Don’t optimize for the fewest number of clicks

I liked Meng To’s Simplifying For The Wrong Reasons, but there’s one part that perpetuates one of the most enduring myths in user experience design:

The best user experience reduces the amount of clicks to as few as possible.

No one’s going to argue that we should add superfluous clicks in interfaces. But making “as few clicks as possible” an optimization goal is how interfaces become bloated and crammed with cruft. As Lukas Mathis points out in his explanation of the psychological behavior called “satisficing”:

A great user interface is not one where each goal can be reached with the smallest number of clicks possible, or where the user has to pick from only a small number of choices at each step, but one where each individual click is as obvious as possible. […] As long as users feel that they are getting closer to their goal with each step, they don’t mind drilling down into a deep hierarchy.

Josh Clark also addresses the myth that extra taps and clicks are evil in an interview with Forbes:

In mobile, tap quality is far more important than tap quantity. As long as each tap delivers satisfaction, extra taps are good. Taps invite conversation—give and take—that you can get at and explore. Building meaningful click sequences are a form of progressive disclosure that helps you uncomplicate complexity.

So, let’s get away from this idea that we should optimize for the fewest number of clicks and taps. Instead, we should optimize for an information architecture and visual hierarchy that makes the next step as obvious as possible. Joshua Porter summarizes this approach nicely:

Almost every screen we design can be improved by really focusing on the steps and sequences of steps a user goes through. In our haste we often speed up the process too much, get steps out of order, fail to present an appropriate next step, or otherwise break the sequence. By re-assessing your app or site in light of these potential errors, you can discover the sequence and timing that your users need to successfully make it to the next step.