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“I Got 99 Problems but a Click ain’t One”

I’ve often mentioned the ‘big twinkie’ that is mobile and/or responsive design, and the dramatic changes that wave is making on not only user interfaces, but how users interact with them.

For as long as we’ve had websites, the one thing you could always count on being questioned about in a review is “how many clicks does the user have to do?”. It’s as if everyone read the CliffsNotes on UI/UX and that one little nugget was all anyone came away with.

A page could literally have 45 links across the top making it unusable, but as long as the user didn’t have too many clicks to get to what they want, it’s all good. Their thinking completely ignores the Rule of Seven, which is one of the fundamental cornerstones of human interaction, but hey ‘it’s only a click away’, right? Who cares if the human using it can’t decipher or remember all of the options, they are only a click away.

It’s far time we got rid of this long outdated and overused concept when looking at a user interface, or considering the user experience. It has literally become a crutch for people to use instead of making tough decisions. Not entirely sure which of the 15 “Absolutely Must have” navigation items to move? Say, “how many clicks will it take the user?” and the room hushes, and you have a navigation based on a misconception that has persisted for far too long.

I love to read. Imagine if editors applied this same logic. I can see an editor sitting across from Charles Dickens…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, …”

That’s a great start Charlie, but we have all these pages before we get to it…

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

I think the users would like to get to the end with just 1-click.

The problems with this approach are now pretty obvious: this 1-click mentality has us jumping to the end of a story at the expense of our users.

Yes, there are numerous studies that state that for every click the user has to make, 10% of the users leave. I contend, this stat is based on some falsehoods that should be questioned.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning some 22-click process, but there is a middle ground that we must be willing to accept.
Think about some other things in your life that require an interaction with an interface. Now which of those should have a speedy, fast, and successful user experience? Your ATM is a great example.

Most banks go out of their way to promote using their ATM because it cuts down on overhead. Now, with something so efficient that they’re pushing customers to use it, they most certainly don’t want them taking forever to make a transaction. Banks want volume AND speed, right? So why does a typical ATM interface only present users with a handful of options?

I got 99 problems but a click aint one
I got 99 problems but a click aint one

Notice there are only 10 options. However, customers can easily perform every action that a bank’s website allows them to do from this simple ATM interface.  Now, of all places, shouldn’t the bank worry about “how many clicks is it going to take the user?”. They are, no doubt, but they’ve also taken into account the confusion that more choices creates. So, they’ve cleaned up the user interface and added a few more clicks in order to guarantee a solid, successful user experience. This approach to design delivers a faster user interaction and gets more users through the ATM experience. Adding a few more clicks didn’t ruin the experience, nor did it cause someone to stare at the screen for 5 minutes trying to decipher what they were supposed to do.

It’s about time we focused on helping the user succeed and forget about how many clicks it takes them. The number of clicks has nothing to do with a user’s ability to successfully complete complex interactions. I will say it again:

The number of clicks has NOTHING to do with a user’s ability to successfully complete complex interactions.

Any user interface is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. This 1-click mentality has us jumping to the end of a story at the expense of our users. Instead of asking “How many clicks does the user have to do?”, sit down and work out a user’s work flow. Write the user story, storyboard the process, find your “best of times” … and know where your “far better thing” is, but don’t forget the revolution that takes place in-between those two… THAT is where your user’s success or failure really lives.


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6 responses to ““I Got 99 Problems but a Click ain’t One””

  1. ali says:

    thank you . nice article 🙂
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  2. Mobile says:

    Helping user is a great task for involve and getting click and ads.

  3. NIBB says:

    I do own a Nintendo Wii and you are right, its a simple confirmation with sound but works as opposed to most tablets which do not click when you are browsing a website. Is this bad? I think so.

    My mouse and my ball track have a hardware click to it. I actually purchased an expensive keyboard called “Das Keyboard” because it also has a loud clicking to it like an old typewriter. Its a mechanical keyboard and you actually type faster because you have a sound confirmation besides tactical feedback on your fingers.

    I love the clicking both on my trackball and keyboard.

    About the error messages I always do this. I put the error in a light red box modal, and besides the text being read an alert icon next to it. It could flash on and off if you want to take it a step more and even make a sound, all possible today and even easier with HTML5.

    About clicks, people do not care how much times they need to click, if steps are explained correctly. Its the heavy users that do and the solution is to have the most used parts on a GUI easily available and step wizards for the rest. The problem is finding which ones are the most used, as this changes per user. So the best GUI are the ones users can customize themselves, like drag boxes, or decide which to show on the dashboards.

    People do not mind clicking, just like scrolling which studies reveal that people love to scroll vs going to another page. Look at Amazon Kindle products page to name one example, everything in one huge big page. Why? Because you want all content displayed to the user at once, vs splitting it on multiple pages which he can or not go and because users tend to scroll. Absolutely every page you go, you tend to scroll until the bottom.

    So users love to scroll and click.

    The problem is finding a balance. ATM are like you explained because they are idiot proof. Users are not supposed to do a mistake, the more options, the more confusing. So just display one or two and lets users go from there to a next screen. Its bullet proof against dummies but even so some people have troubles with it.

    So you can make a GUI that is a step wizard for newbies, nobody will make a mistake but heavy users will hate it. And every heavy users was once a newbie.

    Its like a Flash animation on a website. The first time, its nice, the second time its boring, the third time its bugging, then you hate it.

    Things that need to be repeated all the time, need to be as simple as possible and adding clicks to it, just makes it more time consuming. It all depends on the user and the task. Finding the balance is the key to a great GUI.

  4. pixelneer says:

    Excellent point NIBB.

    I am not sure how widespread they are, but I have noticed just about everywhere I go now, the ATM/Card swipe at checkout has added noticeably louder ‘click’ noises to help ‘confirm’ my action.

    Just as it’s a good rule to provide more than one indicator on a notice box, for example not relying solely on changing the background to red for an error, but adding an icon, possibly a thicker border so there are multiple visual cues to let the user know something is wrong.

    To your point, the ‘click’ may become the sound we hear when pushing, sliding on tablets. A secondary cue to confirm our primary or initial action. If you have or played with an Nintendo Wii, you will notice they employ this very technique on many of their system screens.

  5. NIBB says:

    I’m more worried about the “click” vanishing all together. With phones and tables, TVs, Game Consoles, there is no click anymore. Should we call it a push? Since most are touch screen.

    At least this devices could add a click sound to their interfaces. Imagine someone that never used a computer before and gets his first table, he reads click here and there everywhere on the Internet and his devices never clicked ever !!!

  6. Jerald Darow says:

    Count the ‘submit ticket’ clicks.

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