I'm hooked

After throwing myself into the world of app development, entrepreneurship and business, i've been keen to utilise whatever resources I can to ensure i'm as well informed as can be. As well as trying to network and put myself around a bit, i've also dedicated some time to the written word. There's tonnes of blogs and news sites out there to consume (i've established a morning ritual of scouring TechCrunch), but nothings better than good book written by someone who really knows what they're talking about. 

To be honest, after years of struggling to justify reading anything other than a medical textbook, you could have recommended to me some poorly written erotica and I would have jumped at the chance to the read it. So herein lies a brief overview of a recent book I read that was particularly informative as I went about developing an app with my fellow founders. Also, not much happened this week, so a quick book overview will hopefully see us nicely through to next weeks blog.

If you're developing an app like we are, and really want to understand how to give yourself the best chance of turning it into a popular and successful product, then pick up a copy of 'Hooked' by Nir Eyal. When you're developing a new product, your 'baby', you've probably dedicated a helluva lot of brain power to it. Its therefore really easy to get wrapped up in what you think is best in terms of functionality and the overall user experience. 

What Eyal argues, is that you have to firmly position yourself in the shoes of the user, and use their perspective to guide how you create a habit-forming product. Prior to embarking on STAMP, I probably didn't appreciate the psychological aspect of these sort of endeavours. There are certain user behaviours that you need to tap into and take advantage of in order to ensure your users will come back, again and again, to use your product or service. 

I love it. Eyal's concepts are formulaic. The idea of detailed user stories, triggers - both external and internal to the product, the user reward - all of these make you think about your app or idea, not just in terms of the wireframe progressions you may have mapped out, but the multiple ways a naive user may approach your product. You start to view your idea, not just as a solution to some problem, but as a series of breakpoints, each designed to enact and fulfil a certain user behaviour. 

One particular passage highlighted something we had definitely fallen into the trap of here at STAMP:

"...too many companies build their products betting users will do what they make them do instead of letting them do what they want to do".

When I read this, I thought back to all the Skype calls and discussion we'd had, justifying certain functionalities based on the false assumptions that we were certain this is how our future users would be interacting with our product. Inadvertently we were limiting the creative variability a user brings and pinning them down to a certain progression based on assumptions we couldn't justify. It plays into the concepts brought up by another popular read "The Lean Startup", which suggests that you should really let your users validate and determine current and future functionality and development sprints (but lets save that bit of non-fiction for another blog shall we?). 

So yeh. Hooked is a good read, and like many books i've picked up in the last few months, had me leaning back in my chair, staring at the ceiling and thinking "Fuck, we should probably rethink a few things" at regular intervals. And to be honest, for me, thats the sign of a good read. As the proverbial noob in this scary cut-throat world of app development, I need stuff like this to help guide me along the path that i've never trodden before. If you get chance, its definitely worth a read. 

Till next time. 

S x 

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