I remember seeing a really interesting site a while back that challenged the convention of clicking: http://www.dontclick.it/ (it's a safe site, it uses mouse movement instead of clicking for interaction. The don't click does not refer to not clicking the url) :)

What this site points out is fascinating. It proves just how accustomed we are to clicking on things when we interact with an interface. Although it required a lot of cognitive effort to go against the convention of clicking, it seemed as though it was opening new doors in terms of unique interactive experiences. At first several uses, it is difficult and not very usable, but with retraining or first use training (kids using computer for the first time) it could work.

With the rise of touchscreen mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc) are we now locked into the concept of tapping/clicking? It seems like ideas like this would never work if the future of computing moved more into the direct of touch interfaces. Sure we have gestures, which are similar in terms of breaking the click habit, but even those have some element of clicking, or at least applying pressure to the screen.

Is the idea of having a unique interface such as the one seen on dontclick.it at the end of a dead end street, or is it possible to use something like this with a kiosk type installation at a museum or something similar?(with the use of a mouse, not touch)

*Please note that I am not at all advocating we get rid of clicking or that a click-less interface is easy to use, I just think that the idea that this concept is such a challenge to users tells us a lot about the importance of user expectations (why they exist and how/when to challenge them).

  • As I am using a touch pad on my laptop (which makes mouse pointer movement usually in spurs, not continuous) and I couldn't get the wipe-button to activate. The accidantal popping up of totally different screens is very confusing.
    – Inca
    Jul 30, 2011 at 9:27

8 Answers 8


What about touch-free, purely gestural interfaces like the Kinect though? There's no clicking or tapping there.

Once you're actually playing a game, your body is the controller. But to get to that point, you still need to make choices. (This game or that one? One player or two?) And different games approach this in different ways.

All the games I've seen have some kind of cursor on the screen that corresponds to one of the user's hands. Most games have standardized on the pattern whereby you move this cursor (by moving your hand) over a particular part of the screen and hold it there for a set period of time. A visual progress bar type indicator gives you feedback about how long you still need to hold your hand in that position.

But with at least one game that I know of, there is a carousel of actions that you spin with your hand until the one you want is at the front, then you have to drag it onto a nearby rectangle on the screen.

(One game even tries to simulate hovering by popping up something not unlike a tooltip when you move your hand/cursor over an option for a short time. But it's extremely hard to trigger the "tooltip" without actually "clicking" and triggering the action.)

Are these still clicking? The first one is pretty close. The second (which is a lot harder to master) isn't really. It's more like drag and drop.

The point is that no matter whether you are using a mouse, a touchscreen, or a Kinect, if you require the user to make choices, you need to provide some kind of affordance to allow them to do so. And (Occam's razor? kinda) giving them something to click/tap is still the simplest and probably the best way.


I don't think that we will ever get away from having some form of click/tap/"action" interaction. I saw dontclick.it for the first time quite a while ago when the site was first published and still think now what I did then.

Essentially by eliminating the ability to click you are greatly reducing the ability to consider an action before taking it. Consider in the physical world if you were going to make photocopies and when you looked at the printers black and white button it started printing. Really you wanted a color copy. Maybe that is an over exaggerated example but I think the concept behind it holds true.

Okay so take for example that dontclick.it website itself. If I want to go to the Understand section and then see the statistics all the sudden I am at "the story" and the statistics link isn't where it was a second ago because my pointer touched the wrong link. Really what I had to do to accomplish what I wanted would be to go out of my way to get down to the like I wanted and - Operation style - hope I don't tap the edges and set off the buzzer taking me to somewhere else entirely, and again moving the link. (maybe if the link itself didn't move accordion style it would be a bit more usable.)

I do think that in situations where it is appropriate, it could be beneficial to utilize a click-free interaction, but I don't think that the click is going anywhere any time soon.


I think that site proves that clicking is here to stay. Its horrendous to use. I think that clicking will eventually be replaced with tapping. Its just more exact. The user knows exactly where they are going to click and they make the decision to click and then press down (or tap)

Now there may be other solutions out there, touch interfaces being one. There are a few basics that need to be met for a proper interface with computers:

  1. It needs to allow the user to make a decision about what they want to do. (dont click breaks this, if you are moving from A to B you might hover over C and it would open up)

  2. It needs to react quickly or the correlation between the user and the computer will seem more distant.

  3. It needs to allow for a user to rest from interacting with the interface.

  4. It needs to provide feedback from the users actions from both the users real sensories, simulated ones, or both.

Thats all can think of for now.


A reason why you still need to touch a mobile device's screen is because there's no technology out there to detect hover. I'm sure once phones support hover, there will be more interesting interaction paradigms created.

There has been very little advancement in computer interaction. We've had the keyboard and mouse for decades. We click and type because that's the only thing the existing hardware can do.

To remove clicks, user experience and hardware experts need to work together to design the next forms of interaction. We've already seen some breakthroughs in new interaction paradigms with Apple's iPhone. It's a pity that all other companies are playing catch-up with Apple, sometimes even being sued by Apple for making their devices too similar. There are simply not enough companies out there innovating on user interaction on the hardware level.


I remember that site for several years ago, and found it frustrating to use. However, time has moved on, and now I am usign a laptop with a touchpad, it is more natural.

However, I still think that it is not an easy or natural approach. The reason, I think, is because I want to browse over a page, see what there is, see what I might want to get to, but only then do I want to make a commitment to click somewhere. This design denies me that, and so I find it invasive.

The posistive thing it does, I think, is change the attitude and approach from one that assumes a "point and click" approach to one that questions that assumption. And I think it is that questioning that has lead to the gesture approach on phones, which is an important development.

In answer to the original question - is clicking here to stay - then yes I think it is. But that is not to dismiss the importance of other paradigms.


I'd like to comment on the thing that some people bring up about hovering on a touchscreen device. I think that would be absolutely a bad thing. The reason: my fingers are not transparent. They are in fact quite thick and thus hiding a relatively large amount of the interface, especially on small screens such as in smartphones. It would be nicer if such a device could record the positions of my eyes (using the front facing camera that is already present on almost every device). Then again, besides having thick fingers I am also cross eyed...


I love that site for its novelty and creativity. Some of those ideas have already been picked up and used elsewhere. I don't think it's going to replace clicking, though.

Clicking has become ingrained; it's a standard paradigm. But we're already seeing that fade, with the rise of tapping (similar but different) and multi-touch mice (e.g. Apple's Magic Mouse) which allow hybrids of tap and click and gesture.

Clicking is an extra avenue of communication from user to computer. It can communicate things and be used in conjunction with motion. Simply eliminating it just reduces the expressiveness of the mouse.


Different interaction techniques can be appropriate for a different context. For example, mouseover is not possible on touchscreens but it is common on desktop apps.

Non-clicking interaction can make sense for specific contexts where the click metaphor does not apply such as gaze-controlled systems. However, pointing and touching things is so natural for us that the more close interaction is to direct manipularion the easier it seems to be.

  • Side note: I love to see the technology come that allows for a hover over for touch. That would be really neat.
    – jonshariat
    Jul 29, 2011 at 18:24

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