Repost: “What is the California Roll in my Experience Design?”

Hook Model

Insightful post from Nir Eyal

I’ve often been asked about what I think about Nir Eyal’s work. Most people don’t realize we are good friends (he even gave me a front cover endorsement quote for my book), but regardless of that I think his work on the Hooked Model is extremely actionable and insightful. I’m also planning to write a post in the future on how to analyze his Hook Model through the Octalysis Framework, which is quite exciting.

Below I’m sharing a great post I read on his site, originally titled “People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently.”

The post is about how Americans were very uncomfortable with Japanese food and sushi in the early days until they could start off with the familiar ingredients of the California Roll. This is in line with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory, where if you make the difficulty curve too high at the beginning, it creates anxiety and users drop off.

Flow Theory

Incidentally, this corresponds to Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness, as we only like things we can relate to. In fact, all jokes and media are a balance between that Core Drive and Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity – the balance between what we can relate to and a new surprise that creates curiosity or delight.

I think this is very important for any behavioral designing creating any new experience. Enjoy!

In Nir Eyal’s Words:

I’ll admit, the bento box is an unlikely place to learn an important business lesson. But consider the California Roll — understanding the impact of this icon of Japanese dining can make all the difference between the success or failure of your product.

If you’ve ever felt the frustration of customers not biting, then you can sympathize with Japanese restaurant owners in America during the 1970s. Sushi consumption was all but non-existent. By all accounts, Americans were scared of the stuff. Eating raw fish was an aberration and to most, tofu and seaweed were punch lines, not food.

Then came the California Roll. While the origin of the famous maki is still contested, its impact is undeniable. The California Roll was made in the USA by combining familiar ingredients in a new way. Rice, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds, and crab meat — the only ingredient unfamiliar to the average American palate was the barely visible sliver of nori seaweed holding it all together.

Familiar Done Differently

The California Roll provided a gateway to discover Japanese cuisine and demand exploded. Over the next few decades sushi restaurants, which were once confined to large coastal cities and almost exclusively served Japanese clientele, suddenly went mainstream. Today, sushi is served in small rural towns, airports, strip malls, and stocked in the deli section of local supermarkets. Americans now consume $2.25 billion of sushi annually.

California Roll

The lesson of the California Roll is simple —people don’t want something truly new, they want the familiar done differently. Interestingly, this lesson applies just as much to the spread of innovation as it does to tastes in food.

For example, the graphical user interface, a milestone in the popularization of the personal computer, used familiar visual metaphors like folders, notepads, windows, and trash cans to appeal to mainstream users terrified by the command-line interface (perhaps even more than the thought of eating raw fish). The computer underneath was the same, however the familiar veneer suddenly made it accessible.

Apple's skeuomorphic design was the California Roll of the personal computer. "Apple Macintosh Desktop" by unknown. (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Quaint but unnecessary representations of the familiar became a hallmark of Apple products. As Claire Evans wrote for Motherboard, “While under the direction of the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s design aesthetic tended heavily towards the skeuomorphic. The Apple desktop calendar, famously, is rendered with accents of rich Corinthian leather; its bookshelves gleam with wood veneers, its chrome always brushed, its pages stitched and torn, its tabletop felt green.”

Now that Apple serves a generation familiar with how its products work, it can shepherd them from California Rolls to sashimi, so to speak. “We understood that people had already become comfortable with touching glass,” explained Apple’s Jony Ive. “They didn’t need physical buttons, they understood the benefits.” Continue reading Repost: “What is the California Roll in my Experience Design?”