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The fewer clicks required to do anything at your website (say — like give you money), the more likely your visitors are to take that action. Exponentially.

You might notice a spot of redesign on the New Music Strategies website. I’m taking my own advice here. Things that don’t need their own page have ended up in the sidebar, or dumped. Why make you navigate to a whole new page to subscribe to this blog, or sign up for the Newswire email newsletter?

Sure, I’ve added a click if you want to read the whole of this post — but the tradeoff is that visitors to this site can scan through a number of articles at a glance and choose the one they want to read. The guiding principle has been to reduce, where possible, the effort of navigation on your part, for the maximum benefit.

The same applies — only more so — if you want people to use your website as a means to give you money. I’m delighted to say I have an example of good practice to share with you.

I bought some music on the internet today. I’m pleased with my purchase, and I’m particularly happy with the difference between this experience and the experience I had at another website the last time I attempted to buy music from an independent label’s online presence.

The music I just bought (and am now happily listening to) was from Type Records whose purchasing interface is a model of ease. They do some other things very well too (podcasts, RSS feeds, user interface, ‘breadcrumb’ navigation) — and I really like what they release. Kind of a perfect storm of online music experience.

One of the smartest things they do is to use Paypal.

It’s an internationally accepted method of payment, it’s comparatively hassle-free, safe and reliable and — most importantly — pretty much everyone who has ever done anything on eBay (tens, if not hundreds of millions) already have an account.

This eases up the process considerably.

The next thing they do well is to make it entirely clear what the purchasing procedure entails. There is a graphical display at the top of the download shop page that lays out the process as follows:

    Browse Music > Your Basket > Checkout > Get Your Downloads

And the process is exactly that simple.

In fact, it would be difficult to find a way to simplify it further. The ‘Get Your Downloads’ page was duplicated with an email containing a link, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, this assures the purchaser that if anything goes wrong with the download (plug gets pulled from the wall — that sort of thing), then there is still the opportunity to go direct to the download without having to appeal to the site or the e-Commerce provider for a second chance.

Better still, whole albums were zipped (with artwork) for my convenience. Instead of having to click to place a tick to select each of the songs, I could instead simply click once to download the album in its entirety. This was easier (and considerably cheaper) to do — and so it’s exactly what I did.

A single zip file is better than 13 individual mp3s. Fewer clicks.

But there are other areas in which the fewer clicks principle applies. In fact, it should apply everywhere to everything.

    Don’t make me look for things. Show them to me. Drilling down through layers is not what I’m here for.

    Don’t make me work for things. Give them to me. I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops, navigate using arcane drop down menus or pass by your advertising to get to where I want to go.

I won’t tell you who it was that provided me with the example of bad user experience. Suffice it to say that it broke all of these guidelines with gusto, and used a payment method that was, frankly, convoluted. And they didn’t end up with my money.

Above all, this is a matter of website usability. For further reading, I strongly recommend Jakob Nielsen’s UseIt.com website.