5-Second Test

What is a 5-second test?

A 5-second test is a form of usability testing that tests how effectively a message is communicated through design.

The test is as simple as it sounds. A user is shown an image (the image could focus on copy, design, a logo, etc.) for five seconds. The user is then asked a series of questions about the image, which might include:

  • What do you remember about the image?
  • What did you think of first?
  • What was the name of the company?
  • What did you think this company was selling?
Why five seconds?

Web design research has concluded that users form a first impression within the first five seconds of arriving on a website – sometimes in less than one second. The 5-second test measures the effectiveness of design during that first impression. That brief time span provides enough of a window for test subjects to provide valuable feedback on copy and design.

When is a 5-second test useful?

The 5-second test is useful for anyone wanting to evaluate the efficacy of their website communications. Testing is usually done prior to the launch of a new website, but it can also be used to inform revisions on an existing site.

How to perform a 5-second test

The sample size for a 5-second test typically ranges between 20 and 50 test users. To maximize insights, it’s best to test users on multiple image variations. Here’s a typical testing process:

  1. The moderator explains testing rules to the test user (e.g. you will be shown an image for five seconds, we are looking for feedback on this element, all feedback is valuable, etc.)
  2. The moderator shows the user an image of the design for exactly five seconds.
  3. After the image is shown, the moderator asks a series of questions about the image and records the results for further analysis.
  4. This process is repeated with all image variations.
Analyzing the results

When testing is complete, all user responses are analyzed and grouped by commonalities (e.g. users who remembered the company name vs those who did not). This information can then be consolidated into actionable feedback.

It’s important not to bias your interpretation of results. Negative feedback is still actionable feedback. The 5-second test allows you to gain valuable insights into what is and isn’t working, make targeted revisions, and ultimately communicate your message more clearly and effectively in your final design.

Related Terms

Brand Strategy

Brand strategy involves translating your technical offering into a clear value proposition and backing it up with a messaging framework and brand personality you can own.

Anchor Text

Otherwise known as link text, a link title, or a link label, anchor text can be described as clickable words or phrases within a hyperlink that connects two web pages.

Search Engine

Database tools that help users find content on the World Wide Web. Once a user enters a keyword or search query, search engines curate a list of the most relevant webpage URLs, images, or videos, known as the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).