Is there any truth to the three click rule?
Web design and development is hard enough without all the rules and regulations that user experience guru’s like to conjure up. One of the most famous of rules is the "Three Click Rule". But does this rule stand up to the real world?
What is it?
The three click rule is a very popular and mostly unquestioned rule amongst web designers. The general meaning behind the rule is: if a user cannot find what they are looking for within three mouse clicks (hyperlinks) then they are likely to get frustrated and leave the site.
Give me some proof!
Call me a prude or an unbeliever if you will, but I simply cannot believe that this rule is true. I have read plenty of web design guru’s that believe in this rule, including Jeffrey Zeldman’s Taking your talent to the web. But, the hard fact is that you cannot assign an arbitrary number to this type of site architecture. While I agree that the number of clicks should be reduced to the lowest common denominator, it is just not realistic to assign the number three to this. Instead, we should be more concerned in guiding our users down a defined path that makes them "feel" like they are going the right way. This particular User Experience is called Information foraging. In fact, there is plenty of studies to prove that this rule is in fact a myth. Jakob Nielsen’s usability tests have proven that a website design refreshed based upon a structured information architecture was more successful when employing four clicks rather then three. From the book "Prioritizing Usability".
So what should I do?
Instead, the team of developers at Cheeky Monkey prefer to replace the three click rule, with the one click rule:"Every click or interaction should take the user closer to their goal while eliminating as much of the non-destination as possible." -Breaking the Law: The 3 Click RuleWe believe if you stick to this, you user’s will thank you