How to check habit-forming behavior of products?


How shall we identify a habit-forming product? What explains our affinity for WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, and other similar products?

The latest privacy policy change by WhatsApp and the subsequent growth (~4200%) for Signal is a reminder of how habit-forming products work. A lot of us downloaded Signal, but I wonder how many users are still active on Signal.

The ‘habit-zone’ graph by Nir Eyal is one of the most simplistic but extensively effective ways of understanding the nuances related to such products.

An excellent way to test the habit-forming capability of a product is by plotting the frequency of its usage vs. ‘perceived utility’ (value addition). WhatsApp easily qualifies to be called one, as we use it umpteen times a day to communicate with friends and family. Thus, the behavior above a certain threshold on both parameters (frequency and utility) will easily qualify to be a habit-forming product. But by looking closely at the graph, few questions naturally come up-

1. Why does the curve never touch the utility axis?

It is an interesting one. Let`s take Uber as an example. The utility that Uber provides as an app is cardinal. The ability to book a cab on a few clicks 24x7 has become pertinent to how we plan our late-night commute or early morning airport rush. So it has excellent perceived utility. But does it have sufficient frequency? Do we open Uber regularly even if we don`t have to go anywhere? No. Thus, even if a product provides great perceived utility, it should have a considerable frequency of usage to qualify as a habit-forming product.

2. What should be the ‘threshold’ above which a product becomes habit forming?

If we take a step back and think deeply about this, we may figure that the kind of product decides the dynamism of the threshold. Is it a Social product, or is it a game…etc. Much research has gone into understanding if we can come to one particular number, but the personalization of threshold as per the product holds. Social products like Instagram or WhatsApp or even games like PubG will have a different threshold than Zerodha or PayTM. (For some, even Zerodha can be a highly habitual product :D)

What other product can you think of that camouflage as a vitamin but have been a painkiller for a part of their existence? Let me know at, or let's connect on LinkedIn.