Five-second testing sounds so simple, and here’s the good news—it is. That being said, this is a usability testing method that you don’t want to overlook, because even though it’s not difficult to execute, it could give you insights that dramatically affect your KPIs. Whether you have an e-commerce website or a SaaS tool with a homepage that you use for marketing, read on to learn about five-second testing and how it very well may be make-or-break in terms of reaching your goals.
What Is Five-Second Testing?
Five-second testing is a user testing method where you should users a page of your website for exactly five seconds. After they spend five seconds on your site, you ask them a series of questions to help you understand:
- What do users recall after a brief encounter after your website?
- What stands out?
- To what extent is your desired messaging absorbed by users in a short period of time?
- What is the first impression that your site is giving to your target audience?
After doing five-second tests with a series of users, you’ll likely have a list of what’s working for you and what’s working against you, so that you can make concrete action items to improve your website so that it best suits your goals.
Why Do Five-Second Testing?
This is a trick question because it has two parts: why test your website with users at all? And of course, why only five seconds? Let’s take it one at a time.
Why is it important to test your website with users?
If you have a website, you have a goal or two. Maybe you want users to buy something, or to sign up for a free trial. Maybe you want to communicate something important about your organization. Whatever your goal, you and your organization didn’t create a website to pass the time – you’re trying to achieve something.
Internally, there are often differing opinions about how to design and communicate your messaging on your website. You may have even found yourself sitting in neverending meetings-turned-debates about what to put where, and why. The gift of testing your website with users is that you can get relatively objective insights to help guide your website creation or iterations from your target audience.
Why ask your team to make assumptions, when you can know for sure?
Ok, but what’s the value of a test that only lasts for five seconds?
A five-second test is designed to reflect the reality that the large majority of people who end up on your landing page, regardless of how they got there, won’t spend very much time scanning until they form an opinion and decide whether or not to click further or move on. It’s widely known that we have mere seconds to catch anyone’s attention about anything these days, and so the 5-second test reflects the reality of users’ first impressions.
If you were to allow users, say, five minutes to peruse your site—they may come up with a lot to say about your product that aligns with your goals, but it’s unlikely that it would reflect real user behavior and impressions when real users end up on your webpage.
Who On Your Team Should Conduct Your Five Second Tests?
Since the methodology for this type of user research is relatively straightforward, it can be executed by anyone who has familiarity with user experience—for example, your UX design team or your UX research team. If you don’t have a UX team of any kind, anyone at your organization can use this guide and pay special attention to our recommendations in terms of how to word follow-up questions to yield reliable results.
When In The Design Process Should You Conduct Five-Second Testing?
Another helpful aspect of five-second testing is that it’s literally useful at any time. Here are some guidelines:
|Point in design process||Why 5 second testing is helpful|
|Before you release your website or a new version of your website||You can get user insights and check how well your assumptions, until this point, suit your goals. You then have time to make iterations before you go live in order to put your best version forward.|
|After your website is live, but you’re planning iterations||Understand what about your website is working in favor of your goals and what isn’t, so that you can plan purposeful iterations|
How to Do Five Second Testing in 3 Steps
Okay, if you’re ready to get started, just follow these steps to get users’ initial impressions and user feedback on your website.
Step 1: Plan the details of your test
If your website is already live, you can send your testers the URL and give them instructions. However, if your website isn’t live, make sure you have a design mockup, screenshot or wireframe.
Once you know what your testers will be looking at, you need to write your list of follow-up questions. It’s important to make sure that you’re using proper articulation, so as not to direct users to give specific answers and to make sure that you’re collecting reliable qualitative insights.
Here’s a list of sample questions to ask after users have spent 5 minutes looking at your website:
- How would you summarize the website that you just saw to a friend?
- Based on what you saw, what was this website for?
- Based on what you saw, who is this website potentially relevant for? Why?
- Does this website remind you of any other product or website that you’re familiar with? Why?
- Do you have any other thoughts about the website itself? This can relate to content and/or design.
Step 2: Recruit users and do your testing sessions
While there is no hard and fast rule for the number of participants that you need, getting insights from 10-15 people is generally a good idea. In order to recruit users for your test, you can use a usability testing tool like usertesting.com or userinterviews.com, both of which make recruitment easy.
One major thing to keep in mind when you get your testers is that you need to make sure that whomever you recruit is actually a member of your target audience. For example, if you have an e-commerce website that sells sustainable clothing for athletes, you’re more likely to get reliable and useful insights about what will drive conversions if your testers are also athletes.
Once you have your users, go ahead and schedule and then conduct your sessions! Tip: make sure that you record your sessions (with permission) and/or have someone present who can take copious notes.
Step 3: Analyze your sessions and create action items
For many of us, this is the fun part! Here, you should collect all of the responses to each of your questions and extract insights. A good method for doing this is affinity mapping, which we explain in more detail in our guide to design frameworks for ideation workshops.
After analyzing, it’s likely that your purposeful action items will become clear. Be sure to write them out and share them—and the insights that informed them—with the team.
Okay, that’s really all there is to it—you’re ready to get started with five-second testing. While you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to The Product Manager’s newsletter so that you can get quick guides like this to learn more about your users on the regular.