Cheap and expensive clicks – improving user experience

Rule of thumb is, that the less clicks website’s visitor needs to reach what she/he is looking for, the better. There are only few exceptions, if – for instance – the clicks are part of some engaging online application or game.

Much more interesting is, that not all clicks are equal. Roughly we can divide them into two categories: cheap and expensive links. Cheap click is when it is so obvious why and where we have to click, that we do it almost automatically. Good example of such click is when we see thumb version of Youtube video with the easily recognizable white play triangle on red rectangle with rounded corners. We know, why it is that and we know exactly what happens when the thumbnail is clicked. In fact, this is almost automatic reaction. Even several such clicks will not destroy visitor’s good mood. To perform cheap click visitor doesn’t need to think. Design leading to cheap clicks is highly  desired. Cheap clicks don’t interfere with good user experience.

Totally different situation is with so called “expensive clicks”. What exactly is expensive click? Expensive click is a click which requires some intellectual or mechanical effort on user’s side. For instance, when user is perplexed and doesn’t know if clicking this button instead of another one will help to find the desired product quicker. Or if clicking some button will provide information searched for. This mood of uneasiness and confusion should be avoided at all cost. In web design everything which forces user to think is very bad idea if you want to improve user experience – except situations when this kind of design is required by user. Keep in mind, that something like short description, menu item title, a piece of functionality or layout which is obvious for you, maybe is not obvious for your website’s users.

Example of expensive clicks design can be, for instance, badly planned drop down navigation menu. I mean the situation when user needs to click the menu in several places to get idea what is going on and where should look for a product, information or service. In fact drop down menu can be abused, so to speak. From designer point of view this is nice and slick, but on user side it can produce unpleasant feeling of some additional NOT PAID WORK NEEDED TO FIND SOMETHING.

Real danger hidden in drop down menu can be easier to understand in situation when some menu items fit to more than one category. That is – when product or service or a piece of information can be described ambiguously. Let’s say, user clicks top level drop down menu item – and see at least two menu items (among many others) where the desired product can be hidden. Which one to click now? This question marks end of good user experience.

Another example of expensive click is when user is not sure about functionality web page elements – is this object on page supposed to be clicked or not? Is it button or not? Is this text linked or not? The fact that user starts thinking is bad news for you.

Mechanically expensive click is quite simple to understand. All designs which use too small font, or font on bad background (too low contrast between font and background on button), or too small buttons, or placing important parts of website message or navigation below fold line (forcing user to scroll page) etc are examples of design which produce mechanically expensive clicks. User has to do some mechanical UNNECESSARY job, with such parts of her/his body like eye or hand. By all means this kind of design should be also avoided, because the only effect of such design can be lower conversion rate. It is enough to mention that only about 20% of visitors will scroll web page, which means that about 80% of visitors will not see your important message hidden below fold line. Don’t expect website visitor will click on button  hidden below fold line. Would you click on something you can not see?