3-Click Rule and Usability

“Usability does not equate to a specific number of clicks, taps, swipes, pinches, flicks.” – John Morkes

The usability of a design is the measure of ease by which a user can work on a product to achieve the desired goals in an efficient way.

Usability has 5 components: Learnability, Efficiency, Memorability, Error Tolerance, and Satisfaction. Each of these components is related to the ease of use that a product provides to its users. One factor to provide the ease of use is the number of times the user must click, tap, swipe, pinch, or flick to perform a task.

While working with clients, it is very common to hear, “Can we do something to reduce the number of clicks?”

Well, that’s a good goal for a UX designer to achieve. The 3-Click Rule states that users should be able to perform a task in 3 clicks and that is the only measure of a good usable product. If you don’t follow this rule, the user will leave your design.

Is this true?

Things are changed now, and it seems that this rule is no more considered as the measurement criteria for the usability of a product. Even at times, the focus on reducing the number of clicks can lead us to usability problems.

The goal of a UX designer is to make tasks easier for users. At certain places, this can be done by introducing a few additional clicks in the design. A more flexible approach is presented by the 1-Click Rule that states,

“Every click or interaction should take the user closer to their goal while eliminating as much of the non-destination as possible.”

This means that the purpose of each click, tap, swipe, pinch, or flick should be to make the users’ task easier for them.

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The secret of achieving a usable product is to provide balanced user interaction with no extra clicks. The users’ task will be easier if you provide them simple navigation and understandable content in your product. They will never leave the product just because they need to click more than 3 times to complete a particular task.

Jakob Nielsen’s usability tests found that users’ ability to find products on an e-commerce site increased by 600 percent after the design was changed so that products were 4 clicks from the homepage instead of 3.

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