Hooked : How to Build Habit-Forming Products (2014) by Nir Eyal looks at how to use psychology to get people hooked on to an application. It’s a bit disturbing, a bit immoral and somewhat interesting.

The book uses the Trigger, action, variable reward and investment model to describe how to get people hooked onto an application. Eyal describes how Twitter, Facebook, Farmville and other successful applications work like this. He doesn’t mention similar but unsuccessful applications that people didn’t find addictive. It’s a substantial omission from the book.

There is certainly something in the idea. People including myself have become addicted to checking twitter or whatever and seeing what else is there. It’s also a little bit sad to think how we do get addicted to these devices and applications. Eyal does acknowledge that this should be used for good not evil but he doesn’t define which is which and happily mentions Zinga. It’s also worthwhile to think about how certain activities are addictive and what you can do to reduce poor habits that seem to fit this model.

The book isn’t bad but it’s far from great. It’s a bit like a Malcolm Gladwell book in that it cherry picks successful examples. It is, however, nicely short so it’s not a bad book to quickly read and get the ideas contained in it. And who knows, the next addictive app might be created with the model in mind.


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