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Edvins Antonovs

Hooked Book Notes

Earlier last month, I’ve finished reading Hooked book by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover. I enjoyed reading this book as well as I found out that there are a bunch of notes after each section which are worth to share. The core idea behind this book is to introduce the concept of the Hook Model (Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, Investment). In this blog post notes are split into 2 sections:

  • Remember & Share covers the main parts of the Hook Model.
  • Do this now can be used as a practical way to implement the Hook model into your product.


Remember & Share

  • Habits are defined as “behaviours done with little or no conscious thought”.
  • The convergence of access, data, and speed is making the world a more habit-forming place.
  • Businesses that create customer habits gain significant competitive advantage.
  • The Hook Model describes an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit.

The Habit Zone

Remember & Share

  • For some businesses, forming habits is a critical component to success, but not every business requires habitual user engagement.
  • When successful, forming strong user habits can have several business benefits including higher customer lifetime value (CLTV), great pricing flexibility, supercharged growth, and a sharper competitive edge.
  • Habits cannot form outside the Habit Zone, where the behaviour occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility.
  • Habit-forming products often start as a nice-to-haves (vitamins) but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves (painkillers).
  • Habit-forming products alleviate users’ pain by relieving a pronounced itch.
  • Designing a habit-forming product is a form of manipulation. Product builders would benefit from a bit of introspection before attempting to hook users to make sure they are building healthy habits, bot unhealthy addiction.

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 behaviour do you want to make into a habit?


Remember & Share

  • Triggers cue the user to take action and are the first step in the Hook Model.
  • Triggers come in two types – external and internal.
  • External triggers tell the user what to do next by placing information within the user’s environment.
  • Internal triggers tell the user what to do next through associations stored in the user’s memory.
  • Negative emotions frequently serve as internal triggers.
  • To build a habit-forming product, makers need to understand which user emotions may be tied to internal triggers and know how to leverage external triggers to drive the user to action.

Do this now

  • 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 (refer to the 5 Whys Method described in Trigger chapter).
  • 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), she/she (first action of intended habit)”.
  • Refer back to the question about what the user is doing right before the first action of the habit. What might be places and times to send an external trigger?
  • How can you couple an external trigger as closely as possible to when the user’s internal trigger fires?
  • Think of at least three conventional ways to trigger your user with current technology (e-mails, notifications, text messages, etc.). Then stretch yourself to come up with at least three crazy or currently impossible ideas for ways to trigger your user (wearable computers, biometric sensors, carrier pigeons, etc). You could find that your crazy ideas spur some new approaches that may not be so nutty after all. In a few years, new technologies will create all sort of currently unimaginable triggering opportunities.


Remember & Share

  • The second step in the Hook is action.
  • The action is the simplest behaviour in anticipation of reward.
  • As described by Dr B. J. Fogg’s Behaviour Model:
    • For any behaviour to occur, a trigger must be present at the same time as the user has sufficient ability and motivation to take action.
    • To increase the desired behaviour, ensure a clear trigger is present; next, increase ability by making the action easier to do; finally, align with the right motivator.
    • Every behaviour is driven by one of three Core Motivators: seeking pleasure and avoiding pain; seeking hope and avoiding fear; seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.
    • Ability is influenced by the six factors of time, money, physical, effort, brain cycles, social deviance, and non-routines. Ability is dependent on users and their context at that moment.
    • Heuristics are cognitive shortcuts we take to make quick decisions. Product designers can utilise many of the hundreds of heuristics to increase the likelihood of their desired action.

Do this now

  • Walkthrough 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 Action 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-routing (too new)
  • Brainstorm three testable ways to make intended tasks easier to complete.
  • Consider how you might apply heuristics to make habit-forming actions more likely.

Variable reward

Remember & share

  • The variable reward is the third phase of the Hook Model, and there are three types of variable rewards: the tribe, the hunt, and the self.
  • Rewards of the tribe are the search for social rewards fueled by connectedness with other people.
  • Rewards of the hunt are the search for material resources and information.
  • Rewards of the self are the search for intrinsic rewards of mastery, competence, and completion.
  • When our autonomy is threatened, we feel constrained by our lack of choices and often rebel against doing the new behaviour. Psychologists refer to this as reactance. Maintaining a sense of user autonomy is a requirement for a repeat engagement.
  • Experiences with finite variability become increasingly predictable with use and lose their appeal over time. Experiences that maintain user interest by sustaining variability with use exhibit infinite variability.
  • Variable rewards must satisfy users’ needs while leaving them wanting to reengage with the product.

Do this now

  • Speak with five of your customers in an open-ended interview to identify what they find enjoyable or encouraging about 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 (rewards) alleviates the user’s pain is the rewards fulfilling, yet 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, moment, or information.
    3. Rewards of the self-mastery, completion, competency, or consistency.


Remember & share

  • The investment phase is the fourth step in the Hook Model.
  • Unlike the action phase, which delivers immediate gratification, the investment phase concerns the anticipation of rewards in the future.
  • Investments in a product create preferences because of our tendency to overvalue our work, be consistent with past behaviours, and avoid cognitive dissonance.
  • The investment comes after the variable rewards phase when users are primed to reciprocate.
  • Investments increase the likelihood of users returning by improving the service the more it is used. They enable the accrual of stored value in the form of content, data, followers, reputation, or skill.
  • Investments increase the likelihood of users through the Hook again by loading the next trigger to start the cycle all over again.

Do this now

  • Review your flow. What “bit of work” 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, and skill.
    • Identify how long it takes for a “loader trigger” to reengage your users. How you can reduce the delay to shorten the time spent cycling through the Hook?

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