Reducing friction is more than just reducing clicks

Last updated
Mar 4, 2024
Does reducing clicks reduce friction? We dive into what makes a solid customer experience when completing an online task.

🍭 "How many clicks does it take to get to the end of a task?"

Our teams sign up for our services almost weekly.

Why? Because the only way to feel what your customer feels (and to make sure nothing is broken), is to go through their exact experience.

Do you want more on-time payments and fewer abandoned carts?

Go through each step of your flow and see how long it takes to complete or if anything seems off to you. If it's confusing to you, it's probably also confusing to your customers.

Take note of: 

  • What sorts of issues you run into that would be a blocker for a customer trying to complete their task efficiently?
  • Are any of the steps redundant?
  • How can you help them skip a step?

Is the 3-click rule still a thing?

The 3-click rule said that from any given page, a user must be able to find their answer/achieve their goal within 3 clicks. When done right, it means your website is easy to navigate, your transaction and form flows are smooth and lack friction, and people can find what they need on their own.

In a basic sense, yes, clicks = time. But clicks aren't the whole picture.

Jeff Sauro, PhD of MeasuringU, comments on why the "3 click rule" has become so ubiquitous:

A correlation of this magnitude means that there is clearly an overlap between task time and clicks. However, the overlap is not strong enough that clicks are a replacement for time and vice versa. On average you would only be explaining about 25% of reductions in time by counting clicks on websites.

So we're learning that clicks do correlate with time, but without looking at the bigger picture, reducing clicks by themselves won't necessarily lead to your goal.

A post by Sergushkin.com goes on to explain how to put clicks into context. He recommends to start by asking yourself, what is the purpose of this service? So you don't lose sight of what your and your users' goals are.

He recommends some tips to help with your design:

  1. Use images as answers so its easy for the user to see and select.
  2. Combine multiple questions into one step.
  3. Use a progress bar that shows the user how much is left.
  4. "Offer instant value in exchange for filling out the form." Using perks to thank users for filling out forms or – well, anything – means you could get 10% up to 100% more form completions.

Design is just one part of the equation

It's increasingly disorienting when the number of steps and load times extend the process, and the instructions don't make things easier.

So while you're reducing the steps, also note the importance of:
✍ Copy and instructions that make sense, using tooltips and plain language.
⏰ Reducing load times in between each step as this often drags out the process more than the extra clicks.
🧡 Convenience means making it easy to do the task by emailing the customer at the right time, making buttons conspicuous and persistent, and educating them on the how and why.
🎁 A thank-you perk can turn a chore into a positive experience, showing your customers that you genuinely care and thank them for their time and effort to engage with your brand.

When streamlining your website to reduce friction, remember that "reducing the clicks it takes to get the task done" is just one part of the equation – perks, education, instructions, and load times are all extremely important factors. Reach out to us if you need help improving your customer flows for conversion.

About the author
Adrienne Kmetz
Adrienne is a marketing expert with a career history of working in startups of all sizes, from early stage to series A. She has 17+ years of experience writing about business, finance, and entrepreneurship. She went to Colorado College where she majored in skiing.
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