5 Second Test
by Terrance Kirkwood

There are a few research activities that don’t require a lot of overhead or preparation but still allow designers & product managers to collect valuable feedback from their customers and use that data to improve the UX of their products. If you need to validate either the information architect, call to action or overall appeal of your design, three lean UX research activities you can use are the 5 Second Test, 1 Click Test and the Desirability Study respectively. A toolkit for each of the methods is included in the Creativity Different Validation Pack and an overview of each is described below from least overhead and setup required to most.

One of the lean UX Research methods in our Validation Toolkit is the 5 Second Test. With it, you can validate that the most important features and information of your product stand out. Typical UX research questions answered with a 5 second test include:

  • does the IA of my design map to the mental model of my target users?
  • does the target users’ perception of hierarchy match the intended hierarchy of the UI?
  • do the intended prominent elements of the UI stand out to the target users?

These types of questions are important to answer because visitors to websites take a very short amount of time (in some cases a fraction of a second, as little as 50 milliseconds) to judge the value and quality of a website. If the most important features and functionality don’t jump out at them right away, they may move on without inspecting the page/site more closely.

One advantage of the 5 second test is that participants do not need to interact with the product to complete the study. Since dynamic elements of the product’s UI are not considered in a 5 Second test, you can show participants an image of the the product (e.g. a screen shot or photo) and get feedback as valuable as if they were inspecting the product in person. One thing to consider with the 5 Second test is that fidelity matters. In other words, because many polished design elements contribute to establishing hierarchy and prominence in your product’s UI, the closer your designs are to reality the better the research results will be. Without the more polished design elements your research participants may not have all the visual cues they need to identify the true hierarchy within the UI (e.g. button colors, etc.).

The 5 Second test requires the least amount of overhead of all the lean UX methods. To complete a study all you need a design, a participant and some way to record their feedback. For your analysis, you should also have in mind what are the most prominent features and UI elements you want the user to identify.
Upon completing the 5 Second test, the type of feedback you can expect to receive from your participants includes what are the most memorable elements/features of the UI, how much does their understanding of the IA depend on them interacting with the design and do they understand the product’s purpose and goals.

A 5 Click Test is just one way User Research can play a role in creating better UX. If you want to learn more about how to Improve your Product with UX Research, you can get a copy of my Guide to Understand User Experience Research when you subscribe to my newsletter.