3-Click Rule

What is the 3-click rule?

The 3-click rule is an official rule that states that a user should always be able to find their desired information within three clicks or less; however, there is no evidence to support this and it is now widely considered to be a myth and not a rule that should be strictly adhered to.

The 3-click rule for navigation

The 3-click rule was created to encourage web designers to design easily navigable websites that allow users to find their desired information in the fewest clicks possible. This rule assumes users will get frustrated if they don’t find the desired information within three clicks and will then abandon your website.

Usability tests challenge this so-called rule and have actually proven that three is an arbitrary number. There is no evidence to support the 3-click rule, and it’s now widely recommended that rather than focusing on following the three-click rule, designers should dedicate their efforts to creating a proper, well-organized navigation and user flow.

Origins of the 3-click rule

The 3-click rule was created in 2001 by Jeffrey Zeldman, an American entrepreneur, web designer, author, podcaster, and speaker who believed that the most important information should take no more than three clicks to access. He maintained that if a user was unable to find their desired information within three clicks, then they were likely to move on to another website.

While this rule does encourage designers to create websites and apps that are easy to navigate, the number of clicks has not been found to be a reliable gauge of user experience. There are many aspects of a website that give more weight to usability, such as the navigation structure (e.g. the use of a mega menu for websites with deep information architectures).

Studies that challenge the 3-click rule

There are many studies that challenge and dispute the 3-click rule. Here are just a few.

UIE study, “Testing the 3-Click Rule”

Usability tests demonstrate that visitors on a site don’t get frustrated after three clicks. It’s not actually the number of clicks that matter, but rather the presentation and appropriately labeled information.

Joshua Porter’s study, “Testing the 3-Click Rule”

In 2003, Joshua Porter’s study, “Testing the 3-Click Rule”, demonstrated that a user’s abandon rate did not increase when the task involved more than three clicks and that the number of clicks had no impact on user experience and satisfaction.

Jakob Nielsen’s book, “Prioritizing Usability”

Jakob Nielsen’s usability tests found that “users’ ability to find products on an e-commerce site increased by 600 percent after the design was changed so that products were 4 clicks from the homepage instead of 3”. This finding debunks the myth that the number three holds any unique significance when it comes to usability.

Related Terms

Brand Strategy

Brand strategy involves translating your technical offering into a clear value proposition and backing it up with a messaging framework and brand personality you can own.

Anchor Text

Otherwise known as link text, a link title, or a link label, anchor text can be described as clickable words or phrases within a hyperlink that connects two web pages.

Search Engine

Database tools that help users find content on the World Wide Web. Once a user enters a keyword or search query, search engines curate a list of the most relevant webpage URLs, images, or videos, known as the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).