We strive for engaging products, but what does engagement truly mean? It means that our users develop a habit of using the product over time. Nir Eyal, the author of the book, “Hooked: Creating Habit-Forming Products” defines habit-forming products as those that essentially allow people to “do what they fundamentally want to do.”  Habit-forming doesn’t mean that every app needs to be gamified like Candy Crush or addictive like Facebook. Habit-forming products users accomplish their goals in such a meaningful and rewarding way that people want to come back again and again to use it


As Director of Product Management at a healthcare startup, I led the design and launch of an app that served moms of kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD. The two products I designed and launched helped moms monitor their child’s progress on a treatment program so they could have better conversations with their pediatrician. Because we were a lean start up at the time, I played three roles in the product development: user researcher, ux designer, and product manager. To create a habit-forming product, I applied existing models from Silicon Valley to form the product strategy

Finding the Core Action: According to the Greylock Partners Hierarchy of Engagement, creation of a habit is the first step in fostering ongoing and self-perpetuating product retention. To do so, I needed to find one core action that could be the habit - what was the one meaningful behavior that Moms would do on a daily basis? I answered this question by conducting user interviews and surveys to identify this core action.

My research showed that while physicians prefer symptom assessments and tracking, Moms wanted to focus on their child’s positive abilities, which is progress on their overall behaviors at home and school. The core action that was the foundation of the habit was daily behavior tracking for home and school by parents and teachers.

Applying the “Hooked” Model to Push Design and Feature Set Further: The book, Hooked: How to create Habit forming products” outlines a model for how to create habit forming products. I reviewed the model and through - what can this product do better than others in these areas of habit formation? I had heard about “gamification”, but after reading this book, realized that’s another word for rewards, which is in this model. Mom didn’t want badges and points, she wanted to help her child. I reviewed the the proposed feature set and innovated on the UX design to make sure the app included elements of this model throughout the UX.

Determining the MVP I created a roadmap that had a first release of an MVP specifically with a habit creation goal. Any other features that did not add to creating the habit were phased in later releases. The  MVP strategy to deliver a first release of the most valuable habit-forming product that was also minimally viable.

Results: Habit created and value delivered! (But less frequently than daily)

The first release app launched into a private beta test with over 100 users and the results are confidential, but nonetheless promising and show consistent engagement over time. Most importantly, the team learned Mom found value in the core action, enough to do it multiple times per week - on a regular and consistent basis -  over the course of the beta test. The team also learned about small tweaks to the design that could improve the experience, optimizations that could only be found with consistent usage.

  • A large percentage of users created a habit  (Facebook, the most addictive app is at 50%)

  • Majority of users find the app more satisfying than their current methods of tracking behavior and symptoms

  • Users strongly believed app allows them to have meaningful conversations with their doctor, which was the core value proposition