Web Design Wednesday – Reasons Why You Should Throw the Three-Click Rule Out the Window and Use Other Alternatives

by . March 20th, 2013

The three-click rule has become a somewhat staple in the web design and development industry. The term stems from the hypothetical situation wherein the user, out of frustration or confusion, leaves your web page after three-clicks within the web page. But there have been prominent web designers and researchers who criticized the rule due to its accuracy.

In a research done by User Interface Engineering (UIE), they tested 44 users attempting 620 tasks online while counting the clicks that they’re making as they move along. The study’s conclusion provided that there were no certain number of clicks that determines when a user will quit the task. It was even mentioned that some users were persistent that they finished their tasks after more than three (3) clicks.


What does this tell us?

We are underestimating the user if we’re going to think that they’ll quit after three clicks. You have to remember that the user ended up on your website because he’s looking for something – and that he might have found your website from another page (google, maybe?) or off an advertisement you published some time ago. Point is, if the user is really looking for something and he thinks he can find it on your site – he’ll push for it.


There are other factors that web designers/developers must consider – this can range from the overall design of the web page to the keywords and call to action that they use on their buttons. You just have to remember that as a web designer/developer your main goal is to make things easier and apparent to the users.


What can we do?  

There are a couple of things that you can do as a web designer/developer. In his book about web usability, Steve Krug pointed out that if a designer or developer can accommodate at least one rule in usability it should be “Don’t make me (the user) think”. Well, it’s more of a “make everything as obvious as you can to me, and I’ll do the rest” kind of thing. Anyway, here are a few things off Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think” that you can use on your web projects:


Create a Visual Hierarchy                                                   

Make your web pages’ layout easier to navigate. Create breadcrumbs of your categories and sort titles out by size, color, or presentation.  An ideal example would be is when you have multiple categories and several subcategories under them, make sure to group them together and use a unique identifier for them – font size, font color, button color, or placement within the web.



Utilize Trigger Keywords

Keywords aren’t only important in optimizing your website for SEO, it’s also important for User Experience. Using well-placed call-to-action phrases with proper keywords allows your users to know what to expect once they clicked. Ideal keywords that you can use in your web page are “sale”, “discount”, “##% off”, and other related words – as these terms are hardwired on everyone due to our consumer attitude.



Try to make everything Self-Evident

Make everything that you include on your website to be obvious of its purpose. If it’s a shopping cart make sure it has the name “Shopping Cart” on it, if it’s a link to a demo or sample – make sure the buttons’ are obviously clickable and has the words “View Demo” or “View Preview”. Make it short and concise, and true to what it says.



Exploit Conventions

Follow your industry’s convention, because chances are the market that you are targeting are used to a standard system which they’ve used or encountered before. This is also applicable to new users – as conventions are tested and proven systems that yield results. You can see this being used by different online printing companies.



 So there you have it. Remember that creating websites is not about getting your user or target market to make a decision right away — it’s about persuading them to take action and giving them positive reason to do so. If you have a project website right now, keep in mind that all the rules related to web design/development is more theoretical and experience-based. Try to find what works best for your business, or better yet look for inspiration in successful websites with the same business model as yours.

What’s your list of best practices in designing or developing a website? Tell us your idea or story through the comments section!