Five-Second Test in User Research: An In-depth Guide

First few seconds after landing on a website, there are different elements that capture a user's attention leading to the site's success or failure. A five-second test helps you refine a website to create the maximum impact. Learn to create and use effective five-second test in this article.

Kham Chakhap
August 16, 2023
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How do you make your website stand out in a sea of other websites? It’s all dependent on the impression they have on your brand within the first 5 seconds after they land on your site. Within this 5-second window, users will decide if they want to keep browsing or move away to another website.

It is a fast-paced digital world where there is short-attention span and endless content. Brands must ensure they make the best first impression from the moment a user lands on a web page of the brand. That holds true for any ads, media or content which is a user touchpoint.  

What is five-second test?

It is a time-bound usability test which allows you to measure if a “stimulus” or design feature evokes the intended reactions during a pre-defined time-period. It is also used to measure noticeability of the different design aspects and how well they connect to users.

A stimulus in this case can be a website, ad, prototype, etc.- anything that needs to be highlighted or noticed by users.

Why just five seconds?

According to a study it takes users just one-tenth of a second to form a first impression of a website. With notoriously short attention spans now, consumers are used to drawing a lot of information in one go and process them for quick decision making.

This makes the first few seconds of being exposed to new information very important. These rapid impressions matter when you are capturing them to gain insights by understanding users’ preferences and needs. This will give testers a fair amount of time to understand if a stimulus is impactful enough or if the content needs to be changed to reflect user needs.

The attention spans of 5 seconds are optimum to collect unbiased data for most kinds of stimuli. However, a user might be exposed to more than 5 seconds in certain cases. For example- if a content is more complicated or we want to test how long it takes for users to notice certain elements within a page design.


Why is five-second test important?

Brands are trying to optimize content and messages for maximum impact, thus increasing their visibility and conversions. In the five second test, we can also add questions which will provide a clear picture regarding the effectiveness of the stimuli provided.

With qualitative and quantitative feedback from users, brands can incorporate the changes to create experiences which ensures users have a seamless user experience. The right design improvements are essential since they are focused on increasing conversion and engagement.

You can also conduct A/B test on several design iterations and test them to find the variant that would be most successful.

Limitations of a five-second test

While a five-second test is important to understand the first impressions or noticeability of a design element, testing other aspects of UX may not be suitable for it. It would not be possible to test products flows, or complex designs with this method.

For example, understanding a checkout experience flow would not work with a five-second test. You will need to use other testing methods in this case.

Click here to find an article on Tree-testing, another testing method to understand information architecture on a website.

How to run a five-second test?

A five-second test involves several steps from defining your objectives to collecting data. Let us have a quick walk-through:

Step 1: Setting the test objective

To start with you need to determine what you would like to what you need to know from the users’ perspective. Since it is time bound, this test works best to determine first impressions of different visual or textual content.

The objective for the test can be as simple as determining if an ad copy/ CTA button is being noticed by users on a webpage or if a landing page has an intended effect on users. One the purpose of the test is determined, the rest of the steps need to be planned accordingly.

Step 2: Upload stimulus and create the test

Depending on the objective defined, a test needs to be set up. This should include a stimulus with details that you would want the final output to look like. There are different parameters to consider while creating this test like the target group of testers, educating them about the test and environment they’ll be taking the test in. You would also need to consider follow up questions once the test is complete to get their feedback regarding their reaction to the test.

Step 3: Recruit participants and conduct test

Depending on the kind of target participants you are looking for, there are several ways to recruit users for the test. You can either reach out to test users directly if you have contacts for a well-defined target group or you can recruit them through a third-party panel provider that help with recruitment.

Finally, you can roll out the test where participants are closely observed. This should be followed by post survey questions where they are asked questions regarding the stimulus provided during the test and their responses to the different elements present.

Step 4: Analyze data

Finally, the responses collected from each user form the data from which you can derive insights. These responses are studied to find commonalities or patterns across the board. This enables you to understand elements which might be working or not working in your favor. This will help determine the design elements that need to be improved upon for a superior user experience.

Example of a five-second test

Entropik’s Qatalyst is an AI powered platform for user research. Let us take an example of a five-second test conducted in Qatalyst.

Here, we conducted a small test on Amazon’s website to see the impact it has on user’s minds and design elements that capture their attention. The stimulus here is an image on Amazon’s landing page.

5-second test (Stimulus)

Users are recruited for the test and exposed to this image on screen for a defined number of seconds. The Mouse-click feature is enabled. Once the survey is completed, post survey questions are shared with users. Below are the result of the mouse tracking and a couple of post-survey questions:

5-second test (Click views)
5-second test (A post-survey question)
5-second test (A post-survey question)

From this test, we can infer different kinds of data like banner noticeability, frequency of website usage, etc. depending on what product developers are looking for. We can interpret important details about elements which creates impact for the users and make changes so that user experience is more seamless.



Being able to predict the initial few seconds of a user journey is a massive game changer. It helps brands include and exclude elements as per the intended user response. These changes allow them to resonate with the messaging and connect with the product on a deeper level. This further helps in increasing engagements and conversions. These kinds of insights allow you to stay ahead of the curve in the fast-paced, competitive digital world.


Supercharge your research with actionable insights faster on Decode's integrated consumer research platform with Insights AI.
Here’s how Entropik helped a leading South-East Asian company improve their time to discovery
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Build the Right Products, the Right Way: Elevate your UX with Qatalyst's integrated user research platform with Insights AI.


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Author Bio

Kham Chakhap
As an intrepid explorer of both physical and intellectual realms, Kham seeks to unravel the intricacies of the human experience and merge them with the transformative power of AI. On odd days, she can be found wandering around trying to find that elusive scenic and quiet café where she can sip on matchas and get lost in the written word.

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