The truly great consumer technology companies of the past 25 years have all had one thing in common: they created habits. This is what separates world-changing businesses from the rest. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are used daily by a high proportion of their users and their products are so compelling that many of us struggle to imagine life before they existed.
But creating habits is easier said than done. Though I’ve written extensively about behavior engineeringand the importance of habitsto the future of the web, few resources give entrepreneurs the tools they need to design and measure user habits. It’s not that these techniques don’t exist — in fact, they’re quite familiar to people in all the companies named above. However, to the new entrepreneur, they largely remain a mystery.
I’ve learned these methods from some of the best in the business and put together an amalgamation of them that I call “Habit Testing.” It can be used by consumer web companies to build products that users not only love, but are hooked to.
Habit Testing fits hand-in-glove with the build, measure, learn methodology espoused by the lean startup movementand offers a new way to make data actionable. Habit Testing helps clarify three things: 1) who your devotees are; 2) what part of your product is habit forming, if any; and 3) why those aspects of your product are habit forming.
A prerequisite to Habit Testing is having some kind of product up and running. Of course, before launching even a minimal viable product, it’s a good idea to take a stab at your business modelhypotheses and how your product will create user desire.
Once you have a site or app live, you can begin collecting data. Habit Testing does not necessitate collecting data about everything — just the right things — so setting up the appropriate analytics is critical. In order for Habit Testing to be successful, you need to date stamp the path users take while using your site.
Now that you have the requisite site and stats, you need to answer the first question of Habit Testing: “Who are the habitual users?” First, define what it means to be a devoted user. Ask yourself how often a user “should” use the site. That is to say, assuming that some day all the bugs are worked out and the product is perfectly “
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