3 isn't the magic number

At UX London I went to the Jared Spool workshop 'Designing for Content-Rich Sites'. As expected I was entertained and educated, but I was also reminded of an urban myth that has come back to haunt me time, and time, again.

'People need to get to all our content within 3 clicks'

This is simply not true – they don't! In the hundreds of user tests we run each year we witness people happily clicking away, delving deep down in to the depths of sites to find what they are looking for. It's a joy to watch a hungry participant hunting for their bounty.

The scent of information

However, it can all go horribly wrong if people loose what Jared Spool refers to as 'the scent of information'. To have a good hunt you need to follow good scent. On a website that often means navigation and content which is full of fragrant trigger words - words that reassure people they are on the right track and help them decide where to go next. Long descriptive links help too; Jared’s research suggests 7-12 words as the optimum length for a link.

6 clicks, but I'm happy

Last Wednesday I couldn’t remember if I needed to put our rubbish bin out with our recycling in the morning. A quick visit to my local council's website told me that I did. In truth my task took me 6 whole clicks, but back in the reality I feel and care about, it took seconds. My hunt was made easy thanks to trigger words like 'recycling', 'rubbish', and 'collection day finder' being littered along my way.

Can't click, wont click

If people lose the scent of information, they start to get nervous: confidence goes down, decisions become harder to make and people hesitate. Suddenly, choosing where to click seems very hard to do and that's when people notice how many clicks you're asking them to make.

There's no magic number

We want to design sites which allow people to find the content they’re after without expending any unnecessary effort. Design for good scent of information. Don't waste time worrying about the number of clicks. Bin that urban myth.