First-Click Testing

The first click is always the hardest.


First-click testing is a method for measuring the usability of a website, app, or design by finding out how easy it is to complete a given task. The aim of first-click testing is to verify that the first click a user makes on an interface to carry out a given task is both correct and easy.

In a first-click test the participant is given an instruction (usually along the lines of “Where would you click to…?”) and is then shown an image of an interface on which they click to carry out the instruction. The position of their click is recorded, along with how long they took to click. Further feedback can also be gathered at the end of the test by asking the user to explain why they clicked where they did.

First-click tests can be run using screenshots, sketches, wireframes, prototypes, and mock-ups, giving you freedom to test from very early on in the design process, all the way through to the final designs, and even on live interfaces.

One of the most influential studies into usability, “First Click Usability Testing” by Bob Bailey and Cari Wolfson, delved into the importance of the user’s first click being correct. Their findings showed that if the first click was correct, users had an 87% chance of completing the action correctly, as opposed to just 46% if the first click was wrong. Thus the first click is a strong indicator of overall success as users are nearly twice as likely to complete an action when they get it right.

Key benefits of first-click testing

  • Web analytics can tell you where users clicked, but not what they were trying to achieve. Click testing allows you to ask users to carry out a specific task, letting you isolate and investigate user behavior around each different scenario separately.
  • Visualising exactly where people are clicking gives great insights. Clicks that occur in unexpected places can highlight confusing parts of an interface and are useful for informing future design choices.
  • Click testing gives you information about users’ expectations, particularly for common interface elements such as menus, buttons, and form elements.
  • Measuring the time taken to click can help you determine how easily users are able to find the correct place to click, and provides a useful benchmark for comparing the usability of design alternatives.
  • Large amounts of click data can be displayed as a heat-map to get an overview of where users are drawn to click.
  • It’s easy to run multiple rounds of tests, improving the design at each stage.

Important considerations

  • Scenarios
    There are many different goals a user may have when using your website or application. When determining what to test first, write up a range of tasks that people could undertake, and then figure out which are most important to the success of the design and test them first.
  • Pathing
    What is the optimal path for a user to take? Is there more than one correct place to click? Before running the test, decide where you want the user to click.
  • Comparisons
    When running first-click tests on a new design, it’s a good idea to also test the original design. This not only gives you an idea of which elements you could improve, but also gives you a benchmark so you can measure and verify improvements in the new design.
  • Feedback
    It can be useful to provide opportunity for further feedback. Allowing the user to explain why they clicked somewhere can help you understand how users perceive the design, and provide further ideas for improvement.

Testing Menus

Simple, clear website navigation is vital. Menus often appear on every page of a website or app, meaning they are a single element that can greatly affect usability across multiple pages. The aim is to create a menu that is easy to understand and use, making navigation simple for the user.

Evidence that a menu should be tested includes:

  • analytics showing a long time spent on simple pages,
  • high bounce rates,
  • feedback from internal or external users, and
  • low engagement on a page.

Key questions

  • Can users quickly and easily recognise the navigation?
  • Is there ambiguity in the wording of the navigation?
  • Does the menu layout work in context of the website or app?
  • Are navigational items grouped in a way that makes sense to users?

Example tests

  • “Where would you click to find…?”
    Determine whether your navigation labels are clear by asking users to find a particular piece of information on your website.
  • Can users discover elements that are hidden away in a mobile or tablet design, like hamburger menus?

Testing Interaction

Interactive elements such as icons, buttons, and links are crucial to the success of a design. You can use click testing to determine how well these elements communicate their function, and how easily users are able to find them.

Key questions

  • Is it clear that an element can be clicked on?
  • Can users easily determine where to click to perform a particular action?
  • Are any elements on the page misleading or confusing?
  • Is a particular element easy to find in a design?

Example tests

  • “Where would you click to share this article?”
    Do users understand the meaning and function of an icon?
  • “Click on the interactive parts of this design.”
    Ask users to identify which elements are functional in a design.

Testing Wireframes

By testing a wireframe you gain valuable knowledge early on in the design stage, when changes are much easier and cheaper to implement. As click tests are run with images of an interface, they can be used to test late or early-stage wireframes, and even photos of hand-drawn wireframes.

Key questions

  • Can users recognize the key elements of the wireframe?
  • Are essential navigation elements where users expect them to be?
  • Do users understand how to complete an action?

Example tests