Can Your Web Design Pass the Five Second Test?

5 Second Test for Websites

You know the saying; you never get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s logic that also applies to your company’s website. Wouldn’t you like to know right away people’s first impression when they hop onto it? Luckily, there’s a short test (five seconds short to be exact) that can do just that. The five-second test is a method that’s easy to conduct without a lot of setup and gives you valuable results fast. Acting on the results this logical method offers could be the difference between an engaged audience that goes on to gather more information on your website or one that bounces off to another site before even understanding what you offer.

What is the five-second test?

Do you remember the five-second rule as it applied to you as a kid? You know, the unspoken rule we all followed that said if your food fell on the floor you had five seconds to retrieve it before it must be thrown away? The five-second test is kind of like that except that the food is your website and the kids about to consume it are your website audience. Your goal is to make sure within the first five seconds of landing on your site that they don’t see it as something to throw away.

Five-second testing is an easy way to gather the information you need so their first impression creates the desire for a second look.  The method is simple. You show a test-user (someone who’s never seen your website or doesn’t know your business) a screenshot of your site – for only five seconds. Then you cover it up and ask a few questions about what they have seen. Based on their answers, you should get a pretty good idea of what impression your website design has made.

For our purposes, we’ll be looking at the homepage for testing because it’s often the first one your customers see. You could, of course, also test anywhere else on your site using this method where you would like to evaluate a viewer’s initial reaction.

Why only five seconds?

As you probably already know, these days the demand for your web audience’s attention is high. According to modern research, it takes only five seconds to convince your customer to read on rather than move on. Don’t get it right and your potential customer skips or bounces off your site and on to another site before you even have the chance to impress at all. In general, keeping your site’s “bounce rate” low is a good idea because a high bounce rate potentially means a poorly designed site.


According to modern research, it takes only five seconds to convince your customer to read on rather than move on.


What’s a bounce rate?

Bounce rate, simply put, is the percentage of single-page visits. In other words, they didn’t explore your site any further. This means that the information on that page didn’t appear to be relevant to them at the time or they quickly got what they were looking for and moved on to another site. Some pages, you may expect to have a high bounce rate, like a contact page. The person that hit that page may have just been looking for a phone number or address so, that’s a good thing they were able to find it quickly. But, most of the time, pages with a high bounce rate mean that page is underperforming for you and cannot hold up to the five second test.

How do I perform a five-second test on my site?

You’ll need to find several people that wouldn’t mind being part of an experiment. The less they know about what the test is about, the better. It is okay to tell them that you’re going to show them a web page and that you’re going to ask them some questions after. But it is important that they aren’t already familiar with the company or product.

You can perform this test in person or in an online meeting setting whatever is most convenient for you and your volunteers. All you need is a webpage or prototype of a webpage that you can flash up on a screen for five seconds and a way to cover the screen once the time is up. Once you’ve shown and then covered the web page, you’re ready to question your test subjects.

What questions should I ask?

Before they’ve had too much time to think about it, you’ll want to ask your volunteers what they saw and what it means. Keep in mind that you want a fresh perspective and honest answers so you can act on those results.

Some questions to consider:

  1. What was the first thing you noticed?
  2. What words or images do you remember?
  3. Do you remember the name of the company?
  4. What do you think this company offers?
  5. Who do you believe this website is for?

The answers to these questions will be telling and maybe a little disheartening. But the good news is that you are asking the questions that matter. You now have the power to do something about it. It’s easier to gather this information at a time when something can be done easily, but small tweaks at any point can make a big difference even if your site has already launched. So, don’t bury your head in the sand at any point. In fact, a proper audit of an existing website can keep it fresh and regenerate its traffic.

How to pass the five-second test

So, what happens if you don’t get the answers you were expecting? That’s when it’s time to make a few (or maybe a lot) of changes. Remember, the goal is to engage your customers within five seconds. To capture your audience before they bounce off, there are a few things you can do right away:

1) Create a title that speaks to your audience
Use strong, descriptive language but don’t try to be too clever. It should be clear, relatively short and easy to read. Having said that, a little rhyming or alliteration can make your title memorable so, start with the basics and then play around with it until you have something that stands on its own without being a distraction. Here is an example of a homepage title rework that’ll give you an idea of what you’re going for:

     Before: Welcome to Tingalls Graphic Design

So, what’s wrong? It’s short, sure, BUT it doesn’t tell them that fantastic web design is a central part of our business. We could lose those customers who don’t know graphic designers build websites – hint: they do!

     After: Your Website and Graphic Design Partner

Much better! The site has a fantastic visual look, so all we needed was a clear statement that told the customer they have come to the right place for both website and graphic design.

2) Write Killer Content
Now that you’ve got your headlines and page titles looking good and speaking to your customers, it’s time to look at the rest of your words. You not only need to convince them you’re the best at what you do but you also need to show them why and where to go for more information. Don’t make it a chore to navigate through your site. Your audience needs more than breadcrumbs. They need you to speak to them where they are the first and every time, they enter the site.

Remember to use your visuals to break up the look. Clear direction and smooth visuals will keep them exploring and hopefully, converting to your offerings. Include photos, videos, and illustrations to grab your visitors and break up the text, so it’s easy to absorb.

3) Design a Stunning Site
Creating a beautiful website design will make your brand stand out and show your audience you’re a leader in your industry. The look and feel of your website drive those first impressions – too busy, too boring, not enough color or too much? Poor interface design ensures rejection and mistrust. It’s important to get it right to make that all important first impression count. There are many do it yourself options out there, but they aren’t for the faint of heart.


Using a professional designer to create your site is a smart choice for something this important to your business.


Want to Learn More?

If you are hungry for more information about how to improve your website design, we can help. Our experts will not only check for first impressions but will also comb through each page of your site checking for other ways to improve it. Contact Tingalls to arrange an appointment. We would be happy to walk you through how we can help enhance the performance of your existing website or get you started on a new one. Either way, you’ll have a website that will not only look great but will convert your audience into customers long after the first five seconds is up.

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