Number of Clicks vs. Quality of Clicks

Reducing the number of clicks (I will use the word ‘click’ to represent both click and tap of touch devices) at any cost is one of the stickiest web design mantra handed down from the old school of thought. Less click is generally a good thing, but blindly reducing the number of clicks does not guarantee a positive user experience. Web clicks got a bad rap beginning from the early days of the web. Many poorly designed UI resulted in needless and wasted clicks. This is one reason the effort to reduce clicks became so prevalent.

Before we blindly reduce the number of clicks we need to carefully think about why people click. Any element that calls for a click promises or hints at something. Based on this promise or hint, users form a mental model of what to expect from the click. They click expecting a gratification that matches their mental model. When the gratification is provided as expected, then the said click is a quality click. A quality click is one that acts as expected, provides user with a sense of direction and accomplishment, or a step taken towards an expected goal.

We must remember that each click has a purpose. It’s important that a subsequent click does not duplicate the purpose of the former. For example, if I click on a link “Return an Item”, I am expecting to enter the process to return an item. What I’m not expecting to see is list of links related to customer services.

As long as users receive constant feedback that they are moving toward a goal or have accomplished something with each click, the effort of a click is no longer an annoyance. It’s only when the subsequent clicks feel redundant or repetitive without any sense of progress or accomplishment, the UX suffers.

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