How to Build Habit-Forming Products

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1- immediate relief

_ When you feel bored, a list of interesting tweets or Instagram photos is one‐click away.
_ When you feel uncertain, a list of Google search results is a few seconds away.
_ When you feel insignificant, you can tap the email icon on your phone to see a list of people who need you.

• Human beings have always felt bored, uncertain and insignificant, but thanks to our smartphones, we’ve never had a faster way to remedy these “negative” emotions.
Evan Williams, the co‐founder of Medium and Twitter, tells us the formula he and other technology
companies use is, “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time… and use
modern technology to take out steps.”


2- Offer Variable Rewards

• “Simply giving users what they want is not enough to create a habit‐forming product.”

Every time you pick up your phone you’re in for a surprise. There is a constant stream of new content coming
your way via email, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and a dozen other apps. In a list of new content, you’re
bound to find an interesting idea or photo worth liking. The frequency and variability of pleasurable content
inside apps keep you hooked.

• In the 1950s, psychologist B.F. Skinner put pigeons inside of a box. Inside the box was a button and every time the pigeons pecked the button, they received a food pellet. The pigeons learned to peck the button when they were hungry and to stop when they were satiated.

Then Skinner adjusted the food pellet dispenser so that sometimes the pigeons pecked the button and received a food pellet and sometimes they received nothing. Making the reward variable made the pigeons go insane. One pigeon pecked the button more than two times a second for 16 hours straight!


3- Get Us to Make Small Investments

• “A psychological phenomenon known as the escalation of commitment has been shown to make our brains do all sorts of funny things. The power of commitment makes some people play video games until they keel over and die. It is used to influence people to give more to charity… The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it.”

• When you open the Instagram app for the first time, Instagram asks you to add a friend. Instagram makes adding people easy because they give you popular suggestions and offer to scan your Facebook and Contact list. Instagram knows when you make the small investment needed to add one person to your Instagram account you are more likely to return to the app when they send you a notification.

The more often you return to an app, the more you invest in an app, and the more likely you are to form a mindless app checking habit.

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