The world of HCI is seen joking that the only correct answer to any question about designing for user needs is that “it depends”. What that answer doesn’t do is give designers the right to skip the process of abstraction to achieve the right level of information density. A very upset John Stasko addressing this issue both on the first and last days of his Information Visualization class: “If you only want to remember one thing [as designers], remember this: Overview first, filter and zoom, details on demand.”
Users goals are action oriented, and increasing the number of clicks are not necessarily a bad thing. Google Maps is a good example where zoom and filter are such an important part of the product. When you search for Walmart across the United States, you see dots instead of pins:
As you zoom into a specific area, you will see the view update to give you more usable information. Information density has an upper limit, and cannot reach a point where users are doing your work for you.
The point I am trying to make has very little to do with designing good information visualizations. It has more to do with thinking about interfaces we design beyond the stage where it is a lifeless mockup. Talking about the number of clicks in a landscape just beginning to adopt touch based interfaces is ignoring a lot of opportunity. Most time is spent navigating and scanning through the interface, but if the interface and the path to your eventual goal are both clear, clicks might not matter, because you’ve reduced a majority of the cognitive load associated with scanning. If a really good idea gets dismissed, that’s the best time to realize that what your peers are picturing might be very different from what you are. Some ideas are worth fleshing out more than others. The beauty of a pixel perfect mockup might not be as efficient as a more rudimentary prototype transitioning objects around the screen. One of the benefits of motion design are that you are able to illustrate unique interactions that appear more complicated in a still image. More people should be building prototypes as part of their design process. You cannot be stuck creating square wheels that look simple enough to build but are impossible to turn.