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Habit Building, Uncomplicated

Problem:

Developing a new habit, like waking up early every morning, or exercising every day, or not drinking soda, can be really hard. Many tools designed to help you learn good habits and forget bad ones require a lot of time using the tool instead of focusing on the goal. A tool for forming a new habit should be so easy you don't even have to think about it, you just use it--out of habit.

Assumptions:

1. People want to form new, healthy habits and forget bad, negative ones. 

2. People want to use a tool to help them form the good habits and forget the bad ones.

3. Current goal setting/tracking tools take too much time to use and detract from the goal at hand.

4. People would prefer to use a simple, fast, and easy-to-use tool than one that has a lot of features but is time-consuming to use.

Riskiest Assumption: People want to form new, healthy habits and forget bad, negative ones. 

MVP:

Interviews:

After reading the feedback on my project, I've decided to conduct interviews with friends/family members/colleagues (at least 10) to determine:

1. If they have habits they would like to learn or forget.
2. What is preventing them from doing this. If they've tried, what stopped them?
3. If they would consider using a tool to help them do this.
4. If so, what kind of tool would they like to use?

Success Criteria:

Updated to reflect changes in MVP.

Like to learn/forget habits: 80% yes

Tool use: 60% currently/would consider using a tool

Tool preference: 40% mention fewer features/quicker to use

MVP Interview Results

I interviewed 10 people. I tried to keep the conversation flow as normal as possible while still getting the information I needed.

Of the 10 people I interviewed:

Like to learn/forget habits: 10/10 (100%) said they had habits they want to drop or learn.

Responses were, for the most part, immediate and enthusiastic. Only one of my interviewees hesitated before saying that yes, he did have habits he wanted to learn. Other results included:

"Do I ever!"
"Should I list them all for you now?""Um, YES."
Some of them just started listing the habits they wanted to change.

Tool use: 9/10 (90%) said they have used a tool or would consider using one in the future.

I was purposefully vague with the word "tool" to see what people would come up with. One person, who had tried to quit smoking, mentioned a medication as a tool that had helped, until he started having relationship stress and picked the habit back up again. Another interviewee successfully used the patch to quit smoking.

A couple of people had mentioned trying to use software, and they all said it was too difficult/time consuming to use, which leads me to my next point:

Tool preference: 5/10 (50%) mentioned that tools need to be "easy" and/or "not time consuming." 3/10 (30%) didn't have a preference or thought it should be middle-of-the-ground, and 1/10 (10%) didn't want to use a tool.

Here is part of a conversation I was having with someone in the middle-of-the-ground category. He was telling me how he'd want an app to have RPG-like elements, so I finally asked more directly:

ME: Do you think those are more successful when they're really simple and easy to use or when they're much more complicated, have tons of features, and are harder to get started?

INTERVIEWEE: I think that there is a nice middle ground you find by putting the capability for it to be complicated nested under basic functionality.
  ie, give users the ability to choose to use what they want
  or, introduce it slowly.
  it starts basic and simple
  but as you progress, you unlock new features.

ME: What if it was something you were using to help with your habits? would you have a preference?

INTERVIEWEE: if its too simple, it becomes transparent as an obvious attempt at patronizing the user.
  if it leverages humor and introspect on what you are actually achieving, it can be relevant.
  people process that
  for smoking, achievements like "using this study we've determined you've earned THIS much additional time to live"
they sound ridiculous
  but to me, stupid things like that hit home
  they give simple people something to celebrate.
  people like feeling like they are achieving something even if they arent, and convincing them that they are.. thats the real game.
  its just a matter of changing their perspective.
i see it all the time on people using sites to aggregate running scores
  they use social media to get people to compete to be fit.
  its really clever.

The conversation gives some interesting ideas about motivation and rewards. I tend to think that people usually want to change habits for a good reason. What's stopping most people, according to my interviews, was a mix of "lack of self-control" and "laziness." I think the laziness plays well into the simplicity aspect of my idea. One interviewee talked about how the apps he'd tried in the past were too time-consuming and he put off using them, which meant he didn't focus on his habits at all. He mentioned that the tool would need to be "very easy to imput information."

Another interviewee said, "A tool needs to be easy to setup and use." When talking about potential features, she said, "My mind goes numb if there's too many graphs."

Something else that was mentioned by 7 of the interviewees was the need for rewards and gratifications. One interviewee nixed the idea of punishments: "well I'd be a lot more likely to use a dishwasher to do my dishes in a timely manner than a device that gave me electric shocks if I left dirty plates in the sink or something."

After I'd gathered the needed data, I told my interviewees what I was working on, and they helped me come up with some interesting ideas to use as rewards.

Given my results, I think I'm headed in the right direction and I do not need to pivot at this time. My next step will be to set something up that mimics what I want my app to do. I'm going to find willing participants, and then ask them to either:

a. Set a reminder on their phones to mark on a calendar if they did their new good habit or didn't do their bad habit that day. Once they either marked off five days in a row or they give up, they are to report back to me.

b. Respond to a text message every day from me with either a "yes" if they did their new habit/didn't do their bad habit, or a "no" if they failed, and stop after 5 yeses in a row.

I realize 5 days isn't enough to make something a habit, but I'm thinking they will be able to provide feedback from the participants as to how the process is or isn't working. If they are liking it and want to, they can keep going.

Expirement Results

I was able to get ten people to run a simulated version of the app. 6 used reminders (Reminders) on their smartphone and 4 I sent text messages (Texters). I found that those recieving text messages were more likely to stick with the process than those using reminders. After the expirment, I ran a survey and 5 of the 10 participants responded, including 3/4 Texters and 2/6 Reminders. All of the survey feedback was positive. 

100% of survey respondants said they were more successful than they would have been without the process. 

100% of survey respondants reported that the process was "not disruptive at all."

100% of survey respondants reported that the process was "fairly simple" (3/5) or "super simple" (2/5).

100% of survey respondants who recieved rewards said that the rewards were helpful. One respondant mentioned that knowing what the rewards would be in advance would have added extra motivation.

Comments:

"I knew I would at least feel some remorse if that reminder came in and I hadn't done my habit. It was also an extra nudge, that kept my habit fresh on my mind."

"I really enjoyed it and looked forward to being asked. I want the app now!"

"I think it's a great idea and I would definitely use it, especially for positive habits."

One respondant mentioned that being able to share successes with social media would be an added incentive.

Given the positive feedback from the experience, I do not think there is the need to pivot at this time. I think that social media integration would be an excellent feature for the product, but I do not believe it is needed for the first iteration.

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