If there's one thing that sets a good website apart from a bad website, it's clarity.
When you arrive on a well designed website, it's instantly clear what the site is about and what you can do next. A bad website, on the other hand, leaves visitors confused with ambiguous messaging.
So, how can you make sure that your website scores highly on the all important factor of clarity? Do a 5 second test!
How a 5 Second Test Works
The process of a 5 second test is very simple. All you need is someone who's never seen your website before. Then, follow these steps:
- Show them a page on your website (e.g. your homepage) for 5 seconds.
- After 5 seconds, close the site, turn off the screen or do whatever else to make sure the page is no longer visible.
- Ask questions to see what they remember from the 5 second glance you gave them.
The goal is to find out if someone unfamiliar with your site can "get it" in just 5 seconds. If they can't that indicates a lack of clarity.
Tools for Running 5 Second Tests
There are a variety of tools and apps you can use to run five second tests, including:
Usability Hub is a great place to start, since they have a free plan you can use, to test the waters.
Keep in mind that you don't actually need any software at all, to run this test. You can easily do this in person with someone sitting next to you. Simply show them the page on your laptop or phone and then ask questions about it face to face.
If you make a habit of doing this kind of "quick and dirty" user testing, you gain an advantage over your competitors - simply because most of them aren't doing anything like this.
What Questions to Ask
Once you've shown someone your site for a few seconds, what questions should you ask?
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- What was this website/page about?
- What words or phrases do you remember, from this page?
- Who do you think this website/page is for?
- What are some things you would have done next, on this page? This can be things like: clicking a button, looking for a search bar, clicking on a navigation item etc.
- What would you expect to happen, after performing this action?
These questions are not set in stone. Depending on your site, you may want to add, remove or modify questions, to make them better suited to your situation. The guiding light in all this is always clarity. Whatever questions help you understand whether your website is clear or not are the right ones to ask.
How to Interpret the Answers You Get
There are two categories that feedback from 5 second tests fall into: the big picture stuff and the granular stuff.
The Big Picture Stuff
For the most part, the results you get from 5 second tests are big picture results. You will quickly realize that one of these applies:
- People don't understand what's going on on your page, at all.
- People get the general idea.
The greatest benefit of a 5 second test is catching those situations where you think you've created a clear page but your visitors are just confused. This happens more than you might think. As the creator, you're always too close to your own creation to see it clearly. You know too much about your business, your offer, your customers etc. to be a good judge of clarity.
A simple example of this is jargon: if you're an expert in any field, you're intimately familiar with the technical jargon used in that field. It's second nature to you. And it's easy to forget that "mere mortals" who aren't experts in your field simply don't know what any of those words mean.
As a result, a headline featuring some jargon terms may seem crystal clear to you, but to your visitors, it may as well be written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
When this happens and you realize that your page severely lacks clarity, you need to rework the wording and design and keep testing it until your visitors are no longer confused.
The Granular Details
When your test subjects get the general idea, you can glean some details from their answers. Here's what to look out for:
- Did they see and pay attention to the most important element or call to action on the page?
- Do images you use on the page support their understanding of what the page is about, or are they distracting?
- Is there anything unimportant or secondary on the page, that they seemed to pay too much attention to?
These kinds of insights can help you make smaller changes to a page, to further improve it. However, the main benefit of a 5 second test lies in the big picture stuff. Other forms of user testing and A/B testing are more suited to improving the small details on your website.
To give you a more practical idea of what a 5 second test can look and sound like, we've created these two examples for you:
This is an example of a good landing page which passes the test well. As you can see, even on a good page, the test subject doesn't catch every detail on the page and there's still some uncertainty. With just 5 seconds to absorb a page, there will always be some uncertainty. What we try to evaluate is whether the test subject's guesses are correct or totally miss the mark.
In this second example, the page we're testing fails badly. The two biggest problems we can identify from this test are that the text on the page doesn't communicate well enough what this site is about and that there isn't a clear next action to take (e.g. a button to click).
To conduct these tests, I used:
- Google Hangouts to get on a call with the test subject (shoutout to David, our technical writer who volunteered for this).
- Also in Google Hangouts: I'm sharing my screen, so that the test subject sees what I see.
- I used PowerPoint to create a "cover" slide. However, you could also use an image or simply switch between showing your desktop and showing the test website. What's important is that you can show the site for 5 seconds and then hide it again. I use Alt+Tab to quickly switch between the website and my cover slide.
- Camtasia to record the entire session. This is optional, but it is useful to be able to re-watch your test sessions or share them with your team.
Over to You
With this, you have everything you need to start your own 5 second tests and increase the clarity of your website.
Let me know if you have any other questions about this topic!