Summary

Bottomless pits, infinite scrolls, and attention traps are all ways of attempting to keep users in a product against their explicit will or knowledge. Instead, provide exit points, focus on the finite, and not the infinite, and actually make experiences that have an endpoint. This way users can disengage with a sense of completion and calm, instead of building an association between your product and time wasting. 

Example of this Principle in Action

Basis of this Principle

There are many common techniques which are used to trap users' attention within a product. A classic example is both Netflix’s and Youtube’s video queue systems, which require a user to take action to avoid watching more content after their chosen media has finished. Similar mechanics can be seen on some news sites, or can be emulated with endless scrolling and bottomless pits. Within some of the larger platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, the emergence of separate internets can be seen. Characterised as attention traps, their purpose is to hold you within their systems. Pinterest, for example, requires a lot of work on behalf of the user to find the source of the content visible on Pinterest. On mobile, this is particularly apparent. Clicking a link on the Twitter app will take you to the browser, but eventually you will be forced to return to Twitter. For a user to really feel a sense of satisfaction, they need to feel a sense of completion. In other words, there needs to be an endpoint. Monument Valley is a great example of this — a game, which like many others, could have easily chosen the route of near infinite levels, but instead chose to package the whole experience into a game with a duration of roughly two-hours in total (about the length of a film). Upon completion of the game, the player experiences a sense of satisfaction, which results in the feeling of getting their money’s worth. Similarly, Quartz App only has a certain number of stories (5 - 7) accessible at a given time. Once all the available stories are read, a ‘You're all caught up, come back later!’ message pops up, providing the readers with a sense of completion and allows them to direct their full focus to another task.