Create products, shape habits. Interview with Nir Eyal

Original author: Nir Eyal
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Earlier this month, the world saw a new book by Nir Eyal “Enthusiastic: how to create a product that forms habits." A week ago, the author gave an interview to, we present to your attention a free translation of this conversation:

In your book, you describe a “hook” (hook), as the use of user experience in order to form the user's habit of constantly using a particular resource. You also mention the moral dilemmas associated with the creation of this tool. How to distinguish an unhealthy addiction from a well-designed trap?

Bad habits are terrible, they harm the user. I believe that we are approaching an era in which designers can help their users build healthy habits using the technologies they use. By creating addiction to a specific product, we can help people live a healthier, happier and more active life. We just need to understand the deep psychological aspects of the habit in order to be able to shape them.

Of course, sometimes we use too much technology, but each of us is able to think and choose the right rhythm for ourselves. Even though the user is overloaded with sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I think that they bring much more benefit than harm. For example, I would not want to return to the times when they did not exist. I am sure they help people interact and, of course, improve my life.

When people understand what makes these products so powerful, they can put them in their place. The main thing is that we control our habits, and not habits control us.

As the IoT evolves, we expect technology to anticipate our needs and desires. How would you use this expectation in designing a habit-forming product?

Anticipating user needs is the foundation of good design. As technology develops and spreads, this idea gains more and more weight. The fact that modern devices are capable of sending reminders and warnings in various forms suggests their ability to change our behavior in areas in which this was not possible several years ago. The programs we use are easily transferred from a computer to a laptop, mobile phone and other wearable devices, so we are confident that we will soon see a much larger number of technologies that form habits.

Could you give us an example of a full-fledged trap, anticipating the needs of the user?

The better the external trigger (notification) finds a response in the internal trigger (emotional need), the higher the likelihood that the user will respond to this irritant. For example, the news digest from Yahoo, which is surprisingly addictive. He sends you a notification in the morning, just at the time when you are subconsciously worried about the lack of information about what is happening in the world. Over time, the user develops the habit of using the application even without a reminder.

It seems to me that the topic of internal and external triggers is especially interesting. What is it and what stimulus is able to resonate with the internal trigger of the user?

A “trap” of experiences connects users ’problems with a solution proposed by a company often enough to form a habit. This technique is used in many products that we use, without really thinking about it. Over time, the user forms a clear connection (association) between the problem and its solution, a habit is formed. External stimuli, such as advertising or a call to action, activate an internal trigger through this association.

Product use is usually associated with an emotional point of pain. For example, what kind of product do people use when they feel lonely and are looking for communication? Facebook of course! What do we do when we feel uncertain? We google! And when are we bored? Many people open YouTube, Pinterest, check sports results or watch stock prices - there are many products that appeal to boredom.

The product uses a trap to create a powerful association. This process consists of four stages: trigger, action, reward and investment.

Triggers are of two types: external and internal. Addictive products start with external irritants, such as newsletters, website links, or the app icon on the phone.

Suppose Barbara, a young woman from Pennsylvania, saw in her Facebook feed a nice photograph of a relative from the countryside. She really likes this picture, and she thinks that it would be nice to go there with her brother. An external trigger has its effect, and she clicks on the photo. Through the sequential effect of traps, users begin to form an association between the stimulus and the internal trigger (need), which becomes part of everyday behavior.

Nir Eyal, “Enthusiastic: How to Create a Habit-Forming Product.”

What criteria must a “reward” meet in order to be effective and successful?

The classic work of B. F. Skinner on intermittent (partial) reinforcement claims that receiving rewards according to a torn schedule is more effective in shaping a certain behavior. Of course, we see the same mechanism that influenced Skinner's famous laboratory pigeons, affecting our behavior every day. All products use variable rewards to make us return.

I distinguish three types of partial reinforcement that these products use: Rewards of the Tribe, Hunt Trophies, and Self Rewards. All three types are extremely effective and use the effect of partial reinforcement, but differ in the type of reward. Tribal awards are anchors that arise when interacting with other people: competition, cooperation, the joy of communication. Trophies are the receipt of information and resources, and Internal rewards are motivation, skill, ability to control. The most effective products use three methods of fastening at once.

The key to success is understanding the user's pain point. The only way to do this is to start with an internal trigger. There must be a connection between this trigger and an external stimulus, otherwise the trap will not work.

What would recommend to our readers?

Create products that will improve the lives of people, and which you yourself will use. Then you will not only be sure that the manipulation that you use has a strong moral foundation, but you will also perfectly understand the user, which will greatly increase your chances of success.

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