Every Click Counts

Paul Boag

Do the number of clicks a user has to make on your site still matter in the age of broadband?

In the early days of the web when dial up ruled, every click counted.

As web designers we were obsessed with reducing the number of clicks it took users to get to the information they required. After all, every click probably meant at least a 10 second wait while the page loaded.

Things changed when broadband came along. As pages loaded faster so we became more relaxed about the number of clicks required. In testing we discovered that users didn’t care about the number of clicks as long as they were confident in their choices. A clear information hierarchy became more important than the number of clicks.

However, I believe that things are once more changing and that the actual effort of additional clicks is proving an annoyance in certain circumstances.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that we need to return to flat information architectures to ensure the minimum number of clicks. There is no reason to believe that users notice additional clicks when casually navigating an informational website that they only visit once in a while.

When extra clicks matter

The problem is with apps, both native and online. The unique characteristics of apps is that they are used repeatedly. An extra click here and there isn’t a big deal if only carried out intermittently. However, if you are using the application regularly additional clicks soon mount up and become annoying.

A case study in click fatigue

Take for example Evernote on the iPad. I love Evernote. In fact I have written before that if I could only have one application in the world it would be Evernote. That said, it is not perfect and one example of this is unnecessary clicks.

When editing a document in Word, you launch the document and then simply click where you wish to edit. However, things are more complicated in Evernote. Instead of clicking the location in a note where you would like to edit, you have to first click a small edit icon. After you have done that you must click the field you wish to edit and then the location within the copy.

As you can imagine this becomes irritating when using Evernote multiple times a day. Its even more irritating because it doesn’t follow the convention you see in other text editors. The additional clicks are therefore all the more obvious.

The aim of this post is not to criticise Evernote. Instead I wish to draw your attention to the importance of minimising clicks on websites or applications that are used on a regular basis. Small issues become increasingly annoying when encountered regularly.

Although time has moved on, the number of clicks still matters.