Every marketer’s dream is that their product becomes so integrated into your life, so ingrained into your daily activities, so necessary that it becomes a basic need. Week two of Stanford’s Patient Engagement Design Course was lead by Nir Eyal, a consultant who’s new book, “Hooked,” focuses on real actionable ways to integrate user experience and product psychology into product design, with a particular focus on technology innovation. Our lecture focused on designing products and services in a way that engages consumers to build long term healthy habits.
I knew this was going to be a great lecture before it even began when I saw the first slide. Why, you ask? The slide design. There have been two professors in my life who have had really great slide design. The first was my MBA program’s Creativity and Competitive Analysis Professor, talented graphic designer and wickedly smart Mechanical Engineering PhD, Dr. Oliver Schlake (who by the way is somewhat responsible I became inspired to write this blog), and the second is Nir Eyal. I’m talking about slides that are image focused, with only a few words. Slides that make an impact by their image alone and that you wouldn’t be able to just read the bullet points later as a substitute for being present and engaged during the lecture. The slides Nir Eyal delivered were immaculate and the content was thought provoking.
Want to see the slides? Check ’em out below:
The Hook Model has four parts. The Trigger, the Action, the Reward and the Investment. It asks product designers to create an experience that connects a user’s problem to a solution with enough frequency that a habit is built. The goal is to turn nice to have products into need to have products. That is no easy feat. Habits are hard to make and as Mr. Eyal stated, “novelty can be a liability.”
I think this statement is particularly applicable to healthcare delivery- just look at the sluggish adoption and fear of online communications between physicians and patients or industry’s reluctance to use social media as an engagement tool instead of a push marketing platform. The hook is still not completely defined in either of these settings, but it is improving and that’s good news.
Product designers must identify the consumer’s itch, the trigger (think app icon notifications). They must provide the simplest behavior in anticipation of a reward (think never ending scrolling on Pinterest). They must reward the user for participating, or in Mr. Eyal’s vernacular, “scratch the itch,” and the reward must be variable (how many likes, who will comment, will my post be shared?). Finally, there must be investment on the consumer side. Meaning, the consumer must do something that results in an anticipation of more reward (think replying to a message, uploading content to iTunes). When users pass through the hook and invest in it enough times, it becomes necessary and habit forming. For an in-depth explanation you’ll have to read Nir Eyal’s book or watch this video below to hear from Nir Eyal, himself.
I’ll give you my own example. Consider Foursquare’s migration from their location searching/gaming check-in app to Swarm. Originally, Foursquare allowed users to compete with other people for number of check-ins, mayorship and to search for good places to eat and shop all with one app. It provides all the pieces of the Hook Model. Let’s take a look:
- My trigger: The alert that someone had checked in near me. Who was it? Where were they? The alert is like trying not to read an important email that you see pop through. You just have to click it!
- The Action: Scrolling through my newsfeed. Even after reading the trigger alert, its impossible not to scroll through the newsfeed for more. Who’s close by? Is there somewhere good to eat/shop near here?
- The Reward: Varies, and that’s how things stay interested and users stay hooked. Someone might like your checkin, write a comment to say hello- or eat this at this restaurant.
- The Investment: The more you use Foursquare the more you want to use it. You could be just 2 check-ins away from mayorship, or you know you will receive a special coupon for checking in at a certain restaurant. Every time you complete an action on Foursquare you anticipate something else in return. You invest.
That’s the niche of social networking: the more you use it, the more experiences you associate with it, the more you build your own hook and it becomes a habit. I quickly started using Foursquare all the time. It was fun.
Then, one sad day, Foursquare decided to branch off the check-in feature to a new app called Swarm and left all the business searching to Foursquare. Well, now Foursquare is essentially a me-too version of Yelp, and I never user it. After all, I have a Yelp habit, so what do I need Foursquare for?
I also never use Foursquare’s new app, Swarm. Foursquare eliminated the gaming portion, so there’s no competition among users, (originally) you couldn’t see who was also at a location where you were, and essentially the whole reason I found the app fun no longer existed. There is no hook for me any longer. Turns out I’m not the only user who didn’t like the change, as NPR reported this past July in its story, Loyal Users are Checking Out After Swarm Spinoff.
The important takeaway here is that designing a product that hooks its users requires upfront, in depth understanding of your consumer. Investing time, energy and funding into the very initial phases of product design, and including investment to understand the true psychological motivators of your consumer before a product is created can pay off big time in the long run.
Foursquare pushed out an app that its heaviest users hated. It removed the very features the users loved. Over the last couple of months Foursquare has been working to re-integrate more of the features its users actually liked, however, I’m sure there are many consumers like me who just stopped using and never looked back. Had Foursquare understood what its users loved about its product, a launch into two separate apps might have been more successful.
Let me know what you think about the Hook Model. What are you ‘hooked’ on today?
One thought on “Designing for Habit”