Hooked Is The Best Book on Product Design You'll Read This Year

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming ProductsHooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best business book I've read. And I've read a lot.

If you design products, software, apps, systems, programs, or companies, you have to read this book. Twice. And everyone you work with needs to read it, too.

I read about 15 to 20 books on business, persuasion, psychology, and product design every year. Sometimes more. And I read blogs on strategy, design, and influence every day of my life.

I also use what I learn in these books and blogs every day for a living. I am a persuasive design strategist.

I'm a sucker for books that validate my own favorite thinkers, and it didn't take long for Nir Eyal to stroll through my pantheon of persuasion artists.

He summarizes B.J. Fogg's Fogg Behavioral Model better than Fogg:

The Fogg Behavior Model is represented in a formula, B = MAT, which represents that a given behavior will occur when motivation, ability and a trigger are present at the same time and in sufficient degrees. [55] If any component of this formula is missing or inadequate, the user will not cross the “Action Line” and the behavior will not occur.

Eyal, Nir (2013-12-26). Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (Kindle Locations 735-738). Nir Eyal. Kindle Edition.

He credits Robert Cialdini, the godfather of persuasion:

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. It has even been used to coerce prisoners of war into switching allegiances.

Eyal, Nir (2013-12-26). Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (Kindle Locations 1516-1519). Nir Eyal. Kindle Edition.

He helps you apply the "IKEA Effect," coined by Dan Ariely:

The results showed that those who made their own origami animals valued their creation five times higher than the second group’s valuation, and nearly as high as the expert-made origami values (figure 29). In other words, those who invested labor associated greater value with their paper creations simply because they had worked on them. Ariely calls this the “IKEA effect.”

Eyal, Nir (2013-12-26). Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (Kindle Locations 1531-1534). Nir Eyal. Kindle Edition.

I've never read a book that covers all of these subjects so well. But that's not all. Nir Eyal's Hooked also give practical steps and tasks you can start using after the first chapter.

Here's an example:

Do This Now

Refer to the answers you came up with in the last “Do This Now” section to complete the following exercises:

- Review your flow. What “bit of work” are your users doing to increase their likelihood of returning?

- Brainstorm three ways to add small investments into your product to:

- Load the next trigger

- Store value as data, content, followers, reputation and skill

- Identify how long it takes for a “loaded trigger” to re-engage your user.

How can you reduce the delay to shorten cycle-time through the Hook?

Eyal, Nir (2013-12-26). Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (Kindle Locations 1783-1789). Nir Eyal. Kindle Edition.

In other words, this book will make you more valuable to yourself, your family, your products, and your company the minute you pick it up.

But don't just pick it up; read it. Read all. Highlight and take notes. And put it into action.

Thank you, Nir Eyal. You've made the world a better place.

View all my reviews

Here Is a Simple Solution to Global Warming and Hunger

Allan Savory caused the slaughter of 40,000 elephants in a vain attempt to save the planet by stopping desertification.

It turns out that he succeeded only in turning lush grasslands into desert. And, of course, killing 40,000 elephants.

Orphaned Elephant and Its Dead Mother

Savory loves animals. He grew up in Africa and adores elephants. So why did he kill them?

Scientists Often Do More Harm Than Good

Global temperatures are higher now, on average, than they were 100 years ago. I won’t deny that. Nor will I deny that human activity has contributed to that warming. It has.

The question is: which human activities contribute go global warming, or AGW (anthropogenic global warming).

Climate scientists like James Hansen labor to hide the truth. But they know.

The answer is shocking. And the solution is delicious.

In this TED talk, biologist Allan Savory explains how he and other scientists discovered that in their vainglorious attempts to improve nature climate scientists and biologists have, instead, nearly destroyed it.

[ted id=1683]

Thankfully, Allan Savory had the humility to admit he was wrong and the tenacity to spend his life finding a solution to the problem his fellow scientists caused.

Desertification Before Dinner?

One of the biggest culprits is the US Department of the Interior. The United States government has promoted desertification—turning grasslands and forests into barren desert—by driving cattle and herds off of government property, believing that animals cause desertification.

But herds of animals that roamed grasslands for eons before man help create and support grasslands. In other words, animals don’t kill nature, people do.

global map of desertification

The Solution to Desertification Is What’s For Dinner

The answer is beef.

Savory and his team have reversed desertification over 15 million hectares by introducing herds of cattle and sheep to deserts.

The process is simple. It works exactly as nature planned—before pointy-headed scientists decided they knew more about nature than nature.

Reversing Desertification Feed The Hungry, Too

In most of the world, only animals can feed the human population. The environment will not support enough plant-based nutrition no matter what you do.

But herds of animals can live off the land, and feed the people.

Savory has proven it.

Ask Congress To Reintroduce Herds To National Parks

The US government and its expert scientists caused desertification over millions of acres of the US by forcing cattle and sheep out of national parks. And the same government policies caused the drought plaguing western states today. Savory writes:

I have also found that only two things we do cause billions of acres of such land to exhibit predominantly bare ground between plants:

  1. Too few large herbivores (mainly livestock today) on the land demonstrating  unnatural behavior in the absence of pack hunting predators. This leads to over-resting the land while overgrazing plants.
  2. Overuse and misuse of the tool of fire

Neither droughts nor any other action of nature cause billions of acres of the US and the world’s grasslands to exhibit such high amounts of bare soil between plants.

Put the cows back where they belong.

Ask your US Senators and Representatives to watch this video. Send them a link to this blog. Ask them to promote good policy and reduce destruction of grasslands. Then, please tell the world you took action by writing a comment on this post.

This is a matter of life and death for people and the planet. And it might prevent another 40,000 orphaned baby elephants.

The Line For Mailbox iPhone App Is Very Long and Moving Slowly **UPDATE**

**UPDATE**  The line sped up, I got in, and I love it. Mailbox is a huge improvement over every email app I've tried on iOS.  It's better than the gmail app, and way better than the built-in iOS email app. Too bad it works only with gmail. I wish enterprise email system (i.e. Exchange/Outlook) were biased to productivity and action like free, personal email systems.  It seems silly that enterprise software slows us down and overloads us with crap, while personal systems let us focus on important things.

Perhaps that's one reason why big companies need government bailouts and regulations--to protect them from small companies that actually get stuff done.

Original Post:

Over 270,000 people are in line for access to a promising new email app for iPhone called Mailbox. It got a great review on LifeHacker today.

Mailbox - Put Email In Its Place

The app hit the App Store today, but the company has been taking reservations for weeks.

I was number 64,980, and access is granted in the order you placed your reservation.

The app displays the number of people in front and behind you, so you can tell how fast the line is moving.


The bad news: the line is crawling.

In three hours, I’ve gone from 64,980 to 64, 790. That’s about one person per minute. At this pace, I’ll get access on March 24, 2013.

If you reserve your spot right now, you’ll get access on August 28 at about 2 a.m.

For more, see the Mailbox site.

Here's what to do if your iPhone goes black.

Windows 8 Will Destroy Microsoft and a Bunch of PC Makers, Too

Windows 8 reminds me of a drop-dead-gorgeous woman who’s also a violent psychopath: you want to touch, but it might kill you. Windows 8 is so bad that a major shift is about to hit the PC world. That shift will hurt people who make their living on Microsoft-based PCs.

What’s so bad about Windows 8?

It has two distinct UIs, as different from each other as night and potatoes.

Windows 8 Desktop UIWindows 8 Metro or Start UI

The two UIs look and feel completely different.  The Desktop side looks like Windows 7’s desktop without a start button.  The other UI (formerly called “Metro”) looks beautiful and elegant and intuitive.

You’d think that you could work in the desktop side and play in the Metro side.  But you can’t.  Microsoft blocked your ability to work in only one operating environment.   Instead of a start button, you have to navigate to the Start page (the Metro UI) to open a program. Productivity killer. Every shift in environment interrupts your brain.  In other words, Microsoft won’t let you focus on your work: it demands that you multi-task.  Microsoft forces you, the customer, to work around its engineers' failures. That sucks.

Here’s an example.  I was on the Desktop UI.  I wanted to start a blog post.  I had drag the  mouse to the lower left-hand corner to expose and click the link to Metro.  In Metro, I found the tile for Windows Live Writer and clicked.  FLASH! I’m back on Desktop UI. Then Live Writer loads.  Horrible. But it gets worse.

It has two distinct versions of IE, and the pretty one doesn’t do very much.

The old looking IE with thick, top tool barThe awesome new Metro IE with NO TOOLBAR

Internet Explorer on the Metro side is fabulous.  They’ve moved all the controls and URL bar and all that garbage to the bottom of the pane so that the important stuff rises to the top.  I love that.  Plus, that bottom tool bar slides away when you’re not using it, devoting 100% of your screen to the thing you’re working on.  Brilliant!  Awesome!  Best Browser Ever!

But about half the time I’m working in that beautiful browser, I’m told that I’m requesting services only available in the (ugly) old Desktop browser. Click. FLASH!  Desktop UI. In other words, the beautiful new IE doesn’t really work, but Microsoft shipped it anyway.

I want to work in the Metro environment, so every time I'm jerked back into the semi-functional Windows 7 desktop, I'm frustrated.  Teased.

What about performance?  Who cares?

Windows 8 Task Manager

It feels about the same as Windows 7, but, in Windows 8, I’m always so frustrated and angry that I don’t really care how fast an app opens.  Everything requires many more keystrokes than Windows 7 did, so everything takes more time, energy, and thought.  But the new Task Manager is fun and useful for geeks who like to know what’s going on under the hood.

Windows 8 Is a Disaster

In short, Microsoft has ruined the PC and driven millions of PC users closer to Apple. Yes, it’s usable, but it’s a giant leap backward for PC users.

I could go on, but why?  Windows 8 sucks.  I am sorry I upgraded to it.  I feel bad for people who make PCs and the many programmers who imagine, design, and code desktop application for Windows. Microsoft’s utter contempt for design has put all these people’s jobs in jeopardy. This OS is so awful that I expect computer makers will give customers the option of Windows 7 to prevent a complete sales disaster at Christmas.

Can Microsoft fix it?  Windows 8 is software by committee. Designers, engineers, and users got equal say.  And the result just sucks. So, Yes, Microsoft can wake up from this nightmare.  They need to leave design to the designers, complete the Metro design, and kill the Desktop.

But they might not have time.  People have put off buying a new PC. They won't wait much longer. And they won't buy a PC running this crappy OS.  They'll buy a Mac.

On the other hand, Microsoft's Outlook.com email system is so awesome that I fired gmail.

Note:  I’m using Windows 8 RTM on an HP Pavilion with 8 GB of RAM and quad-core AMD processor.

Cherish Your Chachke

A few years ago, a major global technology company decided to go green, and really turned off its user community.

For years, the chachke at the company's annual conference filled dumpsters. Buttons, cups, badges, highligher sets, USB drives were casually thrown out or over-bought.  To save money and reduce waste, this company decided to end the chachke.

But users rebelled.

Workshop and breakout attendance plummeted.  Not only that, participants expressed their disappointment live over Twitter, Slashdot, and Stack Overflow.

The company, trying to do good, faced a PR crisis.

Subtraction By Subtraction

What happens when you take away extrinsic motivators, like badges or points, in a virtual system, or buttons and pins at a conference?

For years, scientists have shown that the introduction of extrinsic rewards--points, cash, badges, etc.--can deter desired behavior.  Other studies have contradicted this theory.

Recently, researchers Jennifer Thom, David R. Millen, and Joan DiMicco of IBM took a new approach to studying the effect of external rewards in social networks. Instead of adding points and badges, they took them away.

Their results show that external motivators play a big role in participation in some social networking systems:

The removal of the points system made a significant negative impact on the user activity of the site, and our analysis suggests that contribution of content significantly decreased after the deactivation of the points system.

Why Badges Work

Our tech company failed to grasp the meaning and use of their chachke by the participants. The company looked at the stuff as marketing give-aways.  Certainly, the user community looked at much of the material as junk--it ended up in the conference center's dumpsters.

But the users viewed certain chachke differently.

Each breakout session and workshop produced unique buttons and pins as marketing items to remind attendees of that department's particular value or products.  Attendees considered them status symbols of the number of workshops attended. Button collections served as a visible scorecard: the one with the most buttons wins.

In other words, the company's user community considered each button and pin a badge of honor.  When the company removed the badges, the community felt betrayed.

Watch What You Take Away

People keep score, and tribes develop customs.  When you take way the points, badges, or rewards that your users value, you reduce their desire to participate.  This applies to both employees, as the IBM study shows, and customers, as the tech company learned.

More imporantly, consider the value of game mechanics in designing any experience or system. As the IBM researchers point out:

the complete discontinuation of a game-like capability should not be taken lightly, as they do seem to motivate participation within a social system even for a short period of time.

As social games work their way into the enterprise and into consumer loyalty programs, the importance of knowing your "players" -- whether employees, customers, or channel partners -- is more important than ever.

Even more important, though, is understanding how people are playing your game.

Read the IBM Paper:

WordPress vs. Posterous

But I had to.

This blog is about simple solutions, not complete control. The amount of extra meaning I could create with the control I had in WP just didn't make up for the comlexity I had to manage.

We make trade-off like this one all the time. We give up something that we think we need to get more of what we really want. Giving up total control of my blog was painful, but the freedom to let someone else worry upgrades and plug-ins is worth it.And Posterous is very well put together.

What controls have you let go of?