The Three Click Rule

By Deane Barker on December 2, 2003

Testing the Three-Click Rule: The Three-Click Rule says that users should be able to find anything on your Web site in three clicks. (Who made up this “rule”? No idea — if there was a memo, we missed it.)

No matter, as this scientific examination basically says the rule is a bunch of hogwash.

If there is a scientific basis to the Three-Click Rule, we couldn’t find it in our data. Our analysis left us without any correlation between the number of times users clicked and their success in finding the content they sought.

Our analysis showed that there wasn’t any more likelihood of a user quitting after three clicks than after 12 clicks. When we compared the successful tasks to the unsuccessful ones, we found no differences in the distributions of tasks lengths. Hardly anybody gave up after three clicks.

I think a lot of it depends on the site. If your site is easy to use, and users have a sense that they’re actually getting somewhere as they’re clicking, then they’re a lot more likely to keep clicking away. However, if the first few clciks give them little feedback or confidence that they’re going to reach their goal, they cut and run.