Friday, September 11, 2015

It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice. (Steve Krug)

If there’s one thing that marketeers understand about the web it’s that the more clicks it takes a user to get to their stuff the worse shape the world is in. To put that as a formula, I guess it would go something like, “clicks = evil.” 

Okay, I’m joking. Seriously, the adage is usually something along the lines of, “If users have to click more than 3 times to get what they’re after, they’ll abandon your site.”

Unfortunately, it’s really not that simple. Analytics show that users click more than 3 times all the time. And surveys and usability tests typically show no decrease in user satisfaction when they do so. In fact, the issue has been tackled by such leading lights as Jakob Nielsen and Jared Spool, neither of whom have found any real correlation between number of clicks and user satisfaction.

What they did find, though, was something a little more interesting. In particular, when the user’s choices are simple and straightforward, users are happy to drill down and click away. It’s when those choices aren’t so straightforward that problems arise.

Here’s how it works ... A straightforward path doesn’t involve much more than clicking. A less straightforward one, though, forces the user to think about each step. Add it all up, and the straightforward but “longer” path may take less time than the “shorter” but more confusing one. And even if it doesn’t, the user’s subjective impression will often make them think the more straightforward path actually took them less time and effort

Jakob Nielsen ties it to foraging theory and something called “information scent.” Like a fox after some rabbits, we users will stick with something as long as we’re pretty sure there’ll be a payoff in the end. If that particular woods or field or website doesn’t seem too promising, though, we’ll likely abandon it for happier hunting grounds. 

Clear labels give us good information scent, encouraging us to keep clicking. Poor labels – even if the “game” happens to be only a click away – unfortunately do not. 

Actually, Steve’s a lot more friendly
than this pic would make him seem

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