Building habit-forming products
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Building habit-forming products

Published : March 9, 2021 | Updated : May 21, 2024

We humans are creatures of habits. We tend to keep doing the same things, again and again.

So, how are these habits really formed? 

Aswin, in his short webinar, tried to deep dive into this and how this would reflect for mobile products and its users!  Here is a gist of what was discussed, for your quick glance. 

It all starts with a trigger! There’s a cue or trigger that invokes some response in humans and it’s the rewards that motivates us to respond. A series of multiple triggers and responses leads to habits that we form sub-consciously. Anything that we do consistently leads to the formation of habits.

Now, the next question is, how does one use all this information to build a successful product?

Let’s answer that by looking at one of the models built around the basic habit forming process – The Hook Model

The Hook Model:

This model talks about 4 things – trigger, action, reward and investment. Firstly, there’s an external trigger which is a user’s cue to take a particular action. And for a user to take an action, there must be something in it for her/him and that’s the reward. Finally, there’s the investment where you get the user to do something that would create another trigger for the user to come back to your product. Isn’t that a simple loop? 

Let’s take the example of twitter and see this model in action

The above triggers, rewards, and investment is what motivates users to keep coming back to the app. Over a period of time all these external triggers become internal and users end up opening twitter every time they are bored.

All gaming apps too are designed in a similar way to create habits.

Think about any product that you use as a habit on a daily basis, you will realize that this model is inbuilt in it.

How do we define strong/weak models?

A user’s response to a trigger depends on how easy it is to take an action and how attractive the reward is.

Take a look at the graph below and you will understand why!

How do you make it easy for users?

First things first, users hate pop-ups because it disturbs their flow on the app/website. But using nudge theory which says that given multiple options, if a particular option is highlighted then users tend to take up that action, is indeed a very subtle way of guiding users to the right action, and eventually get them to come back to your product.

Well, it may so happen that even if you do everything correctly till this point, you might fail because you’re going up against a lot of existing habits that occupy your users’ time and attention. Anything that the user does when he/she gets bored is your direct competition.

Why is it difficult to break existing habits?

The simple answer is customer inertia. Users are inherently resistant to change. They tend to keep doing the same things again and again unless there is a stronger force that motivates them to do something else.

A great product can fail simply because users don’t welcome change.

How do you overcome this?

The truth is that a lot of these habits are not conscious and can be removed as long as you’re not annoying your users.

The model below could help you overcome this!

All you need to do is understand at which level of the pyramid you’re trying to replace a user’s existing habit!

If you’re onto creating a diet plan app/product then you’re trying to change the habit at the lowest part of the pyramid, and that is surely a challenging thing to do!

Think about Duolingo’s streak feature. It’s there to keep users coming back to the app because if you are to leave it upon the user to re-open the app, then that’s a tough fight you’ve picked up. With so many other entertainment options around, it’s a lot of effort to get back users but Duolingo successfully breaks through that barrier.

Here are some pointers for you to keep in mind:

  • Don’t make users think. Just try to steer them on auto-pilot and make things appear simple.
  • Account for real world habits in product/feature building.
  • It’s always better to take an existing model as the basis for building a new model. There has to be at-least something that the user is familiar with. A lot of innovative games fail but games like Ludo and Rummy work. That’s because users are familiar with the game.
  • Stick to helping users take smaller steps over a long period of time. 

Now that you got an idea on what was discussed, here is a link of the entire webinar, in case you want to catch a glimpse

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Written By: Netcore Cloud
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