Beware the Two-Tap Rule

Beware the Two-Tap Rule

I still sometimes hear clients talk about Yahoo’s “two-tap rule.” The rule states that once a user is in a Yahoo mobile application, it should take only two taps to do anything the user wants to do. Fast-to-use apps are the goal here.

The two-tap rule sounds a lot like our field’s misguided “three-click rule,” of which I was never a fan. 

 
The Yahoo Weather app requires several taps to add a location, but   that’s OK.

The Yahoo Weather app requires several taps to add a location, but that’s OK.

 

Rules like these, though well-intentioned, miss the mark. They equate user efficiency with one specific type of interaction (a tap or click), and they limit a designer’s ability to employ that interaction, even when it would be the best choice for the users. It’s unclear why that interaction is singled out when many other interactions also are part of the user experience. On a smartphone, if we say that only two taps are allowed, then wouldn’t we also need rules about the acceptable number of double taps (uh-oh—that’s two taps right there), drags, pinches, spreads, flicks, swipes, rotations, etc.?

Of course, minimizing the number of actions a user needs to take is generally a good idea. However, whether an app is efficient to use doesn’t depend on a specific number of taps or clicks—efficiency should be determined by users. During user experience testing, users often tell us that apps are faster to use when they require many taps or clicks as opposed to more scrolling (for example, when searching and filtering a large set of content or data).

A better rule to follow: “Our target users must consider our application efficient to use.” Similar rules (and testing) would help ensure that users consider the application usefuleasy to learn, and appealing before it’s released.

Yahoo’s current applications likely need to be redesigned if they are to follow their two-tap rule. With Yahoo Weather (see screenshot) on my iPhone, for example, I had to tap 8 times to add a location:

  • 1 tap on the + sign at the top
  • 1 tap to switch my phone keyboard to show numbers
  • 5 taps to type in a ZIP code
  • 1 tap to select the desired location from a list of search results.

Was it fast? Yes.

Do I care that it took me 8 taps instead of only 2? Not at all.

A version of this post originally appeared on experoinc.com and LinkedIn.