When Users Open Your App Several Times A Day

The most popular applications are able to generate an instinct for opening it multiple times a day. If you find yourself hanging on Facebook for ten minutes already, you know what I’m talking about. In his brilliant book, Nir Eyal collected psychological methods being able to generate the same effect. The most important thing you need is an application that people find essential. If this is given, you might wish to follow the steps below.

There are three possible reasons a user open your application for: he’s got an external trigger (e.g. email, push notification) that makes him to do so, he has a problem he wants to solva (e.g. Google search), or he has an established habbit (e.g. checking Facebook). How can we generate such habbits in people? After careful observation of a great deal of applications, Nir summarized the process in his Hook Model.


Triggers: We Start The Process With These

In the beginning, when the use of our application hasn’t yet developed into a habit, we need external triggers to initiate the process. This could be a retention email, a push notification, or even an ad. Our job is to achieve that the user develops an own internal trigger to get back to our application so there is no need for external triggers anymore. In order to achieve this, we have to recall the triggers several times and lead the user through the process.

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Action: The First Easy Step

When the user arrives to our application, the first step has to be feasible and obvious.  The user experience is good enough if this step can be carried out quickly, and it demonstrates the essence of our app at the same time. It’s useful to clean the screens, so that after first entering the application the main focus can be on this action.

On the screen below the first step is obvious: the user has to upload a file.


In the case of Tumblr the first step is easy: you start to follow 5 blogs, whereby your dashboard fills with content, and you start to become a part of the Tumblr community. You cannot even do anything on the interface besides what you are instructed to do. The title is an obvious and emphasized command (‘Find blogs. Follow Five.’). The screen also highlights the search box, where you have to take the first action.


Reward: The Well-deserved Treat

You have to reward the user after he successfully fulfilled the first step. Anything can be a reward: a funny picture, a congratulation message, a badge, scores or a downloadable game.

These reward screens are mainly known from games. These generally reward the user’s efforts with spectacular graphics and animations. Below you can see the reward screen of Angry Birds, with its typical, big, yellow stars.


The diversity of rewards is key. For the first time I get a candy and will be very happy. Later, when I get the third candy, it is not that exciting anymore. Similarly, the users of our application should get variable rewards. The best is if the reward somehow reflects the benefits of the app, e.g. a fitness app reminds you how much stronger you’ve got, whereas a social app can congratulate to your friends.

The badges of Foursquare are the perfect example for a variable reward system. If you use the application many times, you always get a new kind of badge; this way you never get bored of the badges and remain motivated to use the app.


Investment: We Pave The Way For Coming Back

We cannot chain the users to ourselves by making the first step easy and quickly giving a sense of achievement. These are crucial parts of creating a positive picture, but it’s not enough. It has long been proven by psychologist that we tend to develop stronger feelings for things we have to fight for. A woman who is easy to get is a fading, pleasant memory; a woman worth fighting for is true love.

So, after the first easy successes we have to persuade the user to “invest” in our app. This investment can be giving their personal contact details, doing some settings, or customizing the interface – basically everything that helps the user to feel the app his own.

For example, when first using Pinterest and Twitter, you have to set what topics you are interested in. Starting to follow people on Twitter is a big investment in itself, because later you will go back to the application to see what they’ve posted.



The trick is that with our next trigger we approach the user by referring to his previous investment. This way we can provide personalized content. We designed Brickflow so that the user gets a reward screen after his first steps. Also, a part of the reward is the chance to set his favorite hashtags. Later on we will use these hashtags to create personal content for the e-mails we send him. Based on our assessment, those e-mails that were preceded by investment produced twice as much conversion.



Establishing a habit doesn’t happen overnight, so forming a cycle of events and leading the users round is not enough. We already know that the theory that 21 days is enough for establishing a habit is not entirely true. The first step is to build our first hook cycle, and when this already functions smoothly, we can build more cycles, thereby securing that in time our app becomes an instinctive urge.


Would you like to hear about similar methods?

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Dávid Pásztor

Founder and CEO of UX studio. Author of the book Product Design, TEDx speaker, one of Forbes 30 under 30. Enthusiastic about self-managing teams, new technologies and human-centered design.

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