Monthly Archives: April 2015


Hook Model

Word: Hook Model

Definition: The cycle a successful product follows in order to reach the goal of unprompted user engagement, where in users return to the product consistently and often.

Reference: The Hook Model comes from Nir Eyal’s book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

Thoughts: In Eyal’s book, he describes the Hook Model process as a cycle, consisting of a trigger (external and/or internal), an action, a variable reward, and then an investment. Rinse and repeat.

Let’s break down each step a bit for a better understanding: The trigger is the actuator of the behavior, like an alert or notification. The action comes next, which is essentially, the behavior a user performs in anticipation of a reward. The next step is the variable reward, which is the Hook Model’s way of creating user craving by initiating intrigue. Finally,  investment is when the user takes the step to input some work into the product or service. By investing time and energy, the odds increase dramatically that a user will pass through the Hook cycle again.

The Hook Model is an important tool to not only understand as a designer, but to build habit-forming products as well.


Query Effect

Word: Query Effect

Definition: The notion that people can and will make up an opinion about anything, and will do so if asked, regardless of how much thought they’ve given the answer.

Reference: I first came upon this term in a discussion about user interviews by Nielsen Norman Group. NNG warns UX practitioners to beware of this effect during interviews because it may result in disingenuous information regardless of user intent.

NNG writes:

“It’s dangerous to make big design changes because “users didn’t like this” or “users asked for that.” If you ask leading questions or press respondents for answers, they might make up opinions that don’t reflect their real preferences in the slightest.”

Thoughts: User interviews provide extremely rich information but it is important to ask about a user’s experiences instead of seeking opinions. Make sure to tread cautiously here. As Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Keep that in mind!


Moderated Usability Testing

Word: Moderated usability testing 

Definition: A moderator asks questions, instructs and directs a participant through a set of tasks while ensuring that the respondent is guided in such a manner that the goals of the study are accomplished.

Thought: In a moderated usability test the moderator has specific tasks for the participant to complete and she will  track these questions herself alongside the participant. The plus sides of this method is that it can can be more engaging than unmoderated testing and it leaves room for the moderator to ask followup questions and observe subtle body language clues. It is also a preferable method if the design test is complex in nature or the prototype is rough or in early stages. This way the moderator can provide advanced guidance and instruction.

In my opinion the best resource to get you started on moderated usability testing, bar none, is Steve Krug’s book “Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.” If you have not read this book then stop reading this post right now and go do it! Seriously… do it!

On the flip side, moderated usability testing requires time and coordination. These types of tests also prove more difficult to recruit participants. It is important to remember that data could be effected by the mere presence of a moderator as well.

Question: In what types of situations have you found moderated usability testing to most effective?


Pogo Sticking

Word: Pogo Sticking

Definition: A user navigates to a page deeper in a site’s hierarchy, only to immediately navigate back to the page in which she came from — typically happening multiple times in a row.

Thoughts: Pogo sticking tends to occur because of usability problems like misleading links or omitted information. This increased interaction, providing no value to the user, can be extremely costly to a site and can result in decreased engagement over time.  This is different from a “bounce rate” because it happens within the site itself. This behavior pattern likely demonstrates that users are having difficulty finding the content they are looking for.

Question: Can you think of a time that it may be useful to have users bounce back and forth from page to page or should such patterns simply be avoided?




Change Blindness

Word: Change Blindness

Definition: A perceptual phenomenon in which an observer does not notice the introduction of visual changes to an existing image.

Reference: Think about the games you played as a kid that flashed the same image twice but the second time something was different and you had to figure out what that was. This is surprisingly difficult! It is difficult because there is an interruption in our visual perception and because of the speed in which this happens, our eyes have a difficult time fixating on those changes and interpreting them.

Thoughts: Now think about a time you submitted a form only to see an error message. Then you have to identify which form field the error occurred in. Why is it so hard to find the form field with the small red “x” next to it? Change blindness, that’s why! The subtle change between the form pages is not enough to easily identify the problem and therefore we become a frustrated user as we search for the erred field. This is just one of many examples of how change blindness can effect user experience. It is important to think about this while designing subtle interactions.