While searching for top books about product management, I came across “Hooked – How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal – bestseller in Product Management on Amazon.com. Working in online marketing and product development, I’d like to think that I understand marketing tricks product designers use to create habit-forming products. However, from time to time I fall into the trap of hot offers and well-designed products.
With the spree of online entrepreneurs and experts it is difficult to find a book that has been through the three stages of quality writing: thorough research, real life examples and case studies and author’s second thought about the topic. Author of “Hooked” went through all these stages, which shows he respects his reader.
Nir Eyal presents a set of rules and case studies that help to understand how top products have mastered the art of forming habits. This book is an actionable guide for both beginners and experienced product designers and marketers. Those who are familiar with gamification may get an impression they aren’t learning much but author’s shrewd conclusions give new insight into engagement marketing and product management.
Eyal introduced the Hook Model – a four-step process that when done right encourages certain customer behaviour.
Step 1 – Trigger
During the first two chapters reader gets basic information about triggers, which serves as a useful introduction for beginners. Triggers come in two types: external (e.g. a prominant button “Log in”) and internal (e.g. loneliness makes the user check his friends on Facebook) .
Step 2 – Action
In Chapter 3 “Action” author starts a clever game of asking the reader questions instead of giving answers.
Is your product a vitamin or a painkiller?
Is your trigger clear for the user?
Which resources are limiting your user’s ability to accomplish the tasks that will become habits?
The reader is also presented with heuristics, the cognitive shortcuts we take to make quick decisions.
Step 3 – Variable Reward
Eyal distinguishes three types of variable rewards: the tribe, the hunt and the self. The aim of variable rewards is to satisfy the users while making them wanting to reuse the product. Variability must be sustained in order to keep the user wanting to reengage with the product.
Rewards come in 3 types:
Rewards of the tribe – gratification from others
Rewards of the hunt – material goods, money or information
Rewards of the self – mastery, completion, competency, or consistency
Multiple examples of applications offering different types of rewards help visualize the subject and allow us to think of the ways the types of rewards can be applied to reader’s own product.
Step 4 – Investment
Investments increase the likelihood of people returning because of our tendency to overvalue our work, be consistent with past behaviors, and avoid cognitive dissonance. Again, multiple examples help the reader better understand this phase.
Finally, there is the whole chapter devoted to a case study of The Bible App – an example of the product that underwent all four steps of the Hook Model. The Bible App was far less successful when there was only a desktop version. Today, the app has been downloaded by more than 100 million people around the world.
Once a product is built according to the Hook Model, Habit Testing helps uncover the potential improvements that can be made in order to maintain the habit. Habit Testing consists of three steps: identify, codify and modify.
At the end of each chapter there is an overview and “Do this now” section with tasks to complete.
Was it a worthy read? I’d say yes, because it’s one of the few books I’ve read with a smoldering interest and felt I’m filled with actionable takeaways.
Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps by Gabe Zichermann
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Practical approach: 8/10