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3 Click Rule vs. Usability

John Matura, Operations Senior Solution Consultant | July 11, 2023
General Blog

Jeffery Zeldman created the 3-click rule, an unofficial guide in developing websites since 2001. The theory is that the user would become frustrated and move to another site if the information wasn’t there in 3 clicks or less. In 2003, Joshua Porter challenged that rule and demonstrated that the abandonment rate did not correlate to several clicks and higher user frustration but still speaks to website user experience. 

The user experience when interacting with technology is essential, and why developers still use the 3-click rule, even though there is no supporting analytical evidence. Your Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is a perfect example of where it can be applied and how it can help your operator’s experience. Focusing on the navigation paths that users need daily is crucial. Navigation to their objective and more specific content with drilldowns gives a clear path back through the hierarchy with traceability. It lets operators know they have the appropriate breadcrumbs, clear language/labels, and a consistent and reasonable page loading speed.

When a factory investigates a technology solution that meets the functional design specification but doesn’t consider the users’ perspective, it often is not fully embraced and adopted. This results in failing to achieve the anticipated operational benefits and ROI. Additionally, operators could develop their workarounds that provide the operational information / control they require but minimize their use and dependance on the technical solution.

Usability and Utility: Usability (the ease of using the technology) and Utility (the technology provides the required technical solution) determine its usefulness and are critical to user adoption. Utility is defined during the establishment of the requirements and validated during the acceptance testing process to ensure that the technical solution meets the established requirements. Usability is often an afterthought when the end-users finally are exposed to the technical solution. Usability is a measurement that concentrates on a user achieving the desired results of system usage efficiently. Jacob Nielson defined usability in 2012 as consisting of 5 quality components: Learnability, Efficiency, Memorability, Errors, and Satisfaction.

Learnability reflects users’ ease of accomplishing basic tasks that often center around  navigation issues and clear, consistent unambiguous labels. The solution should support and enhance an operator’s ability to do their job. MES is not their primary job; it is not the highest priority when running a piece of equipment, workstation, or line. They are paid to produce, not interact with a computer.

Efficiency is the ability of operators to quickly accomplish their system-related tasks once they know the basic structure. With a combination of logical navigation, minimal clicks and drill-downs, and system speed and responsiveness, this directly impacts operator productivity. Excessive time spent interacting with a computer is time not spent on their primary job.

Memorability is the user’s ability to reestablish proficiency after a period of non-use. It could be because using the system or a particular aspect is not part of their primary job, and they are filling in for another operator. Lack of memorability is often demonstrated when deploying a technical solution and having an extended period from the training phase to the go-live deployment. During training, users were proficient but might need help and clarification on the floor. Dedicated coaching and reinforcement training is often required to address this.

Errors and system error tolerance is essential because errors can be a part of any operator / technology interaction. Are there triggers / warnings for “fat finger” entries? Can errors be easily and readily identified? Are corrections permitted, or is there an escalation process?

Satisfaction is the overall experience of operators using the solution. If it is  pleasant or at least not painful, operators are more likely to embrace it rather than avoid it.

Usability should integrate into every stage of the design process, from preliminary design discussions to operational roll-out. With pre-deployment and post-deployment user training, floor coaching and support can identify additional user concerns/wants/needs not identified during the design and development process. The results will be sub-optimal without user acceptance and acknowledgment of the technical solution’s needs and benefits. Suppose a solution is imposed by executives or based on historical documentation not aligning with current processes and engaging the affected workforce. In this case, it will likely fail and be sub-optimized. Usability helps ensure they are part of the solution since they are the part of the primary users daily tasks. Adopting is another challenge; getting users on board is necessary for a successfully deployed solution.

Developing and deploying a technical solution can be a huge undertaking that can only be completed successfully with outside support and resources. InSource Solutions has the knowledge and experience to support these activities. In the initial design discussion, we represent the user perspective and experience. During acceptance testing, it is crucial to validate usability. InSource Solutions creates a holistic approach encompassing the entire process on a line or in an area. We have experience in defining and aligning People, Processes, and Technology. If you’re considering an MES or other technical solution, we have the hands-on knowledge of being the Voice of the Operator and their advocate.

Call us; we can help.