Posts in "Product"

Book: Hooked - A Maker's Handbook

The book cover of Hooked

If you’re a product person who is building a product to get more people to use it and use it more often, this is a book you’d want to keep a copy on your desk.

If you’re a smart phone user who checks certain apps quite regularly that you’d even refuse to admit you’re addictive to it, this a book to help you understand how it was engineered to keep you hooked.

Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup commented: ‘A must-read for everyone who cares about driving customer engagement.’ (I’m usually skeptical about this kind of lip service, but this time, he’s right.)

I read this book at the right timing and I wrote at length in my company’s internal blog: my reading memos and summaries of the four core parts of the idea: Trigger -> Action -> Variable Reward -> Investment, with case studies of the product I was building.

The Hook model

A over-simplifed summary of each stage of the model:

  • Trigger: What nudges the action?
  • Action: Which part is weak to provoke the action? Lack of motivation or the process is too hard?
  • Reward: Is there an instant and variable reward when the user performs the action?
  • Investment: When are we asking them to invest, and what value we give back in return?

Flipping through the pages again, I found lots of post-its I attached in the book saying “I disagree,” and listing all the obvious counter-arguments. Yet still, the overall reading experience was great👏! It set the scene properly for you to deep dive for an extended period of time, so it naturally stimulates you and inspires you to think about your product’s problems and solutions. In that sense, I enjoyed the knowledge it provided and all the thoughts it provoked. It felt like taking apart a product and putting its components on the table, so you’ll be able to visualize and identify the habit-forming product’s system, the blueprint, or even the traps.


The part that I remembered the most is the Action - “the behavior done in anticipation of a reward.”

Fogg (a famous guy in this field) describes that the required ingredients to initiate any actions can be written in the equation of B = MAT (Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger), so-called the Behavior Model.

  1. The user must have sufficient motivations
  2. The user must have the ability to complete the desired action
  3. A trigger must be present to activate the behavior

I’ve noticed a pattern of myself. If the book I’m reading is put on the dining table, I would pick it up after breakfast and continue reading. Instead, if my phone is there, I might just pick it up and check some feed. Let’s break down this behavior:

  1. Motivation: I like to read the book
  2. Ability: I have the time to read
  3. Trigger: The book is on the table
  4. 🎉

Even though the motivation and ability are right, when the trigger is absent, certain actions might not occur. So that’s why I’ve been intentionally putting my phone out of sight at home and putting books and pens on the dining table (for which my wife isn’t really happy hah 😅)

So, what are you going to do with this piece of knowledge? There is also a chapter dedicated to the ethical discussion. I felt the view of trusting people that they won’t do evil is naive though, and if you want to read more on this subject, I’d recommend another book Irresistible that is written from the opposite perspective.

Still, changing people’s behaviors is hard, reading this book won’t promise you the dreamland. But that doesn’t mean the knowledge is useless. The best way to take most out of it is to share your learnings with your team, adapt the vocabularies to better communicate, take your product on the map and analyze each aspect, do the case study of other popular products with high user engagements and try out your ideas and solutions. It is fun and rewarding.


There is a 13 minutes video to get the brief idea of the framework, but I’d say don’t cut the corners and read the whole book if you truly want to learn more. You’ll get the bone and fat, you may love the fat or trim it off eventually, either way, it would be a great learning process.

April 19, 2018 Book, Product

Blinkist Impression: Non-fiction summaries in 15 minutes

Blinkist is a service that provides summaries of a non-fiction books that you can read in 15 minutes. I gave it a try over the weekend and here are some first impressions.

It won’t be the dominant way of reading books for sure, but it can be useful in situations like the typical “don’t have enough time” scenario. These summaries are written by the staffs of Blinkist who love to read.

Continue reading…

Also, I found that for some authors that I can’t stand their attitudes or repetitive writing styles, but they did make some good points in their books (like The 4-Hour Workweek), with Blinkist I can grab the core ideas with all the arrogance or repetitive shaved off.

It can also be useful for single-purposed how-to guides, like learning some tips on cleaning up the room, without reading through a whole chapter (or chapters) of the life philosophy of the author (if you’re not interested in at all).

What We Gain from Reading?

During the free trial period, I picked up several new books and also some I’ve had read to compare and try to make a baseline of the evaluation.

The summary is of good quality, and I love the final “Actionable advice” on the last page to give you some guidance on what you can act upon right now, usually something small that you can start immediately.

Although it helped me quickly consumed some books on my to-read list, I didn’t proceed to subscribe. Something was missing for me, some key ingredients. It got me think what we actually gain from reading.

A Source of Food

Whenever I start a new book, it feels like I’m on a new journey. I have this hope beforehand where it should and would lead me to, even though most of the time I won’t get exactly where I planned to be, the journey itself is valuable.

The materials presented in the way are good supplies for thoughts. They may not directly contribute to the point of the book or are trivial and off-topic, but it inspires me to ponder, to seek the answer myself. These “by-products” are missed if you’re running too fast.

It reminds me of the movie Passengers, where they found the meaning of life “during the journey”, not as planned after arriving at the destination.

Bullets are the backbone, but we may need more flesh.

In Control?

I was gonna say it could be a good “addition” to my day-to-day reading activity. But what put me off was the lack of options of the pricing plans.

The subscription is $50 a year, with a $80 Premium plan that provides better functions like audios and sync. Interestingly you can’t pay monthly, need to be 1-year upfront. I wonder if they made it that way to prevent people from signing up just for 1 month and reading like a marathon and then just bailing out.

This “lack of options” led me to think I’m less in control (exactly the case mentioned in 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People). If it has had the monthly option, I’d probably sign up and forget about it and let it last for a year heh, who knows heh?

Nonetheless, I’d still recommend you to check out the 1-day free trial, especially with the App that can read it for you, and decide if it’s worth for you or not.

August 27, 2017 Product, Book

Product Feeling

Recently I read the post Look and Feel and Feel by Jason Fried, where he talked about how product makes you feel, not just the look, not the single design but the product as a whole, delivers what kind of emotion to you.

It was a interesting read. He compared Twitter and Instagram, former generates negative emotion like anxious, unhappy, uncomfortable because people on Twitter tend to post shitty experience, while for Instagram it’s harder to be negative when sharing a picture.

It was an inspiring read, since then I kept thinking about some tools and services I’ve been using, or used to use on a daily basis.

Slack

I would rate it 5 stars. It shocked me in the beginning with the clean, modern design compare to Hipchat. The way of setting profiles and avatar are by answering questions from Slackbot. It gave me a warm feeling instead of a boring form.

Then it keeps improving itself in the UX perspective. You try to login Slack on your phone, there’s a thoughtful “1password” link that saves you from switching/copying/pasting mess. Or you could ask for a “magic link” that sends to your inbox, by clicking the link inside the mail you’re magically logged in without typing the password.

Getting double, triple notifications from all your devices? Slack also takes care of that, it disables email notification once you enable push notifications on your phone

The overall feeling of Slack is super comfortable. It makes me feel like they understand all your little frustrations, and is doing pretty good job on providing the solutions transparently.

Day One

I don’t have a habit of keeping a journal everyday, but when I strongly feel I would like to write something down about that day, I always go to Day One.

It’s private, it’s personal, it’s about me. Passcode helps me protect it, weather and location provide the assistive information of that day, simple design provides quick access to all the things(95% is “New Entry”), I need.

It doesn’t have some killer features in my opinion, it’s kinda common nowadays to have your apps available on all devices. But it makes me feel it’s the app to write a digital journal without any unnecessary noises.

Instagram

Jason said it’s harder to be negative when sharing a picture, so true. Long time ago I noticed the photos I posted to Instagram usually became the highlights of that period. Those are all delightful moments for me, the community and contents are already there, even though I don’t have photos to post I still like to browse my timeline to see what are the joys from my friends.

Twitter

It really depends, depends on whether or not you cultivated your following list.

Facebook reflects all the social pressure like if your colleague requests to be your friend, it’s hard to say no. But on Twitter it’s free(at least for me). I could follow and unfollow anyone based on if their tweets fit my needs.

I remember when I first joined the company, I got lots of new Twitter followers from my colleagues. I felt warm and almost immediately followed back without thinking, then OMG it turned out to be a total disaster. My timeline got robbed, so many meaningless chitchats were literally polluting my eyes.

After that lesson I’ve been very careful on who to follow. And so far it does pretty what I want from it: I could get inspiring contents to feed my brain whenever I open it, but also they are discardable I have no pressure on shutting it down completely.

Facebook

I remember I was checking Facebook lots of times a day 2 or 3 years ago, when focusing in the browser address bar it was so hard to resist the temptation of hitting the “f” key to open Facebook. But the usage of Facebook has changed dramatically for me.

Now I don’t want to post anything on it, and also don’t want to check it unless it’s necessary(Facebook Message). What Facebook makes me feel is it owns me, I may have control over several things but who knows tomorrow if they’re gonna change it. Maybe it’s the impression I’ve got through the years how Facebook expose without your permission first then give you the control back later.

Like the birthday notification, I know lots of my friends, including me are hiding our birthdays before the day to prevent it from sending the sidebar notifications to all your friends. You either choose hide the info completely or let it be pushed to others’ timeline.

Then the profile photo, how to change it without sending the notification? You could remove the change from your timeline immediately but that won’t stop it spreading through the timeline.

As a user, why I have to try this hard to figure out how to prevent these shitty things?!

Last like I said above, I feel social pressure on Facebook. It feels like I’m dressing suits, holding mic to send my words to the public. In reality I prefer to talk 1 on 1 or in small groups, maybe Facebook is not designed to provide that kind of feeling.

How to design the “feeling”?

As a developer I tend to use the word “can” when talking about features. “Now user can comment”, “they can drag and drop photos!”, but why they want to do that in the first place, what makes them use your feature?

The topic itself could be another post someday in the future, I’ll end this one quoting these questions:

The Twitter vs. Instagram experience is really reinforcing what matters when designing a product. What kind of behavior can we encourage? What kind of moments can we create for people? What do people anticipate before they use something? How does it leave them feeling when they’re done? These are now some of the most important questions for me when working on a design.

May 29, 2015 Product