Hooked: A Book Review

What the Hooked book is about?

hooked a habit forming product book reviewI recently finished reading Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products and wanted to share what I’ve learned from the book and answer the question if the book worth reading?

The author Nir Eyal, who has an excellent blog called nirandfar.com (neat name, no?), looks into nuts and bolts of products which we spent hours of our time playing and working with. I believe he first self published the book based on his own research and posts he wrote on his blog but later the book was later got published through a publisher.

I follow Nir’s blog also as it is focused on this topic and in I’ve learned interesting stuff (like messaging apps which I wrote about earlier).

In my opinion this book is an extension of another excellent book Power of Habit which looks into inner mechanism of habits and how to use this mechanism to create a new behaviour or replacing an old one.

In Power of Habit we learn that each habit or routine behaviour consists of 3 parts: 1) cue 2) routine 3) reward.


Hooked looks at the above loop but with more detail and specifically from aspect of interacting with a product and he adds a fourth step to this loop:


So what are these 4 steps that we go through when we interact with sticky products?

First one is trigger: Trigger is one thing that nudge us do some thing, this can be external and explicit like a button or a link with strong call to action or internal and implicit like a fleeting feeling of boredom or the need to stay in touch with friends. This usually makes us take the next step to either click the button or open facebook page to alleviate that feeling of boredom and loneliness.

The key thing I learned from this chapter is to underpin the internal trigger through asking “Why” from users to understand the underlying their feeling (this is heavily emphasized in Customer Development book as well). Internal trigger is most powerful because it compels users to take action without any spending marketing dollar or nudge from product designer to use the product.

Second one is Action: the steps you take within the application or with the product in hope of achieving results, getting  feedback from. This chapter makes it clear that user takes “action” when they have enough “motivation”, “ability” to do those steps and the “trigger. (Look at the Behavioral Model by venerable BJ Fogg). Since repetition is the key step in forming a habit, the easier the action the better chance of repeating it again in future. Nir shows interesting example of how producing content on the web has evolved from challenge of hosting a website to a few clicks to create and share content in Facebook.

Third one is Variable Reward: Not knowing what to expect for reward or having a new kind of reward is the key concept in making users repeat their actions in hope of getting more satisfaction out of that action. For example constant scrolling on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest happens because with each scroll user doesn’t know what type of update or interesting content s/he will face therefore it keeps at scrolling again. For more info take a look at this detail blog post on the subject.

The last step is Investment: The last phase of the Hook is where user is asked to do bit of work. This last bit of the work is what makes the user to place more value in the product. The more time spent with one product and the more personal or professional data you put in, the more user become hooked with the product. It will also be more painful to leave. Why? because we value our effort more than it’s really worth and once we become familiar with one product they keep coming back to it. I think this can explains why financial analysts keep using arcade, difficult and extremely unfriendly Bloomberg machine as oppose to better designed, easier solutions.

What do I think about the book?

The good:

  • I liked the book even though I was familiar with the concepts explained in the book I like detail explanation of each part of a habit as well as lots of product examples accompanied book.
  • I also liked how Nir who started out as a person not familiar with the topic in a span of 2.5 years turned the table around, did all the research, self published the book and now is considered a subject matter expert in the field.

The bad:

  • I started this book with a lot of expectation of more in-depth material perhaps because of my own fascination with behavior change topic I didn’t find a whole lot of new things in the book. I also found the focus of example mostly on consumer products. I wish there were more B2B example or at least more variety. There was too many reference to Pinterest for my liking.
  • I also found the end of chapter exercises too high-level and actually being able to work off of it. I myself always prefer detail, practical guides over to high level blueprints.

photo credit: I used the hook model from nirandfar.com blog and the habit loop from power of habit book page. Hope it’s ok!

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