Hooked by Nir Eyal: 10 Lessons

Humans are creature of habits. Our daily lives and behaviours throughout the day are governed by habitual behaviours more than we would like to admit. But the more important point is that that behaviours can be manipulated, to an extent that it a makes you question your “free will”.

There is a whole class of products which revolve around forming habits in users to use them. Google for instance has made us habitual to search for everything that comes in our mind, from what’s todays BTC value to weather to universe’s most intriguing questions.

To learn more about what’s the thought and goes behind building these habit forming products was the reason I picked the book “Hooked by Nir Eyal”.

Here are my 10 most important lessons from it:

1. Habit forming products

  • A habit is an automatic behaviour triggered by situational cues; things we do without much conscious – thought. Every morning I put water to boil and grab by Aeropress to brew a good rustic cup of coffee. No brain cycles are spent in determining what to drink, how should I make it. It all runs on auto-pilot.
  • The products which form user habits enjoy several benefits to their bottom line. These products attach themselves to user’s internal triggers. As a result, users show up without any external prompting.
  • A good case study for this is how the google search has evolved over time. That iconic search bar has associated itself to the internal trigger of whenever we have a question we want to know the answer of.
    Google was originally built to search for web pages, but for true habit building it was essential to even answer simple calculations.

2. The hooked model

  • The hooked model describes an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit.
  • The hooked model has four steps:
  • Trigger: The actuator of a behaviour. These are internal and external. External triggers are things like a well placed ad. Remember how a Coca-Cola ad makes you feel thirsty and grab one?
    Internal triggers are natural thoughts, routines and emotions. Attaching your products to internal triggers is the only sustainable way to build habit forming products.
  • Action: The behaviour done in anticipation of the reward.
  • Variable Reward: A variable reward leaves the user with a desire to come back for more.
  • Investment: When user puts something in the product, it increases the odds that they’ll stick around for a longer time. Example learning all the shortcuts of your favourite software.

3. Building for triggers

  • The ultimate goal for a habit forming product is to solve the user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of relief.
  • “Internet is giant machine designed to give people what they want”.
  • “If you want to build a product that is relevant, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your users and you need to write a story from their side. So we spend a lot of time writing what’s called user narratives.”

4. Motivating users to take action

  • While the triggers cues an action, motivation defines the level of desire to take that action.
  • All humans are motivated:
    – to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
    – to seek hope and avoid fear.
    – to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection.

5. Process of innovation

  • Understand the reason people user a product or service.
  • Lay out the steps the customer must take to get the job done.
  • Start removing steps until you reach the simplest possible process.

6. Element of simplicity

  • There are six elements of simplicity:
    – Time
    – Money
    – Physical effort
    – Brain cycles
    – Social deviance
    – Non-routine
  • Design for simplicity as a function of the user’s scarcest resource the moment when your product is used.
    Is the user short on time? Is the behaviour too expensive?

7. Heuristics and perception

  • Heuristics are the mental shortcuts we take to make decisions and form opinions.
  • Four ways heuristics work:
  • The Scarcity Effect: Appearance of scarcity affects perception of value.
  • The Framing Effect: The mind takes shortcuts informed by our surroundings to make quick and sometimes erroneous judgements.
  • The Anchoring Effect: People often anchor to one piece of information while making decisions.
  • The Endowed Progress Effect: Increase in motivation as people believe they are nearing a goal.

8. Considerations while designing reward systems

  • Only by understanding what truly matters to users can a company correctly match the right variable reward to their intended behaviour.
  • Quora’s social reward in terms of reputation points was proven more effective then Mahalo’s monetary reward.
  • Reward must fit the narrative of why the product is used and align with user’s internal triggers and motivations.

9. User behaviours to leverage

  • We seek to be consistent with our past behaviour:

    In an experiment few people were asked to put a big sign in front of their houses. Most of the refused to.
    But in a different cohort, people were first asked to put a smaller sign for which they agreed before being asked to put up the bigger sign. This time more people agreed to put the bigger sign in front of their houses.

    Little investments such as placing a tiny sign in a window can lead to big changes in future.
  • We avoid cognitive dissonance

    Classic example for this is the fox and the grapes story where fox convinced itself that the grapes were sour just because it couldn’t have them.

    Another example is how we force ourselves to like the taste of the beer just because everyone around us seems to enjoying it.
  • We value our effort irrationally

    The Ikea Effect

    Customers adopt an irrational love of the furniture they build themselves.

10. Storing value

  • The stored value users put in the product increases the likelihood that they will use it again in the future.
  • The collection of memories and experiences in aggregate becomes more valuable over time and the service becomes harder to leave as user’s personal investment in the site grows.

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