The 3-click rule: myth or fact?

What is the 3-click rule? In a nutshell, it says that if users can’t find what they’re looking for after three clicks, they’re likely to become frustrated and leave the site. This common misconception is affecting how we design websites with a good user experience. Getting to relevant content with as few clicks as possible is not only misleading as a general web rule but also impossible to apply to all websites.

In fact, recent testing shows no correlation between the number of user clicks and their success in finding the content they sought. In general web usage, users interact differently on various sites (e.g., an e-commerce site like Amazon.com, a search engine like Google or a content/news site like an IEEE website). Hence, measuring the ease of use on these sites cannot be determined just by the number of clicks but how effectively they can get to content on each of these sites. If users are able to get to where they want and are satisfied (satisfaction being the key measure here), we do not need to worry about how many clicks got them there.

While website designers/vendors are often directed to keep the number of clicks to a certain minimum, providing them with the following criteria can ensure that the usability of the website is not compromised:

  • Create a task path that is progressive and intuitive (so users feel they are getting closer to the content they are seeking)
  • Use well labeled links and buttons, error messages, or copy telling users where they are (instead of them having to guess what they might encounter upon clicking or reading further)
  • Optimize site search tools to return relevant and accurate results (if site search is provided as a tool to find information on the site)headed
  • Optimize website performance for various devices (i.e. desktop, laptop, mobile, or tablet) based on context of use (includes speed of loading as well as rendering layouts based on user’s screen size)

Read more from user experience industry experts on this topic: