Sometimes I hear people talk about the “number of clicks” required to get somewhere on the website. For example: “It should only be three clicks from the home page” or “Someone should not have to click that many times to get to it.”
Number of clicks vs. wasted clicks
It does not matter how many clicks it takes in order for a web user to get to a particular page or accomplish a task as long as each click along the way is intuitive and not wasted. Here is what web usability guru Jakob Nielsen wrote back in 1999 and the principle still applies today:
Simple things like counting clicks to solutions are misleading. For example, I recently advised on an ecommerce site where people had to find certain products. The original design provided product pages in 3 clicks from the home page, and the revised design required one more click. Yet, shopping success was 7 times higher in the revised design because each of the new steps was completely intuitive. Even with one more click, the revised design was faster because users didn’t have to spend as much time thinking about where to click. More importantly, it made people find the right product much more frequently, whereas the original design was very error prone. Read the full article “Voodoo Usability” >
We have all had bad website experiences where we could not find what we were looking for, getting confused and frustrated as clicking led us to the wrong content or to a page with a totally different navigation menu, or we did not know where to click because none of the options seemed right, and so we guessed (incorrectly) until we finally reached our goal. Yet on another website it may take several clicks to get to something and we are not frustrated by the process.
In other words, it is wasting clicks, or not knowing where to click, that is the problem.
In a recent article, Aurora Bedford talks about wasted clicks and an experience she calls “pogo sticking”–the repeated experience of clicking on a link, discovering that it does not lead to the information you were looking for, and clicking back to the previous page.
Of course, an excessive number of clicks between point A and point B can be frustrating. And there are benefits to one-click destinations. However, most processes require a few steps, and this is ok, as long as our website visitors do not get lost along the way.