How to build habit forming products: What are Habits

February 22nd, 2017

How to build habit forming products: What are Habits (Part-1)

Designing a meaningful product is a dream for a designer.

They design with enthusiasm and passion so that it meets the needs of the user and compels them to come back.

According to the Industry Insiders, on an average, people check their smartphones 34 to 150 times a day. This clearly reveals that we are Hooked to the technology.

The Play Store and the App Store is an ultimate stress buster for users where they find everything they want.

Users love interesting apps. Remember Candy Crush Saga? The app was downloaded by 500 million smartphone users and converted sales of $1 million every day.

The reason was simple- Users were hooked to it. 

However, not every app goes viral like the Candy Crush Saga.

If you browse the Store, you might find tonnes of apps similar to Candy Crush.

The question here is:

Why some products capture our attention the very moment we install them while we delete some right away?

While you give only one chance to a new app you install, apps like Instagram and Facebook compels users to come back.

The key is Habit – good products develop a loyal fan base.

Habit is the reason why “freemium” version of each app does not convert customers to paying customers.

Rather than engaging customers for a short session, they become a part of their habits.

Just like a businessman cannot forget checking emails time-to-time, hooked users also go back to the app, time and again. They are motivated by their habits.

This motivation further leads to an action. And customer actions are the best part of sales.

Here is an infographic that explains how users are hooked to technology:

How to build habit forming products

When you develop a habit of using a particular app, you come back to it, sometimes unknowingly.

In this article, we will provide you a practical insight to create user habits that stick.

Let’s Start:

Habits are automatic behaviour triggered by situational cues.

They usually require a little or no conscious thought. If you are in a habit of getting up early in the morning and checking your phone, it is evident that you don’t put a thought into it. This is the kind of impact that an app also can have on you.

Not only has the technology helped us personally, it has also manipulated human minds to create compulsions. Just like you reach for a chocolate bar every time you’re stressed, your mind compels you to use the apps you like.

Compulsions or Addictions?

Obviously digital products can easily turn into addictions that are not healthy for the user.

Designers should not work in the direction where apps may cause distress with engagement.

What are habit forming products?

In this digital era, businesses want to create digital products that help users. However, habit forming products are the ones which not only helps them but also satisfies their urge just like a chocolate bar. It becomes something they are hooked to.

If you are into a product building or wish to start your dream project in the near future, you should definitely know how to build products the users would love and create a habit of.

habit forming products

The Habit Zone

To understand customer engagement, let us understand Habits in a little more detail.

It’s been more than a decade since neuroscientists and psychologists have discovered some amazing facts about the human habits. Not only have these facts benefitted them in understanding humans, these facts are now penetrating the digital zone.

They are helping entrepreneurs bring customers back without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

Habits Are Automatic Behaviour with A Purpose:

Have you ever wondered if you locked the door before leaving for work or switched off the coffee pot?

Invariably, if you have gone back and noted that you did lock the door the first time, you have no memory of doing so. Why does this happen?

Because we consign certain functions we repeatedly do to our sub-consciousness. Habits free up our mental space by relegating redundant activities. In this case, locking the door before leaving your house has become your habit. The memory of picking up the key from the pot and locking the door might not be so fair because your mind skips the part as it is a redundant function for it.

“We are creatures of habit more than we are creatures of change.”

― A.J. Darkholme, Rise of the Morningstar

Habits Make and Break Us

How many times have you been advised make it a habit to get up early and go for a jog? Why were we never advised to stay up late at night?

Because our habits hugely impact our lifestyle. 40% of our daily actions depend on the habits we have built over the years.

In simple words, we are bound by our habits that can make or break us.

Habits are Forever

If you love being on social media, can you ever imagine your life without it?

Neurologists say that once we have developed certain habits, they really never go away. You might stay away from them for some time, but they will eventually come back.

However, apps and products may be replaced with newer ones. This hugely makes space for budding entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas without worrying about the first-mover advantage.

The Hook Model

With habits comes supercharging growth. If you are likely to use an app every day, you tend to tell your friends and family about it and recommend them to use them as well. Hooked users become brand evangelists.

But is developing a habit for your product that easy?

So, there comes The Hook Model.

The habits facts have been creatively summed up to a Hook Model. This Hook Model helps us establish a permanent relationship with the customer that lasts a lifetime.

Here is the Hook Model defined by Nir Eyal in his best selling novel – Hooked.

Hook Model

Let’s focus on them individually.


Triggers are the cues that tell your brain to go into an automatic mode for which habits to use. Triggers can include places, times of day, emotions, and much more.


The trigger, driven by the external or internal cues, directs the user on the next step- Action. It informs the user what to do next.

Variable Reward:

If the User has decided to take an action, this step rewards them by solving their problem. Variable rewards are powerful as they take a trip deep inside the user’s brain.


The more the user invest their time on your product, the more they value it. User Investment plays a key role in the Hook Model and ranks your product engagement.

Habits are easier to develop when we are persuaded by good products. By following these 4 techniques, it becomes easy to transform user activities into habits.

Now all you have to learn is when and how to implement this Hook Model to build products that users fall in love with.

Up next in habit forming products: Understanding the Hook Model

In part 2, we’ll discuss the hook model in detail. We will also talk about the ways this hook model can be successfully embedded in your designing and marketing strategies to bring out the best for the users. Stay tuned!