on investment can come from placing an emphasis of good usability practices.
Variable rewards are one of the most powerful tools that companies use to hook users. These rewards create a craving and curiosity in users and introducing variability multiplies the effect associated with wanting and desire.
Nir Eyal makes the important point that product rewards should be variable.
After all, what compels a slot machine junkie to feed the beast isn’t the knowledge of what’s next to come; it’s the not knowing that becomes the thrill of the hunt. In fact, if the rewards were predictable, the avid gambler might soon see the one-armed bandit for the dull companion it most certainly is.
Preferably, a product will have so-called “infinite variability”.
ImportantStudies have shown that what draws users to act is not the reward itself but the need to alleviate the craving for the reward. The real key is variability. The most successful products are able to continually maintain user interest by offering a certain degree of novelty at every turn.
Habits can be finite if products become predictable. For example, Farmville was valued at over $10 billion in March 2012 but by November 2012, it fell over 80%. People were less engaged because of the predictability of it. By keeping the rewards unpredictable, users are encouraged to repeatedly engage with your product in hopes of receiving something new.
Predictable rewards don’t cause cravings.
WarningYou don’t crave turning on your faucet since you know what happens every time. In contrast, variable rewards prompt more intense dopamine hits and push the user to desire the next hit.
Nir Eyal uncovers 3 types of variable rewards: rewards of the tribe, rewards of the hunt and rewards of the self.
- Tribe rewards are driven by our need for connectedness with other people, making us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included.
- Mental process of the hunt keeps us wanting more and buying more because the pursuit can be intoxicating.
- Rewards of self can make people continue taking action, even on tasks they don’t appear to enjoy. Such rewards address our desire for mastery, competence, and completion.
Finally, Nir Eyal discusses the idea of building in mechanisms that allow users to invest back into the product. Once a user has made investments, described above, into a product, he is much more likely to continue using the same to protect and build on his investments.
Users making an investment into your product helps them get back to the product in several ways.
ImportantA user puts something into the product eg time, money, effort or data thus, building the desire to use it more. Humans irrationally value our own efforts and we tend to price our efforts higher. We seek to be consistent with our past behaviors.
The best form of investment is also what can load the next trigger for the user.
In Pinterest, once a user pins a photo, or responds to a thread and makes an investment, Pinterest ensures that now it will start showing related items of interests to the user, so that the user can easily be coaxed into following his items of interest on Pinterest.
Eyal cites what Dan Ariely calls “The IKEA Effect,” which suggests that humans generally attach more value to things they’ve had a hand in making. The consumer who labors over the assembly of some obscurely named TV console fashioned of flat-stacked particle board will probably hold the product in higher esteem than it possibly deserves (maybe short of some priceless heirloom, but greater than the sum of its infinite plastic parts).
Investments include inviting friends, storing data, building a reputation, and learning to use features.
ImportantIn completing the action, the user invests in the product, improving her future experience and increasing the likelihood of completing another loop in the future.
Make users’ investment in your product worthwhile.
Use the information they provide to craft an experience they’ll crave. A user’s investment in your product will make it more likely for him/her to stick with your product, even if there are better alternatives on the market.
I personally enjoyed reading this book. It has practical insights and examples from great products such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, to create habits that stick.
This book is for anyone who seeks to understand how products influence our behaviour in our day to day lives.
I highly recommend you to buy a copy of the book and read it if you are looking to create app that hooks its users or to improve the engagement of users in your existing app.
Companies that are better at building usage habits are at a clear economic advantage.
ImportantWhen hooked, users return to a product without expensive marketing — they return on their own volition, spurred by internal triggers rather than external prompting.
You will benefit the most from reading this book if you are planning to create your own app in the future (or a digital product meant to be used often).
This book will help you understand how to refine your app and make it enjoyable for your users. It also helps you reflect on the problems your app will solve and your target audience to help you create a great app.
Are you hooked yet? Be sure to pick up a copy of the book!
I would definitely recommend this book if you are an entrepreneur or you have thought of a product idea and want to learn how to build a habit forming product. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did! Do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section below.