Simplified: Hooked by Nir Eyal


The hooked model

  • A trigger (an external recommendation or, later, an internal need),
  • An action (which a reward is anticipated)
  • A variable reward is given (which creates a craving)
  • And then an investment that will make it better next time (invite friends, personalisation or assets)


How much better

The Habit Zone

Hooked Model #1: Trigger

External Trigger

  • Paid Trigger – essentially SEO and ads
  • Earned Trigger – like app store ratings and press
  • Relationship Trigger – referrals, peer to peer (but doing this against users will lose trust)
  • Owned Triggers – triggers that come from the product you own (and hence can be the most powerfully – think Duolingo notifications)

Internal Triggers

  • Habits essentially – what your mind does unprompted. When you are bored do you immediately go to Facebook? More often than not, a negative feeling is a strong trigger of action.

Building triggers

Hooked model #2: Actions

Things must be simple in:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Labour
  • Mental effort
  • Social deviance/pressure
  • Disruption to routine
  • Logging in – the more steps, the more time, the more effort. Having one-click account creation improves this, but you still need to test it
  • Sharing – preformatting and summarising can help save effort and time
  • Decluttering – simplifying your page for the single route of value
  • Scrolling – infinite pages reduced effort and hence became a big hit

Perceptions change actions

  • Make things scarce and they will be more valuable i.e. showing the user a product is low in stock may encourage them to buy it in quicker time.
A Prime Example ;)
  • Framing – the bottle size determines the price
  • Anchoring – £50 down to £30 is much better than the non-discounted £30 one
  • Progress – if a loyalty card starts at 2 and goes to 8, it is more enticing than one that starts on 0 and goes to 6. LinkedIn has a profile strength indicator that will never start at 0%.

Hooked model #3: Reward

Anticipation is key, not reward

Reward types

  • Of the tribe – the feeling of acceptance, important and being included. Essentially watching that show, having that thing, joining that group, being recognised. Think rep, think likes, think karma.
  • Of the hunt – our brains are designed for motivation during a chase as evolutionary we engaged in persistence hunting. Think playing to win, think searching.
  • Of the self – a desire for competency which we may not even be enjoying the journey to. Think climbing the mountain as opposed to being lifted to the top, think solving the huge jigsaw or puzzle, despite hours of frustration.

Finite variability

Inherent variability

Pigeons demonstrating the importance of variability

Hooked Model #4: Investment

Examples of what users can invest in your app to keep them coming back

  • Content – like Facebook having images or Spotify generating playlists.
  • Data – like LinkedIn with resume data
  • Followers
  • Reputation
  • Skill – learning the software will make it ‘sticky’

Hooked Model #5? Loop

Now what? Oh yeah, responsibility!

The manipulation matrix


Defining habitual behaviour

  1. Identify – define what a habitual user does, how often and find them
  2. Codify – see the habitual users journey and measure it to see what the critical action is that builds a habitual user
  3. Modify – track and change (using cohort analysis)

Where opportunity lies

  • Tech change – if a technology is made to make things easier there is then an opportunity
  • Interface change – changing the design of something radically can help find new opportunities, for example the endless scrolling radically changed design in many areas where Pinterest and Instagram grew

Case studies of note

The Bible app

Fit bod

Last thoughts

A business’ value is a sum of its future profits.




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Focused on saving our time: for your life balance; for our food emissions and for booking airbnbs.