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How to build habit forming products

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Have you ever wondered why some people are hooked to Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, or other specific apps? What makes these apps so addictive?

Research shows that an average smartphone user downloads nearly 80 apps, yet, they only use nine apps daily out of the possible 80.

What does this imply? Why do people download apps and never use them, yet they remain addicted to others?

It's simple. Humans are habitual.

If a mobile app is interesting and informative, users will feel the need to stick around.

Habits & The Hook Model

The Hook Model is a four-step process that can be embedded in a product to create and increase user engagement. The product could be a mobile app, a website, a subscription, or even a physical one.

To understand the Hooked Model better, we need to understand — what is a habit? why and how are habits formed?

What is a habit?

James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits says — “A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic”

I like the definition of behavioural scientist Jason Hreha better, “Habits are, simply, reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment.”

Why habits are formed?

Whenever we come across a new situation, our brain has to make a decision. Our conscious brain gets into the mode of finding the correct response to that situation.

The brain activity during that time is very high as it’s taking in tons of new information and trying to make sense of it all. It’s busy learning the most effective course of action.

This takes up a lot of energy and our conscious mind can only pay attention to one problem at a time. As a result, the brain is always on the lookout for ways to preserve our conscious attention for whatever is most essential.

So, whenever possible brain delegates the task to the non-conscious mind to do it automatically. This is precisely why habits are formed.

How are habits formed?

James Clear in his book Atomic Habits has shown how all habits proceed through four stages — Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward.

He writes — Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy us (2) they teach us.