Mobile App Retention From First Principles: Part 2: Building Habits

In part 1 we talked about the importance of turning app use into a habit. Now let’s talk about how habits are formed.

The mechanism is repetition of three parts of a sequence:

  1. the context
  2. the work or action
  3. the reward

Each time an agent goes through some sequence of context, work, and reward, a habit gets stamped in slightly more. What a designer must do is figure out how to get the user to go through that loop a bunch of times.

Here’s an example of how that might look:

  • Context: sit down on bus, feel bored
  • Work: take out phone and open app
  • Reward: gold and gems that you can immediately collect

Whatever it takes to get the player to run through that loop a bunch of times will be serving the goal of making a habit that drives retention.

Read more about habits: