We're working on a habit-related app — as usual, there would be a streak mechanism. This mechanism, however, has not been far from causing stress on users. With our app, we'd like to try a softer approach of "no judgment". We even let users skip their routines/habits without making trying to make them feel bad (for example, no red X icons for skipped things).

One of the more interesting things we'd thought about, though, was when we were designing the Achievements system. We thought about how often it is that "breaking a streak" is seen as "being released from prison", "no longer a slave" and such sentiments. Someone then came up with an idea of breaking a streak as an achievement in itself: there could be an achievement for breaking a streak of a week, a month, a year, et cetera. The point is precisely not to keep going.

We felt like we were in uncharted territory — as long as the designers in our team knew, no one had ever saw such mechanism before. We'd like to know: would this approach be an effective measure for taking the stress of keeping a streak off from the users?

2 Answers 2


As someone who has worked with many apps like yours, I find your concept intriguing and interesting.

However, and precisely because I have extensive experience on the subject, I can tell you it won't work just like that. As a matter of fact, you probably already realize that. You're basically breaking the principles of gamification and rewards.

It's true that you can't stress the user (and believe me, almost 100% of users will feel stressed at some point or another). What you're looking for, and what users are asking for, is to create a habit. In order to create that habit, they need to break a pattern of previous habits.

And to do so, you can do it in only two ways: by rewards or by punishment (carrot or stick principle). Since I doubt you'll punish your users, the punishment is the lack of rewards. Loss aversion is twice as effective as rewards:

Kahneman and Tversky (1992) have suggested that losses can be twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.

From Loss Aversion

In short, if you reward bad behavior, you'll basically lose any possible advance for your users. And that's not what your users want: they want you to help, they need you as a guide and figure of authority.

All this being said, I repeat: it's a very intriguing concept, and maybe with a lot more research and insights from trained psychologists, you could be onto something here.

But you won't get that kind of answer from a help site like this; it will take a lot of research, time, and resources to make it work (although I can't imagine how).


I don't think skipping a step should be on the same level as achieving the total for the routine nor would I reward it.

For example, in a cooking recipe application, the number of ingredients to get the dish are all necessary, although some may be more important than others. In this way, the application could have a value associated with each ingredient based on its imperative need or the possibility of absence or replacement. This would cause the user to allow himself to make the dish with a greater number of alternatives, fewer demands, and consequently less stress.

Instead of rewarding skipping a step, I would propose other solutions:

  • Offer an alternative step to which they want to jump. Returning to the example of the recipes, if they don't have beef for the spaghetti sauce, recommend another type of meat or consistency ingredient such as mushrooms.
  • Establish a scoring system with a value associated with each step, in this way, the user is aware of how much they are leaving aside when abandoning a step. I would avoid a final amount to be achieved, instead, I would propose a minimum number to be achieved, in this way the user will be satisfied with any score that exceeds the established minimum.

enter image description here

  • Offer the user the possibility of placing their own alternative steps of importance. For example, going back to the scoring system, allow them to choose any other activity with the same score that has not been chosen previously.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.