The Number of Clicks

Are fewer interactions with a system better?

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

When more clicks can help

Onboarding

If it’s a completely new experience, people might need the extra time to build a mental model, discover what your product or service is all about and in thise cases, friction can be good. Not everyone processes information the same way or at the same pace. It’s not likely that all of our customers will be super tech-savvy or with the relevant domain expertise.

Complex tasks

Tasks that are big on complexity can sometimes benefit from more granularity — breaking them up into a few segments or sub-tasks would increase the number of clicks or interactions required, but would reduce cognitive load and be more beneficial in the long-run.

Control, accuracy and trust

Automation and interaction are a balancing act. Typing in your city’s name and the form auto-filling your postcode is magic. When we reduce input required, we reduce the cognitive effort required — even possibly reduce the chance of errors in the short-term. However, when the system does something on our behalf, not all of us will understand what has happened or why it has happened. This would leave some people without valuable pieces of system feedback, feeling of control and ultimately trust. Not everyone appreciates magic, unfortunatelly.

When more clicks could be detrimental

  • Accessibility — not everyone clicks with ease — people with reduced motor functions or other physical impairments might struggle with a large number of interactions, especially ones involving a mouse.
  • Power users — when people know a system extremely well they will benefit from fewer actions to achieve a task — in these instances automation, shortcuts and hotkeys are great.
  • Mass actions, redundancy and repetition are areas where more clicks are

What could we do?

So if clicks aren’t a meaningful way to measure ease of use — what do we measure instead?

  • Error rate — where do people stumble? Why do they stumble there? How can we prevent those stumbles? In some cases, removing a click might resolve the issue while in others adding a click might be of more help. Again, clicks are rarely the issue, but what lies underneath them.
  • Success rate — how many people succeed to do the thing that they came to do? (This differs from conversion rate since it’s what the people using your product wanted to do, not what you wanted them to do).

Conclusion

So why do people use this metric? It’s easy.

Product designer from the East EU