Hooked by Nir Eyal



In order to consistently attract a loyal user base, you must build habit-forming products. Learn how to hook your audience and keep their attention over time.

17 lessons


– by Nir Eyal –

1) Your business must build habit-forming 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.

2) These techniques can be manipulative

As companies combine their increased connectivity to consumers, with the ability to collect, mine, and process customer data at faster speeds, we are faced with a future where everything becomes potentially more habit-forming. Building habit-forming products is a like a superpower. If used irresponsibly, bad habits can quickly degenerate into mindless, zombie-like addictions.

3) Create a hook

The hook is an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution. It’s about connecting the user’s problem to your solution with enough frequency to form a habit.

4) Develop frequency and utility

A company can begin to determine its product’s habit-forming potential by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behavior occurs) and perceived utility (how useful and rewarding the behavior is in the user’s mind over alternative solutions).

5) Triggers move us to take action

New habits need a foundation upon which to build. Triggers provide the basis for sustained behavior changed. External triggers are embedded with information, which tells the user what to do next. When a product becomes tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a preexisting routine, it leverages an internal trigger.

6) Internal triggers are powerful

Emotions, particularly negative ones, are powerful internal triggers and greatly influence our daily routines. Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation. As product designers it is our goal to solve these problems and eliminate pain.

7) Create a source of relief

All humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to seek hope and avoid fear; and to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection. 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.

8) Don’t overwhelm users with too many choices

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.

9) Make things easier

Any technology or product that significantly reduces the steps to complete a task will enjoy high adoption rates by the people it assists. The ease or difficulty of doing a particular action affects the likelihood that a behavior will occur. To successfully simplify a product, we must remove obstacles that stand in the user’s way.

10) Understand the Six Elements of Simplicity that prevent people from taking actions (by B.J. Fogg)


Time refers to how long it takes to complete an action. Money represents that fiscal cost of taking an action. Physical effort is the amount of labor involved in taking the action. Brain cycles involve the level of mental effort and focus required to take an action. Social deviance is the extent to which the behavior is accepted by others. Non-routine refers to how much the action matches or disrupts existing routines.

11) Learn from Psychology

Most people remain unaware of how heuristics help us make split-second decisions multiple times per day. Psychologists believe there are hundreds of cognitive biases that influence our behaviors. For product designers building habit-forming technology, understanding and leveraging these methods for boosting motivation and ability can prove to have a significant impact.

12) Introduce rewards with variability

Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included. By adding a factor of unpredictability to your product, you make users more intent on finding a reward. The unknown is fascinating. An element of mystery is an important component of continued user interest.

13) Affirm the freedom to choose

We are more likely to be persuaded to give when our ability to choose is reaffirmed. This disarms our instinctive rejection of being told what to do. When our autonomy is threatened, we feel constrained by our lack of choices and often rebel against doing a new behavior. Maintaining a sense of user autonomy is a requirement for repeat engagement.

14) Understand the power of investment

The commitments we make have a powerful effect on us and play an important role in the things we do, the products we buy, and the habits we form. The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it.

15) Have purpose and help others

The most highly regarded entrepreneurs are driven by meaning, a vision for greater good that drives them forward. Align your work with a purpose that provides you with meaning and helps cultivate meaning for others.

16) Be patient

The process of developing successful habit-forming technologies requires patience and persistence. Building a habit-forming product is an iterative process and requires user-behavior analysis and continuous experimentation.

17) Build for your own needs

Studying your own needs can lead to remarkable discoveries and new ideas because the designer always has a direct line to at least one user: him or herself. As you go about your day, ask yourself why you do or do not do certain things and how those tasks could be made easier or more rewarding.