Hooked is a handbook for designing habit-forming products, and Nir Eyal explains how to ensure that your product gets (and remains) deep underneath the skin of users, providing you with practical steps how to replicate this habit-forming magic for your own company throughout the book. After reading this book, I can’t decide whether I’m more interested in designing habit-forming products or in finding out how to prevent products from forming my habits.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products is a fascinating read for product managers and technology designers, and I definitely recommend reading it. Eyal breaks down how we can design habit-forming products, what makes them so addictive, and perhaps most importantly, how we can use this power for good. As a product manager working for an organization, we have a responsibility to increase the ROI, whether that means making a checkout experience intuitive enough that users will make a purchase, or subtly convincing them they want—or need—the product we’ve built. We also have a responsibility to the user, however. We are responsible for ensuring that our user journeys result in positive experiences, and that we are encouraging users to do not only what is good for our organizations, but also for themselves.

Eyal explores this morality issue through the lens of both the business and the user. He knows that the business seeks out profitable opportunities, and he provides readers with valuable tips for creating engaging products. However, given that a good “hook” convinces the user he needs more and more of the product, an ethical business can’t create just any engaging product—and Eyal has sought out examples where the users’ lives are genuinely improved by the products they get hooked on.

The “Hook” model

At the book’s core is the Hook model, which is a four-step process that companies bake into their habit-forming products. The Hook model describes an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit. Now, not every product or service can take advantage of all four parts of this Hook model. But most can.

Eyal’s Hook model consists of four steps which begin and then repeat to get customers ‘hooked’ on a product. The heart of the model lies in the ‘reward’ step: Eyal emphasizes that it must consist of variable rewards, and goes on to tell how such a reward system causes the release of a small dose of dopamine, which then reinforces the original action.

The Hook Canvas: Trigger, Action, Reward, Investment

The Hook Canvas

Step 1: Trigger Behavior

Triggers (external and internal) urge the user to take action and are the first step in the Hook Model. External triggers are embedded with information, which tells the user what to do next (example : the smiling face on Coca Cola commercial, offering you a fresh bottle of Coca Cola), while internal triggers manifest automatically in your mind, and tell the user what to do through associations stored in the user’s memory.

Step 2: Perform Action
Action is the simplest behavior in anticipation of reward : there are three ingredients required to initiate any behavior:

  • The user must have sufficient motivation.
  • The user must have the ability to complete the desired action.
  • A trigger must be present to activate the behavior

Step 3: Variable Reward for Action
Variable Rewards must satisfy user’s needs while leaving them wanting to re-engage with the product, and there are three types of variable rewards:

  • Rewards of the tribe is the search for social rewards fueled by connections with other people
  • Reward of the hunt is the search for material resources and information
  • Reward of the self is the search for rewards of mastery, competence and completion.

Step 4: Commitment to Product (Investment)
The fourth step of the Hook Model, is about anticipation of the rewards in the future, creating commitment to the product. The investment of effort exploits the concept of consistency. Spending a significant amount of time doing something makes a person believe that investment must have been worthwhile, and increases the probability of continuing that behavior.

The Behavior Model

Habits are defined as behaviors done with little or no conscious thought. Businesses that create customer habits gain a significant competitive advantage. The ultimate goal of a habit-forming product is to solve the user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of the relief. As a result, through consecutive hook cycles, successful products manage to bring users back repeatedly, without depending on advertising.

Dr. B. J. Fogg’s Behavior Model says:

  • For any behavior to occur, a trigger must be present at the same time as the user has sufficient ability and motivation to take action.
  • To increase the desired behavior, ensure a clear trigger is present; next, increase ability by making the action easier to do; finally, align with the right motivator.
  • Every behavior is driven by one of three Core Motivators:
    • Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain
    • Seeking hope and avoiding fear
    • Seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.
  • Ability is user and context dependent and is influenced by six factors: time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance, and non-routineness.

The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing. Basically Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger (B = M + A + T).

“Motivation or Ability — Which Should You Increase First? After uncovering the triggers that prompt user actions and deciding which actions you want to turn into habits, you can increase motivation and ability to spark the likelihood of your users taking a desired behavior. But which should you invest in first, motivation or ability? Where is your time and money better spent? The answer is always to start with ability.” – Nir Eyal


One of the key lessons from this book is the importance of simplicity. When a behavior is easier to do, it is more likely people will do it.  Hence, Nir needed to find a way to
simplify the action he wants the readers of his book to take. Therefore, he designed a supplemental workbook to guide you through thinking and applying the lesson in Hooked to your own business. It is not a replacement for the book of course, but rather a place to reinforce the main ideas and digest what you’ve learned. You can download the Hooked Workbook from Nir Eyal’s blog: Nir And Far

Personal Notes

I read the whole thing in a few days and found that it’s a perfect fit for the type of content I love: Hands-on, actionable advice that anyone can start implementing right away. If you’re looking for a new read that will shape how you look at marketing, products, design and behavior, check out the book here.