Save a Click

A very common UX myth — one that clients will “remind” me of in about every project — is that everything should be accessible within 3 clicks. Numerous research studies and practical implementations have debunked this. It has been discovered that the number of click doesn’t negatively contribute to the user experience or even improve it! As part of Adaptive Path’s advice to improve Twitter’s user engagement an extra step was introduced in the sign-up process. The result? 29% more first-time tweeps completed the on-boarding process than before the re-design.

What’s become apparent that users don’t mind clicking, as long as every clicks brings them closer to their goal. Having a good navigation that’s clear to the user at every point is what matters. Of course, if every page takes 5 seconds to load an extra click is bad for the overall experience, but that has much more to do with your website’s performance than with the number of clicks. It’s simply the by-product of the click.

Save clicks where you can

However, if you can save a click you should. Your users don’t mind clicking if it leads to what they want, but if you can remove intermediary steps you should go for it. Making things easier for your users improves the user experience. You should always A/B test modifications like these of course, especially in e-commerce websites. But generally removing unnecessary clicks, particularly in web apps with repetitive tasks, works.

A real-world example: Toggl

Let’s look at a real-world example: Toggl’s time-tracking control. Toggl is great time tracking application (well, as “great” as a time tracking app can get, it still sucks to do time tracking of course) that puts a lot of focus on improving the usability of the app. They need to of course: time tracking is annoying as it’s basically a meta-action. So making using their app as simple as possible directly improves their competitiveness (and thereby their bottom-line).

Now, let’s take a look at how Toggl can save a click. In Toggl there are two different time entry modes: manual time entry and automatic time tracking. The first mode let’s you enter a specific start and stop time and the second tracks your time automatically, starting now. Because doing time tracking perfectly is impossible if you work on more than one task you’re bound to leave the timer running for too long or forgot to start it. Because of this I switch between the two modes about 10 times a day. And this is where Toggl can drop a click.

Step 1: Manual time input mode

When you are in manual time input mode, the time tracking widget looks like this:

Step 1: the user is in manual time entry mode

Step 1: the user is in manual time entry mode

You can enter the task, pick a project, enter a start and stop time and log it using the “Save”-button. In this case I already wrote down the name of the task, when I realized that I should use the automatic time tracker. To access the automatic mode I need to click the “Use timer”-link above the “Save”-button.

Step 2: Switching to timer mode

Now that I’ve switched to automatic time tracking the widget looks like this:

Step 2: the user switched to automatic time tracking mode

Step 2: the user switched to automatic time tracking mode

The most visible change is the background color. It’s a very great way to indicate to the user that the mode has changed, and at all times it makes it clear to the user which mode he’s in. Two other changes in the widget: the button’s label has changed from “Save” to “Start” and the label of the link to switch to the other mode is now “Add manually”.

However, the time is not tracking yet.

Step 3: Starting the timer

Now to actually start the timer I need to press the “Start”-button.

Step 3: the user started time tracking

Step 3: the user started time tracking

Again the background color has changed, this time to green to indicate that the timer is running. Also the primary button color and label has changed to provide a clear visual clue to the user where to click to stop tracking time.

This is all great, but why didn’t the timer start immediately when I clicked “Use timer”? Most of the times I’ve written the titel of the task down already and if not: I would consider the actions related to time tracking to be part of the task itself.

Should I complain about a click? Yes!

Now you may interject that I’m complaining about nothing. What’s the impact of saving a single click on all the clicks you do in a day? The answer is simple: it depends. If tracking time was something I did maybe once or twice a day (or even less) it would be no biggy. But I track about 20 tasks daily and on top of that: time tracking sucks, remember? The annoyance of having to do an unnecessary click when you’re already doing something that you don’t really like can have a significant impact on your mood while using the app.

When doing a repetitive task such as time tracking, every click counts. So make sure that you remove unnecessary steps where you can.

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