Quick Q & A: The “5-Second Test”


What is “5-Second Test”?

“5 Second Test” is a usability testing tool that tells you whether the webpage effectively engage users. As the name suggests, you display a webpage to users for 5 second, then remove it, and ask them questions based on purpose of the page. It is a convenient and cost-efficient tool widely adopted by UX professionals.

Who developed this method?

The early 5 Second Test was collaborative efforts of Jared Spool, Christine Perfetti, and Tom Tullis (Perfetti, 2005). They aimed for testing content page and applied the 5 Second Test as part of a larger usability test. It was conducted under moderated environment. At the end, they were able to greatly improve client’s webpage using information they gathered through the test.

Why 5 second?

  • Research shows that users only spend a few second to judge the quality of a website. Emotionally, people can decide if they like a design or not in 5 second. (Actually, 50 million second is long enough!) (Hopkin, 2006)
  • “When we give users more than 5 seconds to study the page, we’ve found they start looking at the page more like a designer, noticing details they would normally miss or misinterpret.” (Perfetti, 2005).
  • It is cheap and convenient. You can gather a large amount of user information in a short time.

Which part of your interface needs the test?

UX Analyst Craig Tomlin found that success of a website largely depends on its home page. Though the early 5-second Test was to test content page, it is now frequently used for testing homepage or landing page. Essentially, designers want to know whether the page successfully communicate the following messages:

  • Who is the company?
  • What product or service is provided?
  • What’s the benefit to your visitor?

People also test pictures or overall design of an interface. No matter what, the purpose is always to find out the overall impact of an interface, and the core message it tries to deliver.

How to run the test?

You can set up the test in a lab with a moderator, or you can choose online testing tools like UsabilityHub (https://usabilityhub.com/five-second-test). This website allows you to collect user data remotely (see the image below) by simply uploading a screen capture of your design and entering a few questions.

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Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 10.45.46 AM


Asking the right question is very important! Participants’ memory fade while reading and answering questions, and you don’t want answers like “I don’t know”. Here are some tips:

  • Be clear and concise. Don’t combine questions.
  • Target on specific feature
  • Ask close-ended questions
  • Avoid “yes or no” question
  • 3 would be enough. Don’t ask more than 5 questions


Can I run the 5-Second Test on everything?

NO! Don’t do the test when

  • The page serves many different purposes/Requiring reading text to answer questions
  • Testing for specific usability issues.
  • Evaluating changes/comparing design
  • Predicting behavior – e.g. would you use this for xxx



Further reading:

The UX Five-Second Rules: Guidelines for User Experience Design’s Simplest Testing Technique by Paul Doncaster (https://books.google.com/books?id=b7XrAgAAQBAJ&dq=5+second+test+ux)

Paul Doncaster also published articles on The UsabilityHub Blog – http://blog.usabilityhub.com



Doncaster, P. 2013. The five-second test: a wealth of ux data if you know how and what to ask.Retrieved from http://www.uxbydesign.org/2013/10/10/the-five-second-test-wealth-ux-data

Hopkin, M. 2006. Web users judge sites in the blink of an eye. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060109/full/news060109-13.html

Tomlin, C. 2014. 5 Second Test: An important conversion optimization tool. Retrieved from http://www.usefulusability.com/5-second-test/

Perfetti, C. 2005. 5-Second Tests: Measuring Your Site’s Content Pages. Retrieved from https://www.uie.com/articles/five_second_test/