Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What's better: Fewer clicks, or greater simplicity?

For a project I'm currently working on, part of my content strategy involves coming up with a simple information architecture (IA) for a large product & service section of a website. These aren't products or services that people buy frequently, and visitors are only expected to come to this section of the site occasionally. In the IA that I proposed, the user needs to make a few more clicks then they do on the current site but the pages are clean and simple and the path to the products is clear and straight-forward. This was getting some push-back from members of the project team who felt that there were too many clicks. So, what did I do?

First, I asked (yet again) to do user testing. There were all sorts of vague excuses that may make for another interesting blog post, but the bottom line was "no".

Then, I engaged our Vancouver User Experience Group in a lively discussion about which is better: fewer clicks, or greater simplicity.They provided really valuable feedback, and I thought I'd share the gist of it here with you:

  • There is no acceptable excuse for not testing with users in a project of this size. Be creative, be sneaky, but get the design options in front of real people!
  • Overwhelmingly, for infrequent site visitors, people supported 5 or 6 easy clicks and clear signposts over 2 or 3 clicks that require users to slow down to find the right link. (But for frequent users this isn't true.)
  • Use personas and do scenario walkthroughs to make sure that you've considered how users will go through the site to find what they need.
  • Be aware that these types of discussions are sometimes more about ego and being right than what's best for the user.
To see the full conversation, check out the VanUE mailing list archive.

But this is design and usability, so what does it have to do with content strategy? Well, design needs to support content, and usability makes sure that content is easy to get to. But everything on the page -- words, buttons, links, navigation --, and the pages themselves, are all content. How the user experiences this content is all part of a content strategy.

So now all I have to do is put on a mask and cape like Zorro, and find some unsuspecting people to walk through our designs... Don't give me away if you see me on the streets of Vancouver!

Please use the comments below to provide your 2 cents worth about what you think is better, fewer clicks or greater simplicity.

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