Everywhere you go on the Internet, there are people trying to hook you on their service. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, helps explain how they do it. It’s an excellent book for anyone who wants to know how businesses are screwing around in their heads.
* Seventy-nine percent of smartphone owners check their device within fifteen minutes of waking up every morning. Perhaps more startling, fully one-third of Americans say they would rather give up sex than lose their cell phones. A 2011 university study suggested people check their phones thirty-four times per day. However, industry insiders believe that number is closer to an astounding 150 daily sessions.
* 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.
* 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 or service such as time, data, effort, social capital, or money. However, the investment phase isn’t about users opening up their wallets and moving on with their day. Rather, the investment implies an action that improves the service for the next go-around. Inviting friends, stating preferences, building virtual assets, and learning to use new features are all investments users make to improve their experience.
* Renowned investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett once said, “You can determine the strength of a business over time by the amount of agony they go through in raising prices.”4 Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, realized that as customers form routines around a product, they come to depend upon it and become less sensitive to price.
* Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of building products that are only marginally better than existing solutions, hoping their innovation will be good enough to woo customers away from existing products. But when it comes to shaking consumers’ old habits, these naive entrepreneurs often find that better products don’t always win—especially if a large number of users have already adopted a competing product.
* 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.
* As we will learn in chapter 5, users also increase their dependency on habit-forming products by storing value in them—further reducing the likelihood of switching to an alternative. For example, every e-mail sent and received using Google’s Gmail is stored indefinitely, providing users with a lasting repository of past conversations. New followers on Twitter increase users’ clout and amplify their ability to transmit messages to their communities. Memories and experiences captured on Instagram are added to one’s digital scrapbook. Switching to a new e-mail service, social network, or photo-sharing app becomes more difficult the more people use them. The nontransferable value created and stored inside these services discourages users from leaving.
* Like flossing, frequent engagement with a product—especially over a short period of time—increases the likelihood of forming new routines.
* The more the product is used, the better the algorithm gets, and thus the more it is used. The result is a virtuous cycle of habit-driven behavior resulting in Google’s market domination.
* DO THIS NOW If you are building a habit-forming product, write down the answers to these questions: What habits does your business model require? What problem are users turning to your product to solve? How do users currently solve that problem and why does it need a solution? How frequently do you expect users to engage with your product? What user behavior do you want to make into a habit?
* More choices require the user to evaluate multiple options. Too many choices or irrelevant options can cause hesitation, confusion, or worse—abandonment. Reducing the thinking required to take the next action increases the likelihood of the desired behavior occurring unconsciously.
* The ultimate goal of 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.
* One method is to try asking the question “Why?” as many times as it takes to get to an emotion. Usually, this will happen by the fifth why. This is a technique adapted from the Toyota Production System, described by Taiichi Ohno as the “5 Whys Method.” Ohno wrote that it was “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach . . . by repeating ‘why?’ five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.”
* Fogg posits that there are three ingredients required to initiate any and all behaviors: (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 behavior.
* 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.
* Evan Williams, cofounder of Blogger and Twitter, echoes 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.”
* The study demonstrates the endowed progress effect, a phenomenon that increases motivation as people believe they are nearing a goal.
* In the 1940s two researchers, James Olds and Peter Milner, accidentally discovered how a special area of the brain is the source of our cravings. The researchers implanted electrodes in the brains of lab mice that enabled the mice to give themselves tiny electric shocks to a small area of the brain, the nucleus accumbens.1 The mice quickly became hooked on the sensation. Olds and Milner demonstrated that the lab mice would forgo food, water, and even run across a painful electrified grid for the opportunity to continue pressing the lever that administered the shocks. A few years later, other researchers tested the human response to self-administered stimulus in the same area of the brain. The results were just as dramatic as in the mouse trial—subjects wanted to do nothing but press the brain-stimulating button. Even when the machine was turned off, people continued pressing the button. Researchers had to forcibly take the devices from subjects who refused to relinquish them.
* The study revealed that 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.
* Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included.
* 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.
* Together, the three tendencies just described influence our future actions: 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 behaviors; and finally, we change our preferences to avoid cognitive dissonance.
* The more users invest in a product through tiny bits of work, the more valuable the product becomes in their lives and the less they question its use.
* In a satirical take on Zynga’s FarmVille franchise, Ian Bogost created Cow Clicker, a Facebook game in which users did nothing but incessantly click on virtual cows to hear a satisfying moo. Bogost intended to lampoon FarmVille by blatantly implementing the same game mechanics and viral hacks he thought would be laughably obvious to users. But after the app’s usage exploded and some people became frighteningly obsessed with the game, Bogost shut it down, bringing on what he called the “Cowpocalypse.”
* Wherever new technologies suddenly make a behavior easier, new possibilities are born.
* Whenever a massive change occurs in the way people interact with technology, expect to find plenty of opportunities ripe for harvesting. Changes in interface suddenly make all sorts of behaviors easier. Subsequently, when the effort required to accomplish an action decreases, usage tends to explode.