Designing Habit-Forming Products

How do companies design experiences to repeatedly engage users? Designing for habits builds upon the principles of consumer psychology to create new routines.

I've spent the past 2 years researching how products create habits and I've included a few articles to pique your interest. As you'll soon learn, the world is becoming a more persuasive, and potentially addictive place. Learning how to create user habits and harness them to build new behaviors is a super power that can be used for good or evil.

  1. Warning: Habits May Be Good for You

    In this article, the New York Times’ Charles Duhigg explains how businesses create new habits and the powerful and beneficial ways they can change people’s lives.

    What habits are you trying to change with your product or service?

  2. Habits are the New Viral

    In this essay, I describe why high-growth or high-engagement, on their own, are not enough to make a successful startup. Tomorrow’s companies need to master behavior design in order to keep users engaged long enough to form new habits.

    Think about whether your business model necessitates forming habits? Does your company depend on users coming back on their own or can you use other methods to drive engagement?

  3. Designing For Pleasure

    In this video, MIT professor Jesse Schell, argues that new behaviors must be things people “wanna” do, not “hafta” do. In other words, new behaviors must be pleasurable, not forced.

    Think about your own product or service and ask yourself if you are helping users do something they want to do for the pleasure of it? How might you inject more fun into your design?

  4. The Hook Model

    In this video, presented at the 2013 GROW conference, I describe a 4-phase pattern found in habit-forming technologies called the Hook Model. Watch the video and consider the habit-forming products in your own life.

    Can you find the hooks in the products you are most engaged with? Can you find them in the product or service you are building?

  5. The Acceleration of Addictiveness

    In this essay, legendary investor Paul Graham describes how the world is becoming a more addictive place and the trends that will make using technology harder to resist. Graham discusses the challenges of a more persuasive world.

    Consider the moral implications of designing for habits. What will users gain and lose from more addictive products? Do you find yourself hooked to any technologies to the detriment of other parts of your life?

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