4 things to consider to help you design habit-forming products
This blog is a summary of how you can apply the same methods that companies like Instagram use to create habit-forming products. 


When you wake up in the morning, how long does it take you to check your phone? The majority of us - 61% of people - check our devices within 5 minutes of waking up! This means that most of us check our notifications before we say good morning to our loved ones. But how did this happen?

Habits are actions that we complete with little or no conscious thought; the world is becoming a more habit-forming place. Over the last two decades, big businesses have been manipulating our habits - with the help of the astronomical amounts of data they have on you, me, and millions of other people. However, anyone can apply the techniques that they use to create products that develop positive habits.

Influencing behaviour with simplicity
There are many factors that we need to consider to create a product that people are drawn to. Products that are simplified to have minimal pain points will enjoy a high adoption rate by the people who use them. To be successful in this, designers should consider the six elements of simplicity:
  • time - how long it takes to complete an action
  • money - the fiscal cost of taking an action
  • physical effort - the amount of labour involved in taking an action
  • social deviance - how accepted the behaviour is by others
  • non-routine - how much of the action matches or disrupts existing routines
To  create a habit-forming product it is essential to empathise with our customers and ask 'what makes it hard for them to complete X action?' So for any behaviour to occur, the user must have sufficient ability to take action; this is influenced by the six factors.

Influencing behaviour with motivation
To  create a habit-forming product it is essential to empathise with our customers and ask 'what makes it hard for them to complete X action?' So for any behaviour to occur, the user must have sufficient ability to take action; this is influenced by the six factors.

The impact of variability
Variability can also have a big impact on the habits we form and the products that we use. When you refresh your Instagram feed, the results are variable. There is no guarantee that you will have been tagged in a photo by one of your friends, or that you've gained a splattering of likes, but there is a chance: that is what keeps us hooked.

Phycologist B. F Skinner conducted a range of experiments to help understand the impact that variability had on animal behaviour. First Skinner placed hungry pigeons inside a box that was rigged to deliver food pellets when the bird pressed a lever. Then, in the second stage of the experiment, Skinner added variability. Instead of the lever delivering a pellet every time it was pressed, the machine dispensed them randomly. The number of times that the lever was pressed dramatically increased. More recent studies on people have shown that variability leads to increased levels of dopamine, which drives our habits.

To  create a habit-forming product it is essential to empathise with our customers and ask 'what makes it hard for them to complete X action?' So for any behaviour to occur, the user must have sufficient ability to take action; this is influenced by the six factors.

The Endowed Progress Effect
How many free coffees have you claimed after collecting stickers for months on end? The endowed progress effect is a phenomenon where our motivation for completing a task increases when we believe that we are nearing good. This is why you may be compelled to go out of your way to get a coffee if it means you get your 5th sticker. However, this phenomenon is not limited to caffeine - many tech companies have been building it into their products too! Sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook utilise this heuristic to encourage users to give away more information about themselves when completing online profiles.

I hope that you have found this short blog helpful and that after reading you are inspired to apply some of the techniques to your work. It would have been impossible to summarise everything in Nir Eyal's Hooked in such a short post however if you enjoyed this blog I highly recommend reading the book.