The answer to this questions, and to the "number of clicks" question, is
the 'it depends on the situation'. But the reason is the same.
For any interface where clarity or productivity are a primary goal
(there may be some gaming or community applications that do not belong
to this group), the way to achieve this goal is to enable the user to
understand and make choices without having to change his cognitive model
or derail his train of thought.
So, with these guidelines in mind, either test with real users or do a
heuristic evaluation of your design. In most cases, your sins will be
evident and easily corrected.
This will tell you not only how many steps to put into your process
(number of clicks), but also the optimal number of choices to display
and even the amount of ancillary information required.
These were the precepts I followed in designing the shop and checkout
processes of the Palm Treo store.
The design is not devoid of flaws, I'm sure, but every effort was made
to keep the information chunks manageable and actionable.
Dante Murphy | Director of Information Architecture
Medical Broadcasting Company | A D I G I T A S INC. COMPANY
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] optimal range of choices to offer?
Related to the "no arbitrary rules for clicks" discussion, I'm
recommendations for the optimal number of choices to offer users in a
or web app. At what point do we stop being helpful and start
their ability to choose?