Why “we need to reduce clicks” is sometimes a fallacy.

In this article i will discuss why I believe the phrase “we need to reduce clicks” is a fallacy (at times).


The plain statement of “we need to reduce clicks” really does not tell the whole truth about an application when it comes to modernization. I believe the true statement is that “We need to reduce clicks that annoy us“. There is a very clear distinction in my mind and I will try and explain.

It is all about design and the user experience.

When a user has to select a piece of information and then “action” it, that is probably at least two clicks.

Two clicks is two clicks right?

In the first scenario (lets say) – Looking at a view of data which needs actioning (circa 1998) to get the job done the user needs to:

  1. Click on the URL to open the document
  2. Moves their mouse to, and click the “Approve” butto

In the second scenario (circa 2005) a user is able to:

  1. Select a checkbox next to a list of document
  2. Move their mouse to and click the “Approve” button

In the final scenario (2013) the user:

  1. Right clicks on a document
  2. Selects “Approve” from the context menu with only a minor mouse movement

In all of these situations the user only has two clicks – but in a decreasing level of annoyance the User Experience gets better and better.

I grant you that if the user has to:

  1. click on a document
  2. click the edit button
  3. change the status combo to edit
  4. click the save button

that is two clicks too many and we could reduce the number of clicks (but how long does that REALLY take? less than 30 seconds at best).

But is too many clicks really the problem? No I don’t think it is. The problem lie at the heart of efficiency, expectation and patience.

So what’s the real problem here?

The user perceives that they only has a fixed amount of time to dedicate to “having to do their job” and if Approval of something is their responsibility they want to get it done as quick as possible. In today’s business when local LANs are lightning fast the pages refresh quickly. Time itself to do the approval is in the order of seconds, even in the worst case scenario.

But the perception of time taken to achieve the necessary “action” is verbalized as “need to reduce the number of clicks”.

I believe it is better verbalized as “need to reduce the number of clicks that annoy me”, which translates to “make me the least annoyed to have to do this.”


“Reducing the number of clicks” is sometimes a fallacy, improving the user experience of the same number of clicks they have to do to get their job done should be the real goal.

Bonus Scenario

Just for giggles…

One actual way of reducing the number of clicks by 50% (from two to one) would be to add “drag and drop” to the document and have the user drag the document to an “Approved” landing area – I am not sure that would improve the experience though.

3 thoughts on “Why “we need to reduce clicks” is sometimes a fallacy.

  1. The “right click” option might throw users off the path if they are “Web generation”. Right click for them isn’t considered part of the web app, but belongs to the browser.
    Anyway you have a click to many here (sorry I couldn’t resist). You could display a gray checkmark and a gray cancel symbol. With one click on one of the gray symbols you turn in green (approve) or the other one red (reject). One click down 🙂

  2. “One actual way of reducing the number of clicks by 50% (from two to one) would be to add “drag and drop” to the document and have the user drag the document to an “Approved” landing area – I am not sure that would improve the experience though.”

    You’re correct. The modern UI approach would to click “Approve” as an action, and then drag the approver cursor over all the items to be approved. This allows for simultaneous selection and action, and is very effective on touch UIs (think “Candy Crusher” or “Dots” games)

    Of course, for this to be effective, the available items should be pre-qualified for approval. So if the system were, say, vacation approval, then vacation requests should be pre-qualified to be non-overlapping with each other or with critical delivery dates.

    The users desire is always the same: have the computer do for me all the things that exactly match my prior behavior and the expectations of the business, and only interrupt me for things that require my exclusive attention at which time you should present every salient fact and a trend analysis of similar decisions elsewhere in the company weighted by how much those other actors have contributed to the success of the company.

    When you’re ready to create apps that do that, you know where to reach me. 😉

  3. If the user has few requests at a time and expects to individually approve each request, I want to provide them the critical information they would use to decide and a pair of buttons next to each request to approve/deny. In thinking about my workflows, I don’t have any that the user would be expected to approve a bulk stack of requests all at once.

    To see more information they could click on a link (I’m thinking modal window rather than another page) or perhaps simply hover over the word “details”.

    That is far less annoying and only one click instead of 2-4 clicks. So, both fewer clicks AND less annoying. I think you’re right about “less annoying” being the goal, and that “number of clicks” should only be considered short-hand for “make me the least annoyed to have to do this.”

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