Author: Nir Eyal
Category: Business, Marketing
10-word summary: Popular apps were designed to get us hooked on them.
Hooked is a book that will teach you how to build habit-forming products. If you are currently building an app, this book can help you create a great app that people will habitually use and love. It explains a four-step process that makes using an app become habit so you can use that for your own app. Some of the principles can also be helpful when creating a different type of product too.
However, if you don’t plan on creating your app anytime soon, you can still benefit from this book. It will help you understand why you are so hooked on certain apps (like social media). And once you begin to understand the theories in this book, it will make sense why some apps are incredibly popular.
Also, this book can help you understand how these apps can become addictive and it may prompt you to begin using them less. Once you begin to understand the mechanism behind the interface you see, you may want to change your online habits.
Lessons from Hooked
Build habit-forming products
Habits are action we do often, without even thinking about doing them. If you see your phone on your desk, grab it and open Instagram without intending to do that, you’re hooked!
If you can create an app that gets people to act in the same way, your app will be a success and you will benefit a lot from it!
You can get users hooked through a 4-step process
Nir Eyal describes a 4-step Hook Model that you can use to create an app that is habit-forming. This model has 4 steps: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward and Investment.
Triggers can be something like an email, an ad or a notification that will grab the user’s attention and prompt them to do something.
Action refers to what the user is encouraged to do through the trigger. This can be anything like clicking on a link, replying to an email, buying a product and so on.
Variable Reward is about the pleasant reward the user gets after they acted on the trigger. The rewards they get must be different to keep them interested in the future too. Such rewards can be a range of interesting content to consume, like and comments and more.
Investment refers to the phase where the user does something. They invest in the app in order to make it more enjoyable and more valuable for themselves. This can be done by saving references (bookmarks), posting their own content or inviting friends to use the same app.
If you can create an app or product that successfully incorporates the Hook Model, that app has a higher chance of catching the users’ attention for a long time.
The Hook Model can be used to get users addicted, but it is better to create apps that will have a positive impact on them
Eyal believes that the principles on the book Hooked can be used to create apps that are addictive or apps that are helpful. And he advises against it. And for a good reason. It’s better to create an app that can solve people’s problems or fulfill their needs.
If you create an app that can do good and that you would use yourself, you are more likely to create a good app because you represent the target user. However, if you want to create an app that won’t help people and that you do not intend to use, then you are less likely to create a good app because you cannot understand your target audience.
He also believes that the ideas in his book can be used for good and advises readers to also consider the ethical part of the app they are building.
What I like about Hooked
1. It is well-documented and well-written
When reading a book, I always want to know how reliable it is. And when a book lists its sources, this gives the book credibility (provided the source are trustworthy, of course).
Hooked often references other studies to explain human behaviour. It also includes examples that help us see the Hook Model used in other apps. He also explains part of the reason why apps like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are so popular.
The book is also well-structured and well-written, which makes it easy to read. At the end of each chapter, there is a summary section which is helpful to highlight main ideas. There is also a section with suggestions on the next steps to take or to consider if you are building your own app.
2. It is useful for building good apps
The principles in this book can definitely help you improve your app or create a good one. The practical advice at the end of each chapter or questions to consider are also useful tools that help you to better understand how to apply what you’re learning.
3. It is informative and eye-opening for users
Even though Hooked is very helpful for app developer, it can be very useful for normal users too. If you never plan on creating an app, but you use apps every day, then you can still benefit a lot from this book. It helps you become aware of your own habits and better understand what is causing them.
This book was one of the first that made me think hard about social media and the effect it’s having on our society. It inspired me to learn more to understand how they work and I’m working on a series of articles that help explain the problems created by social media and how to avoid them.
4. It addresses the ethics of habit-forming apps
Certain apps use their users’ data and influence their behaviour in ways that are questionable at best, and very dangerous at worst. That’s why I am glad that Eyal tackles this issue that should be discussed more in our current world.
He believes that the people who create apps that won’t improve the lives of the users and that the developers would not use themselves are “dealers” and creating such an app would be unethical. He encourages people to use the ideas in his book to create apps that can benefit their users, not just their developers.
What I don’t like about Hooked
1. The term “habit-forming” is used, but not the term “addictive”
In my perspective, using the principles in this book could create addictive apps. But Eyal refrains from using the term “addictive”, even when talking about social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Even though I believe that most people are not addicted to these apps, I also believe that a big part of the people who use them are at least mildly addicted.
Perhaps he did not want to use these labels not to come under fire because of his views or perhaps the information on user habits was not as concerning in 2014 as it is today.
Quotes from Hooked
“79% of smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes of waking up every morning.”
“Face it: we’re hooked. The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions. It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later. It’s the urge you likely feel throughout your day but hardly notice.”
“Habit-forming technology is already here and it is being used to mold our lives.”
“When harnessed correctly, technology can enhance lives through healthful behaviors that improve our relationships, make us smarter and increase productivity.”
“The enemy of forming new habits is past behaviors, and research suggests that old habits die hard. Even when we change our routines, neural pathways remain etched in our brains, ready to be activated when we lose focus.”
“Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain are two key motivators in all species. When we feel discomfort, we seek to escape the uncomfortable sensation.”
Should you read Hooked?
You will benefit the most from reading this book if you are planning to create your own app in the future (or a digital product meant to be used often). This book will help you understand how to refine your app and make it enjoyable for your users. It also helps you reflect on the problems your app will solve and your target audience to help you create a great app.
But I believe this app is not meant just for app developers. If you regularly use social media (and you probably do), you should read Hooked. It will help you understand your online habits and it may prompt you to reassess them. It may also inspire you to become more mindful of how you use certain apps throughout your day.