Book Review: Hooked



Nir Eyal

My Rating

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"Hooked smashed my mental model of product. Products are all about driving behaviour change, they are not just tools."

You know that feeling when someone explains something so simply it seems like common sense. You think to yourself "That's so obvious." and then two seconds later "Hang on a minute. Why I have not been thinking that for the past 10 years then?". That humbling feeling, it tapped me on the shoulder as I was reading Hooked a couple of weeks ago.

Prior to reading Hooked, I'd thought of products as tools and services, providing capabilities enabling people to achieve their goals. Sounds kinda obvious, right? Yet, as soon as I started reading Hooked, I realised this was a naive, shallow, and incomplete view of products.

Why do we use tools? Ok Yes, they help us to achieve a goal, but what happens when we don't have tools or they haven't been invented yet? We have to behave in a different way. Before GPS systems you had to take maps on your long trips, and still you'd end up completely lost in some country lane with your mum and dad arguing over which one of them was the idiot who couldn't read a map.

The Hook Model

Nir Eyal has analysed exactly how products change behaviour. He's observed and catalogued repeating patterns consistent across many products. He proposes a four stage model of behaviour change we go through as humans using products. He calls it The Hook Model.

Our behaviours need a trigger, proposes Nir. When something happens, we want users to remember about our product and to use it in that situation. That's why we get notifications on our phones. Just a few days ago, for example, I got a WhatsApp notification reminding me to use WhatsApp to see a message someone had sent me.

The message flashed up on my screen as a colleague was complimenting the cleanliness of my code; "Nick - please stop leaving your underpants on the kitchen floor". (That definitely triggered me to stop leaving my underpants on the kitchen floor. They were clean ones that had fallen out of the basket as I had emptied the washing machine).

External triggers, they are so boring, though. Nir argues internal triggers are the most powerful, representing significant behaviour change that hooks users to the most engaging products. Users don't even need an external trigger, they instinctively think to use our products. Nir uses the example of twitter - when people are bored, their instinct is to check twitter. Now I can't say I agree with that one. I'm far too professional and committed to my job **hurriedly deletes twitter account to destroy the evidence**.

This insight about creating instincts. It sounds obvious, yet that's not how I previously thought about products. I didn't think "How can I create products that plant internal triggers in people's minds", but now I most certainly do. What a massive revelation. Every time I observer products now, I am fully tuned into analysing how they change behaviour. What is seen cannot be unseen (unless you can implant a different trigger of course). 

The other 3 stages of the hooked model are action, variable reward, and investment. Some of the suggestions are obvious; you'll recognise them as common knowledge. For example, investment explains the more capital we build up in the product, the less likely we are to leave "I've got all these Stack Overflow points, I can't quit now". 

I'm not going to spoil the surprise and explain them in more detail, but even though some of the concepts are obvious, the insights generated by Nir as he analyses each stage in detail and integrates them cohesively into The Hook Model are astonishing and remarkable. 

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My Books

Designing Autonomous Teams and Services
Patterns, Principles and Practices of Domain-Driven Design