Notes on “How to Manufacture Desire” by Nir Eyal

From Nir Eyal‘s presentation at the Interaction13 conference in Toronto Jan 2013, video here. (Tip of the hat to @allanberger.)

QuickTake Users return habitually to apps via hooks. Hooks are experiences that users find so valuable that they return frequently for more experiences. Hooks have 4 parts: triggers, actions, rewards and investments.

How did products like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare etc blow up so quickly? Why did users adopt their services? How did their services become habits? How can we create sticky experiences?

Users return to apps by getting hooked

  • Hooks are experiences designed to connect a solution to the user’s problem with enough frequency to form a habit

Eyal call his pattern for habitual engagement ATARI

  • A  A hook has 4 parts:
  • T  Trigger
  • A  Action
  • R  Reward
  •  I  Investment

TRIGGERS (first step of the hook)

External Triggers (ie designers tell users what to do next): Alarms, calls-to-action, emails, stores, authority–easier for designers to create but less effective

Internal Triggers (ie users decide what to do next) : Emotions, routines, situations, places, people–harder for designers to create but more effective

The key is to know your user’s internal trigger. Rewards etc can help with this

ACTIONS (second step of the hook)

When doing is easier than thinking, you get habitual action

BJ Fogg’s behavior model identifies 3 components which must exist at the same time to create an action: MAT, motivation + ability + triggers

Create simple actions for users to perform in anticipation of rewards: login, search, open, scroll, play etc. Keep it as simple and quick as possible

Increase behavior by ensuring there is a single clear trigger, by keeping the action as simple as possible, and by aligning with the right motivating reward

REWARDS (third step of the hook)

Motivate through rewards:

  • Create reward systems stimulators–increasing anticipation will increase the pleasure of the reward (badges etc)
  • Variable rewards: A ven diagram of the Tribe (likes, badges etc), the Hunt (food, money, info, the scroll on Pinterest etc), and the Self (mastery, consistency, competency, completion–ranking in games, reading a new email etc)

But you still need to solve the user’s pain

No engagement without autonomy–users resist being controlled and you increase chances for failure if you try to control them (ie having to create an account before visiting a site causes many users to move on)

Finite rewards decay as they become predictable

  • Finite variability: Single-player games, media consumption, running a race to finish it
  • Infinite variability: Multi-player games, creation of content, communities, running for pleasure

INVESTMENTS (fourth step of the hook)

Investment: Users do a bit of “work” and “pay” with something of value: time, money, social capital, effort, emotional commitment, personal data

Investments increase the likelihood of repeated product use and create the anticipation of future rewards. There are 3 ways to make users invest:

  1. Load the next trigger to spark users’ return (pinning in Pinterest in anticipation of repins, comments etc)
  2. Store something of value (system improves as people use it: Spotify gets to know your likes and then suggests new artists, investment apps let you track your investment success over time)
  3. Appeal to personal preferences (little investments can yield strong results– the choice of Spotify vs Rdio and Facebook vs Twitter is due in part to what users of each service prefer to invest in)

FIVE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CREATING YOUR APP/SITE

  1. What do users really want?
  2. What brings them to your product?
  3. What is the simplest behavior you can create that causes users to anticipate rewards and return to your app/site?
  4. Is the reward filling yet leaves the user wanting more (variable rewards)?
  5. What’s the bit of work to be done by the user that increases the likelihood of their return?
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