Using First Click Testing To Identify Usability Issues

First click testing can be used to evaluate the intuitiveness of your website’s buttons, menus, links and such, in context with your site’s design. The test taker clicks on the part of the webpage (menu, link, graphic, etc.) which they think or presume will help them in completing the task.

Participants are normally given a number-of tasks which they should complete. Most of the tools used for first click testing provide ‘heat-maps’ which show the parts of the webpage which were clicked-for each task tested. First impressions matter in real life, and that is also the same case with web sites navigation. Research shows that when a user’s 1st click is down on the right path, 87 percent of them eventually succeed. In case they click down on an incorrect or wrong path, only 46 percent of them eventually succeed.

First click tests aren’t facilitated. Since there’s no opportunity or chance to clarify the task, the task’s wordings should be extremely precise, un-ambiguous, and easily understood. For example, In a certain case study, when carrying out a first click test study, the draft version of a study was initially pilot-tested with the library staff so as to help in refining the tasks before creating the final version. Many websites normally suffer from top-task usability problems and issues which could be easily identified by using First click tests.

If you’ve any hints of problems or issues in your-analytics but are not sure of the reason or cause, First click tests may be implemented very easily and quickly. Depending on the traffic volumes, enough or adequate responses to note and identify the problem or issue can be gathered in just one week or even less. For the lower traffic volume sites, it can take a little much longer, especially if you want to analyze all the results by the visitor group. If you do not have a big budget or a lot of time to do the testing, then measuring & improving the visitors’ first click for their top-tasks is one great place for you to start.

The performance of a top-task is usually negatively impacted by similar-link labels. When two or more links are way too similar, or they are too general that they may apply to multiple tasks, visitors/users often ‘satisfice’. They can choose one which looks good enough instead of continuing to search for the best/optimal solution. Getting the website’s navigation right normally takes a couple tries & a number of testing times with various users. You may test first-clicks using a functioning site, a proto-type or just a boxy wireframe.

Using First Click Testing To Identify Usability Issues

Create a few task scenarios just the same way you would for the usability test

They do not need to-be as detailed, but it’s best to have the participant(s) thinking in terms-of solving a problem instead of just where and when to click.

Define the best/optimal and any correct/right paths to the task’s success

You can start from the home page and then identify all (or maybe most) of all the possible paths which will get you to the correct solution-for the task.

Track where the users click

This is basically the easiest thing to-do if you use a software that uses JavaScript. You can use the software when tracking all the many mouse clicks done by the user or visitor. The software will generate a really compelling heat map which you can even use in your presentations. You may also track all this by hand, but it is best to at least record each session.

Time just how long it will take the user(s) to make a click

Task time is usually 1 of the more sensitive metrics. A user may be finding or looking for the right-spot during the evaluation (since you are observing him or her or because he or she is getting paid) either way both long task-times & high task-variability are indications of problems or issues in the navigation.

Just how confident were the users

After each and every task attempt, you can use a seven point scale & have all the participants indicate just how confident they felt or how confident they were when they found that right spot or location. If you happen to get six’s and seven’s it’s an indication of high confidence, but if you get three’s and four’s its an indication that there are various navigation problems, they serve as signposts of multiple navigation problems.

How difficult or hard was it

Even if the participants or users found the right-location during the navigation, still let them personally tell you in detail if they thought or think that it was more difficult to navigate than they initially expected. Again you can use a single seven point rating-scale. If the users or participants rate anything that is less than five, you can ask them to elaborate more on exactly why they selected that rating. Most open ended comments or answers often provide a lot of insight in to mental models & new ideas for improvements.


When you are working with your client to re-design an existing site, nothing will put the numbers in-context like showing or revealing just how long it is taking the users or just how difficult the users are finding tasks in comparison to the original or previous navigation.

You can have the users or participants attempt just the same tasks on both the new design & the old design. You can counterbalance the order so that half of the users or participants get the old website design 1st and the other half gets the new. You will then be able to exactly show the tasks which are taking much longer and which tasks are an improvement. This same idea may be applied to basically any metric that is collected.

First click testing is typically used in evaluating the intuitiveness of links, buttons and other onpage content within the general context of the web page’s design. This is usually ideal-for testing menu or mega menu designs and mission critical pages (like landing pages). First click tests may be conducted-on wireframes, rough sketches, polished design-comps or fully-designed interfaces. If representation of your site’s navigation & content is in-question, first click testing will tell you if your design is hurting or helping findability.


Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.