Problem, Product

Five Second Test

Test what users recall after just brief exposure

Illustration of Five Second Test

Also called: Quick Exposure Memory Test

See also: Comprehension Test, First Click Testing

Difficulty: Easy

Evidence strength

Relevant metrics: Conversions

Validates: Desirability

How: When first impressions count, use a five second test. Ask people what they recall after seeing something for five seconds. When the time is up, remove the object and ask users to recall what stood out the most in that brief amount of time, and why.

Why: Five second tests help pinpoint initial impressions on layout design, information architecture, and content. They can help optimize the clarity of your designs by measuring first impressions as well as validate whether the impression you wish to leave is actually being absorbed in the memory of users. Was the value proposition understood, did the most important keywords stick, or do users immediately understand what you are selling?

This experiment is part of the Validation Patterns printed card deck

A collection of 60 product experiments that will validate your idea in a matter of days, not months. They are regularly used by product builders at companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Amazon.

Get your deck!

Before the experiment

The first thing to do when planning any kind of test or experiment, is to figure out what you want to test. To make critical assumptions explicit, fill out an experiment sheet as you prepare your test. We created a sample sheet for you to get started. Download the Experiment Sheet.

Testing recall through recognition

Showing a design, a logo, a photograph, or something completely different for a short period of time (5 seconds seems to be the norm), hiding it, and then asking users to recall what they saw from a multiple choice list, can help test comprehension. Do people comprehend what you thought they would after seeing a design? What does a logo or product name remind them of? Can they find the call-out to action and what did it say?

Testing websites

We tend to make initial judgements about websites within the first five seconds of visiting it. Possible things to test with a five second test could be:

  • Do key navigation features stand out (are they remembered)?
  • Do call-to-action buttons stand out and can participants remember what the call-out was?
  • What did the color-scheme remind them of? A Bank? A flowershop? A cutting-edge startup?

Early-stage testing

The Five Second Test can be used for more than testing an actual solution. In fact, it shines at testing comprehension of short messaging. It could be your value proposition, whether users can connect your product name with the problem you’re trying to solve, or whether the logo you have created conveys the values you intended.

As a rule of thumb, a goal comprehension rate is 80%. That is, once 80% of your users respond with the answers you first intended them to answer, you have a match.

After the experiment

To make sure you move forward, it is a good idea to systematically record your the insights you learned and what actions or decisions follow. We created a sample Learning Sheet, that will help you capture insights in the process of turning your product ideas successful. Download the Learning Sheet.

Popular tools

The tools below will help you with the Five Second Test play.


    Optimize the clarity of your designs by measuring first impressions and recall.


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