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Using Digital Experiences to Create New Habits: Take-Aways From Nir Eyal’s Hook Canvas


New technologies, more information, shorter attention spans and almost everything accomplished with the internet of things creates fierce competition for our attention from the digital experiences in our lives. To effectively navigate this constant barrage of beeps and buzzes, we must decide which experiences to pay attention to and which to ignore. Inevitably, some apps and sites become invaluable, while others fall by the wayside.

We recently attended a talk with Designers & Geeks which featured Nir Eyal. Eyal developed the HOOK canvas that focuses on strategies to create habitual products. The model draws on psychological research about how habits are formed and incorporates four essential elements—triggers, actions, rewards, and investments. These elements can be observed in successful consumer products, but are often lacking in enterprise experiences. According to Eyal, “The HOOK is an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution with enough frequency to form a habit.”

Digital experiences which do not inspire regular use are missed opportunities for organizations which rely on them to influence behavior through the transmission of ideas of culture, representation of the enterprise brand, and provision of information and tools in support of work.

We believe that Eyal’s Hook canvas provides some good food for thought to the design of enterprise experiences. Here are our top take-aways from his presentation:

  1. Successful experiences have both internal and external triggers. Internal triggers are strong emotions such as boredom or loneliness which prompt us to act (think Facebook). They are the foundation upon which a digital experience provides value for its constituents.

    External triggers are the prompts that make constituents go to the solution. This type of trigger tells us that there is something to do. For example, the number of new items displayed on the Facebook app.
  2. For a person to act, they must be motivated, capable of acting, and experience something which triggers the action. (Eyal draws on B.J. Fogg’s work at the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab for this.) Designs that consider these factors better support the likelihood of action. Anticipation or avoidance of emotions–people tend to seek pleasure, hope, and acceptance while they avoid pain, fear, and rejection—can increase motivation. Ability can be affected by time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social acceptance, and non-routine. Triggers which are designed to be easily perceived support successful completion of action.
  3. The most effective actions are simple and continue to reward us. Controls such as scrolls or swipes support actions that are easy to accomplish. However, each quick movement gives us huge results like the continuous feed of news on Facebook or the never-ending grid of cards on Pinterest.
  4. Rewards do not have to be material to be effective motivators, but they must be related to constituents’ problems to have value. Rewarding people only for the sake of it (badges, anyone?) won’t keep people coming back. Instead, rewards must be connected to the problem that the experience solves. These can be characterized in several ways including social fulfillment, hunt for self-satisfaction, and self-achievement.
  5. Investment is necessary for the experience to hold value over time. When we engage with a digital experience, our preferences become understandable–what we do, when we do it, and who we connect with all provide data that can shape the experience in the future. And when we act (for example, sharing, following, or commenting), triggers are created. Eventually, our participation in the cycle creates new a habit.

To remain competitive in this time of digital transformation, organizations must create digital experiences that enable their people to accomplish their work more efficiently, more effectively, and with greater satisfaction. The creation of these experiences requires considerable time and expense, and will affect everyone in an organization. Eyal’s HOOK canvas is a useful approach to ensuring that design for the enterprise pays off—we can leverage the concepts to create experiences that become invaluable and support happier people actively moving an organization’s goals forward.

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