How to Run a 5 Second Test


A 5 second test is a special kind of usability test that shows a page for 5 seconds, and asks the participant to come up with as many impressions about the page as possible.

5 second tests are great for getting a sense of first impressions with your store, as well as the benefits you are capable of offering. Done right, any experiments you create as the result of 5 second tests can reduce bounce rate (by making your business more interesting and compelling at a glance) and increase down-funnel conversion rates (by getting more customers into the top of the funnel).

If new customers aren’t immediately resonating with the message that you’re providing on their landing page, then that’s what we call an optimization opportunity. So, let’s talk about how to run a 5 second test!

What tool should you use?

Usability tests are a huge pain to recruit for and run in-house, and remote research is generally the best option for most teams. As a result, you’ll want to make sure that recruitment and execution of the test are run smoothly.

UserTesting: the easiest option

The easiest way to recruit for, and execute, a 5 second test is through UserTesting. They have a special section for 5 second tests – and you can run them as part of a larger usability test battery at no additional expense.

If you run a 5 second test as part of a larger usability test, you always want it to be the first question asked of the participant – and you want to make sure that the participant has no familiarity with your website before they are recruited.

No recruitment: UsabilityHub

If you handle recruitment for your testing in-house, UsabilityHub allows you to create 5-second tests for free dollars. If you need a good recruitment tool, Ethnio makes good screeners.

Running the test

The test should show the page for 5 seconds, and then automatically turn it off. Once the participant has seen the page for 5 seconds, a few questions can be asked. As UsabilityHub says:

  • What is the purpose of the page?
  • What are the main elements you can recall?
  • Who do you think the intended audience is?
  • Did the design or brand appear trustworthy?
  • What was your impression of the design?

I would add a few store-specific questions here as well:

  • What do you think you can buy at this store?
  • What’s a key benefit of the thing this store offers?
  • What questions or concerns do you have after seeing this page?
  • What would you want to know about this product before buying?
  • What would do you next?

Synthesizing the results

Once the 5 second test is over, you should transcribe the results – I use Temi for under 10 bucks every time – and write up any common themes.

When looking at the results of a 5 second test, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is our pitch landing?
  • Is it clear what people can buy here?
  • Do people know what to do next?
  • Are participants sure about what their next actions should be?
  • Is the text readable?
  • Is the call to action clear?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you now have something to test.

Wrapping up

Do people know what you sell, right off the bat? What’s their first impression? If your store doesn’t pass the 5 second test, then it doesn’t stand a chance at converting.

If you haven’t run any usability tests yet, try a 5 second test out first, in order to get some baseline understandings from usability tests. You can do so for relatively cheap, and the insights you’ll get back will be extremely interesting!

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