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#28 - The 3-Click Myth

Sent the November 17th
Author face
Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

Many of you will have heard from various sources that if the user is not able to get the information they are looking for in less than 3 clicks, their frustration will increase or they will go to another page. Jeffrey Zeldman's original quote is "It's widely agreed, even by people who are not idiots, that web users are driven by a desire for fast gratification. If they can't find what they're looking for within three clicks, they might move on to somebody else's site".

Well, it's fake, there is no supported research that concludes that after three clicks the patterns change, in fact, Joshua Porter (2003) concluded that metrics such as Clicks-to-completion or General user satisfaction based on the number of clicks is not affected by the total number of clicks.

We assume that neither the number of clicks is a relevant usability metric, nor that all clicks are of the same relevance, or if they have a different interaction cost or information scent, etc.

We take this opportunity to expose another myth about information architecture and navigation, which is about Miller's Law, the magic number 7±2. This number, as you know, is the approximate capacity of elements that we can store in our memory, so as the same definition says, this number does not apply to the total of first level elements in navigation.

Rather than designing based on myths, the essential thing when it comes to planning a good architecture is to create systems that are neither too wide (it would occupy too much space in the interface or would provoke complex decisions (Hicks' Law)) nor too deep (few first level taxonomies or too much navigation to reach the link).

Other advices when defining the navigation are to guide the user where he is at any moment (wayfinding), to use labels with a high information scent, to prioritise the important pages at the beginning or at the end, to enable quick accesses to pages that are at the same level and are siblings (lateral navigation) and always to prioritise the architecture from the most general to the most specific.

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