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UX & Design Tips

| 2 minutes read

How to build habit-forming products

Habit-forming technologies are essential for increasing human engagement with your product or service. Just look at Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook - how is it that these sites are so addictive?  

Products can be designed using The Hooked Model to create, reduce, or even break habits. 

The Hooked Model

The stages are trigger, action, variable reward and investment.

diagram of the hook model - nir eyal


Engaging users for the first time will require a trigger. This is something that will prompt the user to take action. Triggers come in two types - external and internal. 

First-time triggers are nearly always external triggers, and these can include push notifications, emails or paid advertising. 

Internal triggers manifest automatically in the user's mind, you can’t see, touch or hear an internal trigger. 

The goal is for the external trigger to eventually form habits so that user engagement is prompted by their internal trigger. In other words, the user doesn’t even have to think about using your product. 


The trigger, driven by either internal or external cues, informs the user what to do next. However, this action must be as simple as possible (remember we are trying to create a habit). 

Dr. BJ Fogg formulated Fogg’s Behaviour Model explains what drives a user’s action.

Fogg states that there are three ingredients required to initiate any and all behaviours:

1. The user must have sufficient motivation

2. The user must have the ability to complete the desired action

3. A trigger must be present to activate the behaviour

Variable Reward

After taking the required action, the user needs to receive a reward. Rewards need to be variable in order to hook a user into a cycle and form a habit. Otherwise, they start anticipating the rewards and will eventually lose interest.

There are different types of rewards:

Rewards of the tribe: The search for social rewards, for users in search of “likes” and “shares” to make them feel accepted, appreciated, and validated.

Rewards of the hunt: The search for material resources and information, for users who cherish the infinite scroll in search of that elusive gem of a post. 

Rewards of the self: The search for personal gratification and accomplishment, for users who like an empty inbox, completing targets and ticking off to-do lists.

Almost all habit-forming products combine the three types of variable rewards, increasing their effectiveness in creating user habits. 


Finally, it’s time to ask for a small investment from our users. Unlike the action phase which delivers immediate gratification, the investment phase concerns the anticipation of the rewards in the future. 

The more users invest time and effort into a product, the more they value it. These investments increase the likelihood of a user passing through the Hook again by loading the next trigger to start the cycle all over again. 


When built into products these stages drive user engagement and lead to habit formation. In other words, a product that users keep coming back to.

Passle is currently researching how we use the hooked model to better engage our users and provide them with more satisfying rewards. We want to help our users create new habits because when used for good, habits can enhance people’s lives with entertaining and even healthful routines.

Through consecutive hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement, bringing users back repeatedly, without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.