Hooked on UX worked for me

Just some thoughts on Habit-Forming Design

Its a gateway drug.

ir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products says, “habits are good for business”. Immediately, I think about anti-drug programs in the US like (D.A.R.E.) telling kids that drug dealers would give people drugs for free to get them hooked. They would come into our sixth-grade class with a suitcase full of drugs, and they’d pass samples around so we could see what they looked like.

Seriously, I still can’t believe they thought that would be a good idea, because it pretty much had the opposite effect than they intended. It didn’t stop us from experimenting with drugs in high school and college, but the psychological fear from the rhetoric of “Getting Hooked” was real.

This is your Brain…on Drugs..

Here we are, 25 years later and I’m still triggered by words like hooked and influence, where I get a jolt of anxiety.

In product design, we eventually end up here as we’re trying to design experiences that repeatedly engage users. It's called Persuasive and Habit-Forming Design.


I’ll give it to Nancy Reagan, the War of Drugs may have destroyed more lives than it saved, but, for me, it did transcend how I think about habit-building in general. In design, I consider the moral implications of my decisions, and how can we meet shareholders expectations while considering the mental health of the users. “Loyal customers” are the goal, and loyalty comes at a price, changing the user's behavior.

Can you restrict technology to only areas that you want? I honestly don’t know, but that we’re seeing a shift in where tech and other companies are forgoing throwing their money behind lawmakers to further their bottom line.

I guess that means that anything’s possible…at any rate.

Nir states that customers' habits improve business performance.

  • Habits increase the customer lifetime value
  • Habits provide greater pricing flexibility
  • Habits supercharge growth. “Hooked” users don’t churn
  • Habits improve a business’s defensibility. It’s hard to get someone to stop using a product that they use without thinking

Learn more about Nir’s book below;

“Hooked” by Nir Eyal — BOOK SUMMARY

The IKEA Effect, by Dan Ariely.

4 Stages of the hook model

  • Trigger
  • Action
  • Variable Reward
  • Investment
  • Trigger: Triggers are essential to the hook model because it prompts the user to take an action. This action brings the user on your platform for either the first time or re-engages the user to take an action on the platform.

There are two types of Triggers.

  • Internal Trigger: Emotions like boredom are powerful internal triggers that can influence behavior. Just like DARE lessons, While most companies start engaging with consumers externally, the goal is for external triggers to become internal triggers.

Habit story: I knew a guy that said he’s “dealer” wore a very specific cologne, and any time he’d smell it, even years later, he thought about getting high.

  • External Trigger: An external trigger is any information that tells the user what to do next, like a ding or a vibration. External triggers can be anything; to get you to engage with the platform before internal triggers can take over. Push notifications and other tactics reinforce behaviors to get bring users back on a platform.
  • Action: The least amount of distance/process to get the user to a reward. The action should require little to no thought but gives the user that dopamine hit when completed. This repetition is how you build habits into the user’s behavior.

See Tinder’s Swiping & Fitt’s law

  • Variable Reward: A variable reward is basically the addictive pleasure from the variance in the attention you get back after your interaction with the platform (see FOMO, Your Brain on Instagram). Rewards vary from platform to platform but mainly revolve around the timing it takes to receive the reward and needs to vary to maintain interest.
  • Investment: Getting users to contribute their money, time, or effort tricks the user into perceiving that the platform or product is worth more than it actually is. This inflated sense of satisfaction is referred to in design thinking as the Ikea effect.

Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, Daniel Mochon of Yale, and Dan Ariely of Duke: “labor alone can be sufficient to induce greater liking for the fruits of one’s labor: even constructing a standardized bureau, an arduous, solitary task, can lead people to overvalue their (often poorly constructed) creations.”

Read More:

Pavlov’s Dog

The need to belong

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Motivation Theories

UX Designer w/ a background as a photographer and digital artist. I’m a visual storyteller dedicated to solving complex problems & producing creative solutions.