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Hooked Book Summary – Nir Eyal

What you will learn from reading Hooked:

– How to use the HOOK model to design products that create habits.

– Why some good innovations fail and how to prevent this.

– How products can be designed to get people addicted.

Hooked Book Summary:

Hooked is a super practical, how-to guide for building better products. It was written specifically for product managers, designers, marketers, start-up founders, and anyone who seeks to understand how products influence our behaviour. It’s also a must read for anyone interested in habits and personal development.


Habits and Products:

Forming habits is imperative for the survival of many products. As infinite distractions compete for our attention, companies are learning to master novel tactics to stay relevant in users’ minds. Amassing millions of users is no longer good enough. Companies increasingly find that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits they create. In order to win the loyalty of their users and create a product that’s regularly used, companies must learn not only what compels users to click but also what makes them tick.

Instead of relying on expensive marketing, habit forming companies link their services to the users’ daily routines and emotions. A habit is at work when users feel a tad bored and instantly open Twitter. They feel a pang of loneliness and before rational thought occurs, they are scrolling through their Facebook feeds. A question comes to mind and before searching their brains, they query Google. The first-to-mind solution wins.


Introducing the Hook Model: a four phase process companies use to forms habits.

The model is intended to be a practical tool (rather than a theoretical one) made for entrepreneurs and innovators who aim to use habits for good.

Through consecutive Hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement, bringing users back repeatedly, without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

1. Trigger  – A trigger is the actuator of behaviour-the spark plug in the engine. Triggers come in two types: external and internal. Habit-forming products start by alerting users with external triggers like an email, a Web site link, or the app icon on a phone

2. Action – Following the trigger comes the action: the behaviour done in anticipation of a reward. This phase of the Hook draws upon the art and science of usability design to reveal how products drive specific user actions. Companies leverage two basic pulleys of human behaviour to increase the likelihood of an action occurring: the ease of performing an action and the psychological motivation to do it.

3. Variable Reward  – What distinguishes the Hook Model from a plain vanilla feedback loop is the Hook’s ability to create a craving. Feedback loops are all around us, but predictable ones don’t create desire. Add some variability to the mix and voilà, intrigue is created.

Variable rewards are one of the most powerful tools companies implement to hook users.

4. Investment – The last phase of the Hook Model is where the user does a bit of work. The investment phase increases the odds that the user will make another pass through the Hook cycle in  the future. The investment occurs when the user puts something into the product of service such as time, data, effort, social capital, or money. The investment should aim to improve the service for the next go-around.

This model isn’t for all business – The framework and practices explored in Hooked are not “one size fits all” and do not apply to every business or industry. Entrepreneurs should evaluate how user habits impact their particular business model and goals. While the viability of some products depends on habit-formation to thrive, that is not always the case.


Why do some ‘good’ innovations fail?

A classic paper by John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, stipulates that “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.” Gourville claims that for new entrants to stand a chance, they can’t just be better, they must be nine times better.

Why such a high bar?  – Because old habits die hard and new products or services need to offer dramatic improvements to shake users out of old routines. Gourville writes that products that require a high degree of behaviour change are doomed to fail even if the benefits of using the new product are clear and substantial.


The problem of behaviour change:

Altering behaviour requires not only an understanding of how to persuade people to act-for example, the first time they land on a web page-but also necessitates getting them to repeat behaviours for long periods, ideally for the rest of their lives.

Experiments show that lab animals habituated to new behaviours tend to regress to their first learned behaviours over time. To borrow a term from accounting, behaviours are LIFO-“last in, first out.” In other words, the habits you’ve most recently acquired are also the ones most likely to go soonest.

This helps explain the overwhelming evidence that people rarely change their habits for long. Two thirds of alcoholics who complete a rehabilitation program will pick up the bottle, and their old habits, within a year’s time.

The enemy of forming new habits is past behaviours, and research suggests that old habits die hard. Even when we change our routines, neural pathways remain etched in our brains, ready to be reactivated when we lose focus. This presents an especially difficult challenge for product designers trying to create new lines or businesses based on forming new habits


How habits create a competitive advantage?

Habits keep users loyal. If a user is familiar with the Google interface, switching to Bing requires cognitive effort. Although many aspects of Bing are similar to Google, even a slight change in pixel placement forces the would-be user to learn a new way of interacting with the site. Adapting to the differences in the Bing interface is what actually slows down regular Google users and makes Bing feel inferior, not the technology itself.

The ultimate goal of a habit-forming product for a business is to solve a user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of relief.


How to calculate a businesses habit forming potential:

A company can begin to determine its product’s habit forming potential by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behaviour occurs) and perceived utility (how useful and rewarding the behaviour is in the user’s mind over alternative solutions.

Some behaviours never become habits because they do not occur frequently enough. No matter how much utility is involved, infrequent behaviours remain conscious actions and never create the automatic response that is characteristic of habits


“Are you building a vitamin or painkiller?”

Just as failure has many causes, success too can be attributed to a variety of factors. However, one aspect is common to all successful innovations-they solve problems.

“Are you building a vitamin or painkiller?” is a common, almost clichéd question many investors ask founders eager to cash their first venture capital check. The correct answer, from the perspective of most investors, is the latter: a painkiller.

Likewise, innovators in companies big and small are constantly asked to prove their idea is important enough to merit the time and money needed to build it. Gatekeepers such as investors and managers want to invest in solving real problems or meeting immediate needs by backing painkillers.

Painkillers solve an obvious need, relieving a specific pain, and often have quantifiable markets.

Vitamins, by contrast, do not necessarily solve an obvious pain point. Instead they appeal to users’ emotional rather than functional needs.

When we take our multivitamin each morning, we don’t really know if it is actually making us healthier. In fact, recent evidence shows taking multivitamins may actually be doing more harm than good. But we don’t really care, do we? Efficacy is not why we take vitamins. Taking a vitamin is a “check it off your list” behaviour we measure in terms of psychological, rather than physical, relief. We feel satisfied that we are doing something good for our bodies-even if we can’t tell how much good it is actually doing us.

Unlike a painkiller, without which we cannot function, missing a few days of vitamin popping, say while on vacation, is no big deal. So perhaps managers and investors know best? Perhaps building painkillers, not vitamins, is always the right strategy.


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

  1. What habits does your business model require?
  2. What problem are users turning to your product to solve?
  3. How do users currently solve that problem and why does it need a solution?
  4. How frequently do you expect users to engage with your product?
  5. What user behavior do you want to make into a habit?


The Hooked Model:


Step 1 – Triggers:

Triggers come in two types: external and internal.

External Triggers  – Habit-forming technologies start changing behaviour by first cueing users with a call to action. This sensory stimuli is delivered through any number of things in our environment. External triggers are embedded with information, which tells the user what to do next. An external trigger communicates the next action the user should take. Often, the desired action is made explicitly clear

Types of External Triggers: Companies can utilise four types of external triggers to move users to complete desired actions:

1. Paid Triggers – Advertising, search engine marketing, and other paid channels are commonly used to get users’ attention and prompt them to act. Paid triggers can be effective but costly ways to keep users coming back. Habit-forming companies tend not to rely on paid triggers for very long, if at all.

2. Earned Triggers  – Earned triggers are free in that they cannot be bought directly, but they often require investment in the form of time spent on public and media relations. Favourable press mentions, hot viral videos, and featured app store placements are all effective ways to gain attention. Awareness generated by earned triggers can be short-lived.

3. Relationship Triggers – One person telling others about a product or service can be a highly effective external trigger for action. Whether through an electronic invitation, a Facebook “like,” or old fashioned word of mouth, product referrals from friends and family are often a key component of technology diffusion. Relationship triggers can create the viral hyper-growth entrepreneurs and investors lust after. Sometimes relationship triggers drive growth because people love to tell one another about a wonderful offer.

4. Owned Triggers- Owned triggers consume a piece of real estate in the user’s environment. They consistently show up in daily life and it is ultimately up to the user to opt in to allowing these triggers to appear .For example, an app icon on the user’s phone screen, an e-mail newsletter to which the user subscribes, or an app update notification only appears if the user wants it there

Internal Triggers – When a product becomes tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a preexisting routine, it leverages an internal trigger.

Types of Internal Triggers:  Emotions, particularly negative ones, are powerful internal triggers and greatly influence our daily routines. Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation


What do people want?

“We often think the Internet enables you to do new things But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.”

These common needs are timeless and universal. Yet talking to users to reveal these wants will likely prove ineffective because they themselves don’t know which emotions motivate them. People just don’t think in these terms. You’ll often find that people’s declared preferences-what they say they want-are far different from their revealed preferences what they actually do.

As Erika Hall, author of Just Enough Research writes, “When the research focuses on what people actually do (watch cat videos) rather than what they wish they did (produce cinema quality home movies) it actually expands possibilities.” Looking for discrepancies exposes opportunities. Why do people really send text messages? Why do they take photos? What role does watching television or sports play in their lives? Ask yourself what pain these habits solve and what the user might be feeling right before one of these actions.


Answer these questions below to focus your thinking on how triggers could apply to your business or project:

Who is your product’s user?

What is the user doing right before your intended habit?

Come up with three internal triggers that could cue your user to action. (Ask Why five times to dive deep)

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).”


Step 2 – Action:

The next step in the Hook is the action phase. The trigger, driven by internal or external cues, informs the user of what to do next; however, if the user does not take action, the trigger is useless. To initiate action, doing must be easier than thinking. Remember, a habit is a behaviour done with little or no conscious thought. The more effort-either physical or mental-required to perform the desired action, the less likely it is to occur.

BJ Fogg, the founder and director of the Stanford Behaviour Design Lab posits that there are three ingredients required to initiate any and all behaviours:

(1) the user must have sufficient motivation;

(2) the user must have the ability to complete the desired action; and

(3) a trigger must be present to activate the behaviour.

This led to his now famous B=MAP model. Behaviour = Motivation, Ability, Prompt

Let’s walk through an example Fogg uses to explain his model. Imagine a time when your mobile phone rang but you didn’t answer it. Why not?

Perhaps the phone was buried in a bag and therefore difficult to reach. In this case your inability to easily answer the call inhibited the action. Your ability was limited.

Maybe you thought the caller was a telemarketer or someone else you did not want to speak to. Your lack of motivation influenced you to ignore the call.

It is possible that the call was important and within arm’s reach, but the ringer on your phone was silenced. Despite having both a strong motivation and easy access to answer the call, it was completely missed because you never heard it ring-in other words, no trigger was present.


What causes someone to be motivated?

The nature of motivation is a widely contested topic in psychology, but Fogg argues that three Core Motivators drive our desire to act.

“Fogg states that all humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain; to seek hope and avoid fear; and finally, to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection. The two sides of the three Core Motivators can be thought of as levers to increase or decrease the likelihood of someone’s taking a particular action by increasing or decreasing that person’s motivation

While internal triggers are the frequent, everyday itch experienced by users, the right motivators create action by offering the promise of desirable outcomes (i.e., a satisfying scratch).

However, even with the right trigger enabled and motivation running high, product designers often find users still don’t behave the way they want them to. What’s missing in this equation? Usability or rather, the ability of the user to take action easily.


Three Simple Steps to Creating Truly Innovative Products:

In his book Something Really New: Three Simple Steps to Creating Truly Innovative Products, author Denis J. Hauptly deconstructs the process of innovation into its most fundamental steps.

  1. First, Hauptly states, understand the reason people use a product or service.
  2. Next, lay out the steps the customer must take to get the job done.
  3. Finally, once the series of tasks from intention to outcome is understood, simply start removing steps until you reach the simplest possible process.

Consequently, any technology or product that significantly reduces the steps to complete a task will enjoy high adoption rates by the people it assists. Hauptly’s formula for innovation when he describes his own approach to building two massively successful companies:

‘Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time… Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.’

To successfully simplify a product, we must remove obstacles that stand in the user’s way.


The Elements of Simplicity:

Fogg describes six “elements of simplicity”the factors that influence a task’s difficulty. These are

  1. Time-how long it takes to complete an action.
  2. Money-the fiscal cost of taking an action.
  3. Physical effort-the amount of labor involved in taking the action.
  4. Brain cycles-the level of mental effort and focus required to take an action
  5. Social deviance-how accepted the behaviour is by others.
  6. Non-routine -according to Fogg, “How much the action matches or disrupts existing routines.”


Fogg instructs designers to focus on simplicity as a function of the user’s scarcest resource at that moment. In other words: Identify what the user is missing. Answer the following questions:

What is making it difficult for the user to accomplish the desired action?

Is the user short on time? Is the behaviour too expensive? Is the user exhausted after a long day of work? Is the product too difficult to understand? Is the user in a social context where the behaviour could be perceived as inappropriate? Is the behaviour simply so far removed from the user’s normal routine that its strangeness is off-putting?

These factors will differ by person and context; therefore, designers should ask, “What is the thing that is missing that would allow my users to proceed to the next step?”


Which comes first motivation or ability?

Where is your time and money better spent? The answer is always to start with ability.

Naturally, all three parts of B = MAT must be present for a singular user action to occur; without a clear trigger and sufficient motivation there will be no behaviour. However, for companies building technology solutions, the greatest return on investment generally comes from increasing a product’s ease of use.

The fact is, increasing motivation is expensive and time consuming. Web site visitors tend to ignore instructional text; they are often multitasking and have little patience for explanations about why or how they should do something. Influencing behaviour by reducing the effort required to perform an action is more effective than increasing someone’s desire to do it. Make your product so simple that users already know how to use it, and you’ve got a winner.


Answer these questions to focus your thinking on implementing step 2 (action) to your project or business:

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)
  • Money
  • Social deviance (outside the norm)
  • Physical effort
  • Non-routine (too new)


Brainstorm three testable ways to make intended tasks easier to complete.


Step 3 – Variable Reward:

The third step in the Hook Model is the variable reward phase, in which you reward your users by solving a problem, reinforcing their motivation for the action taken in the previous phase.

What draws us to act is not the sensation we receive from the reward itself, but the need to alleviate the craving for that reward.

Nir Eyal proposes that variable rewards can come in three types: the tribe, the hunt, and the self.  Habit forming products utilise one or more of these variable reward types.

  1. Rewards of the tribe is the search for social rewards fueled by connectedness with other people.
  2. Rewards of the hunt is the search for material resources and information.
  3. Rewards of the self is the search for intrinsic rewards of mastery, competence, and completion.


Rewards of the Tribe

We are a species that depends on one another. Rewards of the tribe, or social rewards, are driven by our connectedness with other people. Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included.

It is no surprise that social media has exploded in popularity. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and several other sites collectively provide over a billion people with powerful social rewards on a variable schedule. With every post, tweet, or pin, users anticipate social validation. Rewards of the tribe keep users coming back, wanting more.

While variable content gets users to keep searching for interesting tidbits in their News Feeds, a click of the “Like” button provides a variable reward for the content’s creators. “Likes” and comments offer tribal validation for those who shared the content, and provide variable rewards that motivate them to continue posting.

Quora demonstrated that social rewards and the variable reinforcement of recognition from peers proved to be a salient and frequent motivator. Quora instituted an upvoting system that reports user satisfaction with answers and provides a steady stream of social feedback. Quora’s social rewards have proven more attractive than monetary rewards.

Only by understanding what truly matters to users can a company correctly match the right variable reward to their intended behaviour.


Rewards of the Hunt

The search for resources defines the next type of variable reward-the rewards of the hunt.

The need to acquire physical objects, such as food and other supplies that aid our survival, is part of our brain’s operating system.

Where we once hunted for food, today we hunt for other things. In modern society, food can be bought with cash, and more recently by extension, information translates into money.

Rewards of the hunt existed long before the advent of  computers. Yet today we find numerous examples of variable rewards associated with the pursuit of resources and information that compel us with the same determination as the San hunter chasing his prey.

Here are a few examples of products that create habits by leveraging rewards of the hunt

1. Machine Gambling  – Most people know that gambling benefits the casino or broker far more than the players. As the old adage says, “The house always wins.” Yet despite this knowledge, the multibillion-dollar gambling industry continues to thrive.

Slot machines provide a classic example of variable rewards of the hunt. Gamblers plunk $1 billion per day into slot machines in American casinos, which is a testament to the machines’ power to compel players. By awarding money in random intervals, games of chance entice players with the prospect of a jackpot. Naturally, winning is entirely outside the gambler’s control-yet the pursuit can be intoxicating.

2. Twitter – The “feed” has become a social staple of many online products. The stream of limitless information displayed in a scrolling interface makes for a compelling reward of the hunt. The Twitter timeline, for example, is filled with a mix  of both mundane and relevant content. This variety creates an enticingly unpredictable user experience. On occasion a user might find a particularly interesting piece of news, while other times she won’t. To keep hunting for more information, all that is needed is a flick of the finger or scroll of a mouse.


Rewards of the Self

Finally, there are the variable rewards we seek for a more personal form of gratification. We are driven to conquer obstacles, even if just for the satisfaction of doing so. Pursuing a task to completion can influence people to continue all sorts of behaviours. Surprisingly, we even pursue these rewards when we don’t outwardly appear to enjoy them.

The rewards of the self are fueled by “intrinsic motivation” as highlighted by the work of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. Their self-determination theory espouses that people desire, among other things, to gain a sense of competency. Adding an element of mystery to this goal makes the pursuit all the more enticing.

1. Video Games – Rewards of the self are a defining component in video games, as players seek to master the skills needed to pursue their quest. Leveling up, unlocking special powers, and other game mechanics fulfill a player’s desire for competency by showing progression and completion.

2. Codecademy – Codecademy seeks to make learning to write code more fun and rewarding. The site offers step-by-step instructions for building a web app, animation, and even a browser based game. The interactive lessons deliver immediate feedback, in contrast to traditional methods of learning to code by writing whole programs. Learning a new skill is often filled with errors but Codecademy uses the difficulty to its advantage. There is a constant element of the unknown when it comes to completing the task at hand; like in a game, users receive variable rewards as they learn-sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail. Yet as their competency level improves, users work to advance through levels, mastering the curriculum.

A caveat –  Recently, gamification-defined as the use of game like elements in non-game environments-has been used with varying success. Points, badges, and leaderboards can prove effective, but only if they scratch the user’s itch. When there is a mismatch between the customer’s problem and the company’s assumed solution, no amount of gamification will help spur engagement. Likewise, if the user has no ongoing itch at all-say, no need to return repeatedly to a site that lacks any value beyond the initial visit, gamification will fail because of a lack of inherent interest in the product or service offered. In other words, gamification is not a “one size fits all” solution for driving user engagement.


Infinite variability:

Experiences with finite variability become less engaging because they eventually become predictable. Businesses with finite variability are not inferior per se; they just operate under different constraints. They must constantly churn out new content and experiences to cater to their consumers’ insatiable desire for novelty.

It is no coincidence that both Hollywood and the video gaming industry operate under what is called the studio model, whereby a deep-pocketed company provides backing and distribution to a portfolio of movies or games, uncertain which one will become the next mega hit.

To illustrate this point think about the replay-ability of multiplayer games. World of Warcraft is frequently played with teams; it is the hard-to predict behaviour of other people that keeps the game interesting.

Products utilising infinite variability stand a better chance of holding on to users’ attention, while those with finite variability must constantly reinvent themselves just to keep pace.


Answer the following questions to explore how you can use variable rewards with your Product or Project:

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.


Step 4 – Investment:

There is one last step in the Hook Model that is critical for building habit-forming technologies. Before users create the mental associations that activate their automatic behaviours, they must first invest in the product.

Investments in a product create preferences because of our tendency to overvalue our work, be consistent with past behaviours, and avoid cognitive dissonance.

The last step of the Hook Model is the investment phase, the point at which users are asked to do a bit of work. Here, users are prompted to put something of value into the system, which increases the likelihood of their using the product and of successive passes through the Hook cycle.

Unlike in the action phase of the Hook discussed in chapter 3, investments are about the anticipation of longer-term rewards, not immediate gratification. In Twitter, for example, the investment comes in the form of following another user. There is no immediate reward for following someone, no stars or badges to affirm the action. Following is an investment in the service, which increases the likelihood of the user checking Twitter in the future.


Changing Attitude

Earlier in the summary we referenced that the frequency of a new behaviour is a leading factor in forming a new habit. And now we are introducing the second most important factor in habit formation, which is a change in the participant’s attitude about the behaviour.

The commitments we make have a powerful effect on us and play an important role in the things we do, the products we buy, and the habits we form. The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that our labor leads to love.

The more effort we put into something, the more likely we are to value it; we are more likely to be consistent with our past behaviours; and finally, we change our preferences to avoid cognitive dissonance.


Investments store value:

Unlike physical goods in the real world, the software that runs our technology products can adapt itself to our needs. To become better with use, habit-forming technology utilises investments users make in the product to enhance the experience.

The stored value users put into the product increases the likelihood they will use it again in the future and comes in a variety of forms:

Content – Every time users of Apple’s iTunes add a song to their collection, they are strengthening ties to the service. The songs on a playlist are an example of how content increases the value of a service

Data – Information generated, collected, or created by users (e.g., songs, photos, or news clippings) are examples of stored value in the form of content. Sometimes, though, users invest in a service by either actively or passively adding their own personal data.

On LinkedIn the user’s online résumé embodies the concept of data as stored value. Every time job seekers use the service, they are prompted to add more information.

The company found that the more information users invested in the site, the more committed they became to it.

Followers –  Investing in following the right people increases the value of the product by displaying more relevant and interesting content in each user’s Twitter feed. It also tells Twitter a lot about its users, which in turn improves the service overall. For the tweeter seeking followers, the more followers one has, the more valuable the service becomes as well. Content creators on Twitter seek to reach as large an audience as possible. The only way to legitimately acquire new followers is to send tweets others think are interesting enough to warrant following the sender. Therefore, to acquire more followers, content creators must invest in producing more and better—tweets. The cycle increases the value of the service for both sides the more the service is used.

Reputation –  Reputation is a form of stored value users can literally take to the bank. On online marketplaces such as eBay, TaskRabbit, Yelp, and Airbnb, people with negative scores are treated very differently from those with good reputations Reputation is a form of stored value that increases the likelihood of using a service.

Reputation makes users, both buyers and sellers, more likely to stick with whichever service they have invested their efforts in to maintain a high-quality score.

Skill –  Investing time and effort into learning to use a product is a form of investment and stored value. Once a user has acquired a skill, using the service becomes easier and moves them to the right on the ability axis of the Fogg Behaviour Model. As Fogg describes it, non-routine is a factor of simplicity, and the more familiar a behaviour is, the more likely the user is to do it.

Once users have invested the effort to acquire a skill, they are less likely to switch to a competing product.


Answer the following questions to brainstorm how you can apply the 4th Step (Investment) to your product or project:

Review your flow. What “bit of work” are your users doing to increase their likelihood of returning?

Brainstorm three ways to add small investments into your product to:

Load the next trigger.

Store value as data, content, followers, reputation, or skill.


The five fundamental questions for building effective hooks:

  1. What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (Internal trigger)
  2. What brings users to your service? (External trigger)
  3. What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier? (Action)
  4. Are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more? (Variable reward)
  5. What “bit of work” do users invest in your product? Does it load the next trigger and store value to improve the product with use?(Investment)


The Morality of Manipulation:

To help you, as a designer of habit-forming technology, assess the morality behind how you manipulate users, it is helpful to determine which of the four categories your work fits into. Are you a facilitator, peddler, entertainer, or dealer?

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 firsthand.

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.


How to Apply the HOOK model?


Habit Testing includes three steps: identify, codify, and modify.

First, dig into the data to identify how people are using the product.

Next, codify these findings in search of habitual users. To generate new hypotheses, study the actions and paths taken by devoted users.

Finally, modify the product to influence more users to follow the same path as your habitual users, and then evaluate results and continue to modify as needed.

Building a habit-forming product is an iterative process and requires user-behavior analysis and continuous experimentation Habit Testing does not always require a live product; however, it can be difficult to draw clear conclusions without a comprehensive view of how people are using your system. The following steps assume you have a product, users, and meaningful data to explore.


Step 1: Identify

The initial question for Habit Testing is “Who are the product’s habitual users?” Remember, the more frequently your product is used, the more likely it is to form a user habit.

First, define what it means to be a devoted user. How often “should” one use your product?

The answer to this question is very important and can widely change your perspective. Publicly available data from similar products or solutions can help define your users and engagement targets. If data are not available, educated assumptions must be made-but be realistic and honest.

Once you know how often users should use your product, dig into the numbers to identify how many and which type of users meet this threshold.


Step 2: Codify

Let’s say that you’ve identified a few users who meet the criteria of habitual users. Yet how many such users are enough?

My rule of thumb is 5 percent. Though your rate of active users will need to be much higher to sustain your business, this is a good initial benchmark. However, if at least 5 percent of your users don’t find your product valuable enough to use as much as you predicted they would, you may have a problem.

Codify (the habit path) – Users will interact with your product in slightly different ways. Even if you have a standard user flow, the way users engage with your product creates a unique fingerprint. Where users are coming from, decisions made when registering, and the number of friends using the service are just a few of the behaviours that help create a recognisable pattern. Sift through the data to determine if similarities emerge.

You are looking for a Habit Path-a series of similar actions shared by your most loyal users.


Step 3: Modify

Armed with new insights, it is time to revisit your product and identify ways to nudge new users down the same Habit  Path taken by devotees. This may include an update to the registration funnel, content changes, feature removal, or increased emphasis on an existing feature. Twitter used the insights gained from the previous step to modify its onboarding process, encouraging new users to immediately begin following others.

Habit Testing is a continual process you can implement with every new feature and product iteration

Tracking users by cohort and comparing their activity with that of habitual users should guide how products evolve and improve.


How to find opportunities:


Scratch your own itch:

Creating a product the designer uses and believes materially improves people’s lives increases the odds of delivering something people want.

Therefore, the first place for the entrepreneur or designer to look for new opportunities is in the mirror. Paul Graham advises entrepreneurs to leave the sexy-sounding business ideas behind and instead build for their own needs: “Instead of asking ‘what problem should I solve?’ ask ‘what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?””

Studying your own needs can lead to remarkable discoveries and new ideas because the designer always has a direct line to at least one user: him- or herself.

A founder scratching his own itch. As he used existing solutions, he recognised a discrepancy in what they offered and the solution he needed. He identified where steps could be removed from other products he used and built a simpler way to get his job done.

Careful introspection can uncover opportunities for building habit-forming products.


Observe your behaviour:

As you go about your day, ask yourself why you do or do not do certain things and how those tasks could be made easier or more rewarding. Observing your own behaviour can inspire the next habit-forming product or inform a breakthrough improvement to an existing solutio


Look for new technologies:

Wherever new technologies suddenly make a behaviour easier, new possibilities are born.


Interface Change:

Technological changes often create opportunities to build new hooks. However, sometimes no technology change is required. Many companies have found success in driving new habit formation by identifying how changing user interactions can create new routines.

Changes in interface suddenly make all sorts of behaviours easier. Subsequently, when the effort required to accomplish an action decreases, usage tends to explode.