Nir’s Note: This guest post was authored by Lisa Kostova Ogata, one of the first product managers at Farmville and a VP of Product at Bright.com (sold to LinkedIn). While at Zynga, Lisa learned how to shape user behavior, but in this essay she describes her surprise when she found herself unexpectedly hooked.
I don’t consider myself a gambler. I’m the person who places a minimum bet at the roulette table with the specific intent of getting a free drink — after all, it’s cheaper than buying one at the bar. Yet, there I was on a Monday night, glued to my computer screen for over an hour as I watched an online auction. I couldn’t resist.
Nir’s Note: This guest post is written by Ali Rushdan Tariq. Ali writes about design, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation on his blog, The Innovator’s Odyssey.
As I clicked the big green “Take This Course” button, I became acutely aware of an uneasy feeling. This would be the 22nd course I’d have signed up for on Udemy.com, one of the world’s leading platforms for teaching and learning classes online. I had become a binge-learner.
Or had I? After scanning my enrolled course list, I gathered the following stats:
And so the uneasy feelings inside bubbled to the surface. With 13 courses left virtually untouched since enrolling (the price ranging from free to $30 for each of them) I naturally started deriding myself. I thought I was a non-finisher, bad at commitments, and lacked focus. Perhaps even a compulsive buyer, financially carefree, or worse yet, a wanna-be learner. Perhaps it was some combination of the above?
Nir’s Note: This guest post is written by Michael Simpson. Michael is the co-author of The Secret of Raising Money, which he wrote with Seth Goldstein.
Raising money for a startup is like sex. The more unattainable you seem, the better your chances of getting lucky. Also, the more interest you receive from others, the more appealing you will become to everyone else.
This essay discusses two psychological principles at work in an entrepreneur’s fundraising efforts: social proof and scarcity. Nir has discussed both in previous blog posts regarding product design. In this article, I’ll take you through the mechanics of each, and show you how entrepreneurs use these tools to close their rounds.
“If you’re walking down the street and everyone is looking up at the sky, you look up at the sky.” -Babak Nivi, AngelList
Nir’s Note: Michal Levin asked me to write this essay for her new book, Designing Multi-Device Experiences.
Allow me to take liberties with a philosophical question reworked for our digital age. If an app fails in the App Store and no one is around to use it, does it make a difference? Unlike the age-old thought experiment involving trees in forests, the answer to this riddle is easy. No!
Without engagement, your product might as well not exist. No matter how tastefully designed or ingeniously viral, without users coming back, your app is toast.
How, then, to design for engagement? And as if that were not challenging enough, how should products that touch users across multiple devices, like smartphones, tablets, and laptops, keep people coming back?
The answer is habits. For the past several years, I have written and lectured on how products form habits, and my work has uncovered some conclusions I hope will prove helpful to product designers.
We’ve just announced new speakers and their respective talks for the upcoming Habit Summit taking place on March 25th at Stanford. The line-up is amazing!
We’ll hear from experts like Julie Zhuo (Director of Product Design at Facebook), best-selling authors like Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and Natasha Dow Schull (Addiction by Design), innovators like Josh Elman (formerly of Twitter and LinkedIn), Jeff Atwood (co-founder of Stack Overflow), a number of VCs, product leads, and other phenomenal speakers.
This event was created for product managers, designers, executives, and marketers: anyone whose product or company would benefit from repeat customer engagement. I’m thrilled to be involved and I can’t wait to hear these speakers.
Tickets to the conference are selling fast and we’re on track to sell out. If you are planning to attend, note that prices of tickets go up on March 10th, so get your ticket soon. More information about the summit is available at: HabitSummit.com
Wednesday was my birthday. It should have been a great day. My wife and daughter had prepared a delicious breakfast, I had lunch with close friends, and I finished up some writing and client work. At the end of the day I headed to San Francisco to enjoy a swanky scotch tasting at a friend’s house.
Then I heard the news. WhatsApp had been purchased by Facebook for $19 billion. When I read about the deal I blurted out the words, “Holy Crap!” so loudly that a stranger nearby gave me a disapproving look.
I was having a fantastic day just minutes before but suddenly I felt crummy, like something unjust had happened. The malaise lingered as my mind began to rationalize the news. Was the deal justified? Why had Facebook paid so much? What did the deal mean for the future of the tech industry?
Nir’s Note: Parts of this article are adapted from Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products.
On February 8, 2014, an app called Flappy Bird held the coveted No. 1 spot in the Apple App Store. The app’s 29-year-old creator, Dong Nguyen, reported earning $50,000 a day from the game.
Then, the Vietnamese developer sent a shocking message. In a tweet many dismissed as a publicity stunt, Nguyen wrote, “I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird‘ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird‘ down. I cannot take this anymore.” And as promised, the game disappeared the next day.
This is not the way success typically ends.
Flappy Bird was downloaded over 50 million times and unleashed a digital tsunami of players and pundits dissecting what turned into a global fixation. Players’ only goal in the game was to pilot a pixelated bird through gaps of pipe. Yet the app seemed to have a mysteriously seductive power. In a TechCrunch article titled Confessions Of A Flappy Bird Addict, Josh Constine wrote, “It humiliates me, but I like it. It’s the dominatrix of mobile games.”
Nir’s Note: This article is adapted from Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products, a book I wrote with Ryan Hoover and originally appeared on TechCrunch.
Earlier this month, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone unveiled his mysterious startup Jelly. The question-and-answer app was met with a mix of criticism and head scratching. Tech-watchers asked if the world really needed another Q&A service. Skeptics questioned how it would compete with existing solutions and pointed to the rocky history of previous products like Mahalo Answers, Formspring, and Aardvark.
In an interview, Biz articulated his goal to, “make the world a more empathetic place.” Sounds great but one wonders if Biz is being overly optimistic. Aren’t we all busy enough? Control for our attention is in a constant tug-of-war as we struggle to keep-up with all the demands for our time. Can Jelly realistically help people help one another? For that matter, how does any technology stand a chance of motivating users to do things outside their normal routines?
Nir’s Note: In this guest post, Ryan Hoover, contributing writer of my book Hooked, describes how nostalgia is used to drive attention and build an engaging product. Follow @rrhoover or visit his blog to read more about startups and product design.
Remember Nickelodeon GUTS?
How do you feel right now? Did reading those words stimulate any emotional reaction? Did it bring back memories? Excite you? Make you smile?
Nostalgia is powerful. Simply mentioning the names of childhood toys, old TV shows, classic video games, and other pastime activities often instigate an emotional response, reminiscence. But why? Why is nostalgia so compelling and how can product creators use this to build more engaging products?
I’m thrilled to announce I’m co-chairing the first Habit Summit!
On March 25th at Stanford University, a gathering of experts, entrepreneurs, and industry insiders will share their hard-won insights on how to build habits. This event is for designers, executives, visionaries, and marketers: anyone whose product or company would benefit from repeat customer engagement.
We’ll hear from best-selling authors like Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat). Technology innovators like Josh Elman (formerly of Twitter and Facebook) and Jeff Atwood (co-founder of Stack Overflow) will also be there. Several more phenomenal speakers will be announced soon but in the meantime I wanted to offer my readers special pricing for the event.
Until February 1st, you can use the code “NirAndFarFriends” for $50 off the early-bird pricing. Prices will go up as the event nears so get your tickets here: habitsummit.eventbrite.com
More information about the summit is available here: HabitSummit.com