Build Products for Habits

About habits

I recently listened to the audiobook: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. Before listening to this book I thought that there is a lot of magic behind how we as humans work, but, in fact things are very simple. Us, as humans live 90% (or maybe more) on autopilot, driven by our habits. How we live is directly correlated with the set of habits that we developed.

What Duhigg is doing in the book is to dissect habits, understand them and then give solutions to how we can change them. The anatomy of a habit, as he describes it in his book and calls it The Habit Loop is deceptively easy:

  • trigger
  • action
  • reward

Through this anatomy, I tried to deconstruct some of my own habits:

  1. Shower in the morning. Trigger: waking up, Action: shower, Reward: I do not feel the need to scratch my underarm and I am not feeling sweaty.
  2. Taking a photo with Path. Trigger: see something I want to share, Action: take photo, Reward: likes, comments, appreciation (feeding my ego)
  3. Listen to audiobooks. Trigger: get on my bike, Action: put headphones on, start listening, Reward: becoming smarter (I hope)

The main lesson from the book for us, product creators, is that habits can change: use the same trigger and the same reward of an old habit and change the action.

Applying habits in a product

The habits of your potential customers are probably the most important thing that you need to understand before starting to build something for them. I am convinced that products that do not connect with the habits of the customers will at most be a limited success.

To enable users adopt our product we have to use a trigger that already exists, create a new way of doing the action (which of course should be better, faster, easier etc) and give the same reward.

Our own experience with Real Colors

I analysed what we did with Real Colors in terms our customers habits.

When we first build the app, we thought that our beloved customers have the following habit: they walk around the city and if they see something nice, harmonious (trigger), they will take out their phones and snap a picture (action) to use it for color inspiration later by picking colors in a tool like Photoshop(reward).

As you can guess, our assumption was pretty far away from what the actually do. As it turns out, the habit that they have is as follows: they need to get shit done (trigger), they start looking for color inspiration, start searching in the App Store for an app, find Real Colors, pick a photo from the gallery that looks nice, get the color palette (action) and use it in their project as color inspiration.

I must admit that there are some customers that have the first habit that I described, but, most of them have the second habit very rooted in their working habits.


The product creation process is hard, with a lot of things that need to be taken into account. The main thing that we need to keep in mind is that we create products for people and if people are 90% driven by habits, we basically create products for their habits. It is incredibly important to understand how they work and how they can be changed.


One Response to Build Products for Habits

  1. [...] 13, 2012 by Andrei Following my previous post about building products for the habits of your customers, I would like to further detail our philosophy about the mobile app building [...]

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