The methodology of attracting customers and maintaining a loyal, stable client base is built on repeated engagement. In order to keep the users actively engaged over an infinite amount of time, the product needs to become a habit in their lives. In other words, a habit is an action performed without conscious compulsion – something we do automatically, without thinking, simply because we need to, like brushing our teeth.
Hooking the user: Methodology
Habits cannot be created, Nir Eyal writes in the book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”, explaining the methodology. Developers and designers can only build on existing habits, and the methodology clearly highlights that a habit-forming product is possible only if the developer understands the users and their needs. It is in the developer’s power to hook the user, which is done in 4 steps:
- a trigger (the desire to use the product),
- an action (what the user does following a trigger with the expectation of a reward),
- a variable reward (a payout that develops a craving),
- and investment (the users invest work, money, or time into the product, and stick with it over a competitor).
There are habits, and there are habits. According to the “Hooked” author, it is the moral imperative for product designers to use a hook for good and build products that contribute to creating a better, healthier, happier and more productive life for their customers.
How we do it at Slash
The core of the “hook” methodology is understanding what the customer wants and defining a solution for that need based on natural habits. It works very well with the product philosophy we have at Slash.
One of the major steps is to set clearly what the product is about – we call it the Central Unit of the product. What does it do? What problems is it supposed to solve? How does it engage the user? Here too, understanding the customer is key. You have to work with possible internal triggers in this phase, i.e. the reasons users might feel the need for your product. What do you do, though, if your potential clients need or might want your product, but the internal trigger isn’t strong enough to compel action?
Directing the user to action is the external trigger. It can be in the form of a notification or a suggestion; regardless of the form, it has to be as simple as possible: if there are too many steps to take or if the process is complicated in any other way, the user will not be bothered. This simplicity should not come at the cost of style, however. Elegance is a major factor here, being a very attractive feature for customers. With time, if the product satisfies the client, they will need no reminders. Using your product will become a habit.
Other hooks are involved as well: you should define what rewards your customer is going to get out of your product and what the customer will be ready to invest in it. The rewards should be unpredictable to the extent that keeps the user motivated. “Hooked” describes 3 types:
- Rewards of the tribe – create a connection between the user and the group of like-minded individuals also using the product;
- Rewards of the hunt – create a compelling goal for the user to achieve;
- Rewards of the self – set tasks that the user will want to complete for the sake of completing them, because the achievements it brings are the motivation to continue using the product.
Users’ engagement with the product is a two-way road. They get rewards and they put something into the product: they spend money on purchasing it, they make time to use it regularly, they help promote the product by sharing information about it. Investment is intertwined with rewards, as the more satisfied the customer is, the more motivated they are to invest and continue engaging with the product.
A big part of this process is determining your product’s place in the market. Research your competitors: you have to know who is already selling similar solutions, how they are marketing it, how difficult it will be to convince their users to switch to your product and vice versa, what makes your product stand out among all competitors. This analysis will help define the type of users you should focus on, and understand how to monetize your solution.
We at Slash know how important it is to define the solution properly. It is how we actually begin working on the product design. With the user stories we analyze and with the division of design and production into sprints, we have a model that enables us to both make the objective of the product as clear and possible and keep the design relevant. We can do it thanks to the agile methodology that secures clear and constant communication between the client and the development team. The Hook methodology is very helpful in defining and correcting the purpose of the product because it works with natural habits.