Making your pages easy to find: how many clicks to get there?
If you’ve ever planned a website, you’ve had to decide how you’ll link the pages together. Should everything be right there on the homepage, or should you break it into stages? You may have heard that no page should be more than three clicks from the homepage. Any more, and visitors will get confused, bored and leave. This is a myth.
You don’t want to waste people’s time. Three clicks is definitely better than 300. But there’s no magic number. It’s all about creating a good experience for your users.
Make information easy to find, not ‘close to home’
Think about how much mental energy it takes for people to reach their destination, not how many steps it takes them to get there.
You’ve probably heard about explorers who got hopelessly lost a few miles from home. Finding my way around websites feels a bit like that sometimes. The home page links give you no clues about how to get to your destination.
Sometimes more clicks are actually better than less. One company increased product sales by 600 per cent by making visitors click through more times to reach that product page.
I found this out myself when I went online to buy a replacement part for my stick-blender. On the website, I went to ‘parts’ then ‘brand’ then ‘product’ then ‘part’. That’s four steps, but it wasn’t a problem because the navigation was so intuitive. The whole way, I knew that I was homing in on the information I was after.
How to make every click count: three questions
- Is it easy for users to tell what’s a link and what isn’t? I’ve seen sites that are all images/heavily designed text, with no cues that say ‘this is a link.’ Visitors will try to find the links for a while, then give up.
- Do the links describe what users will find when they click? Writing link text is not the time to be creative (eg, ‘Get your groove on’ for a link to your contact us page). Simple, functional and short is far better.
- Does the page deliver on what the link text promises? If the link says ‘Office supplies’, a page about home entertainment systems will just confuse people. It’s rare for websites to get this one so clearly wrong, but mismatches are very common.
Don’t make me think, Steve Kruger. Simple, practical tips on improving website navigation
Highlights from Prioritizing Web Usability, CA Heidelberger. Quotes studies that debunk the three click myth.