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Horse behind a fenceYou may be focused on improving the conversion rate for your website, or simply wanting to ensure that your visitors can quickly get an idea of what you do and offer.

Whatever your goals, having a clear proposition and call to action are two areas that can have a positive impact on your business performance.

In this post I will be talking about a web application that you can use to help you and your business gain invaluable insights from end users. 

What is the application?

The application that I'm talking about in this post is Fivesecondtest. The app's strapline describes it as follows:

'A simple online usability test that helps you identify the most prominent elements of your user interfaces.'

How it works

  1. You upload a screenshot of the design / interface / wireframe, etc.
  2. You choose whether you want to test a) which five elements of your screenshot stand out most for visitors in the first five seconds or b) which part of the screenshot are visitors inclined to click, and most importantly why.
  3. You choose to either invite the community already using the application or just your own contacts.
  4. As people begin to provide feedback on the screenshot you can begin grouping the comments and insights (the application does also group matching comments and words).
  5. With these new insights and user feedback, you and your team have a new dimension of input into the design process.

Create a test interface on Fivesecondtest

Why use this application (or others like it)?

  • You can gain end user feedback to counter preconceptions from internal teams.
  • This form of testing can form part of your user-centered design process.
  • It can spark debate, helping inform teams when making important decisions.
  • You can keep your tests private by inviting only key stakeholders or interested parties.
  • Did I mention that this one is free to use?

Example of what you can test and possible test objectives

Here I thought it would be worthwhile to lift the lid on some of the areas you could test, as well as a few example objectives you might have...


  • Do we make our proposition clear? (especially useful for testing new visitors)
  • Do our USPs have enough prominance amongst other elements of the page?
  • Are visitors encouraged to click on our primary call to action? (useful if your site has one primary objective/product/service)

Product Page

  • Are visitors encouraged to add the product to their basket, or do other buttons stand out more?
  • Do visitors notice our FREE delivery message which is one of our main USPs?
  • Do non-essential pieces of information attract more attention than they need to?

Shopping Basket

  • Are visitors encouraged to click the checkout button ahead of other possible buttons or links?
  • Are visitors noticing our new payment method we are looking to introduce (ie. Paypal or Google Checkout)?
  • Does our promotion of a FREE delivery option if you spend over a certain amount stand out to encourage larger basket sizes?

Checkout Process

  • If we enclose our checkout process, will this mean there are less immediate distractions for visitors with an intent to purchase?
  • Are visitors encouraged to proceed to the next stage of checkout ahead of clicking other links or buttons?
  • Do our security assurances stand out amongst other less important elements? (useful for testing the payment page)

Financial Services Websites

  • Are we appropriately promoting our primary financial services that are the most profitable for our business?
  • Can visitors quickly locate the login and register facility amongst other page elements?
  • During an application process, are we keeping the user focused on proceeding with their application by moving to the next step?

Key Conversion Pages

  • Are we encouraging visitors to click on the right button and therefore encouraging conversions?
  • Do we appropriately position and promote primary USPs which will encourage the user to convert?
  • Do we overwhelm visitors by presenting them with too much information to digest initially

Targeted Landing Pages (from search and social media campaigns)

  • Is the proposition from the search or social media campaign correctly presented on the landing page?
  • Are we encouraging visitors to follow up on their intent and click on our primary conversion goal?
  • Are there distractions on the page which some visitors are likely to take note of or click on?

Email Campaigns

  • Are we making it clear what messages we want the recipient to see 1st?
  • Are recipients clear on what we are hoping they will click on?
  • How do different versions of email campaign affect what visitors are likely to click on?

Web or Desktop Application Interface

  • Without a training manual, are users able to locate the primary action of a particular page?
  • Does our user interface present too many options of the user, and therefore potentially provide a confusing user experience?
  • Will some users click on buttons or links which we don't expect - and if they do, why did they do that?

Twitter Posts

  • Does our business tweet make it clear what message we are trying to make?
  • Have we included too many links and hashtag references
  • Are recipients encouraged to click on the link we want them to

Mobile Applications

  • Does the right elements of our minimised interface stand out to the user?
  • Is it clear to users what is the primary action and link on a particular part of the application?
  • Are the 3rd party adverts inadvertently making the user miss important aspects of the actual interface?

Banner Advertising

  • On our static advert, do our key messages stand out ahead of other support messages?
  • On our interactive advert, are web surfers encouraged to click the appropriate element that will engage them?

Now for some benefits

Alongside the fact that if you are one of the companies who actively seek end user feedback this application can be a valuable piece of the jigsaw, I thought I would list out some other benefits that I can see with this application...

  • You can test pre-live designs as well as live user interfaces - when I first uncovered this application (thanks to a post by Avinash Kaushik on improving high bounce rates and low converting page) I presumed the online element you could only test live interfaces. The very fact that you upload a screenshot of anything means not only can you test live websites, you can test early draft designs, wireframes, prototypes, the list goes on.
  • Testing both scanability and conversion focus - the two types of test, each with their own objectives and uses in different scenarios, tackle two of the major areas that can impact on the performance of your interface.
  • A strong community of willing participants - the application has already built up a strong community of users who actively take part in testing other peoples designs. Providing you are happy to share pre live designs with this community, you have potentially unlimited web surfers willing to provide you with key insights.
  • Grouping and visualising responses - this simple but intuitive part of the application allows you to quickly see where trends are occuring, making decision making easier.

Notes to bear in mind

  • If you choose to make your tests public, you will get some rouge results and therefore data, although the current community is fairly respectable from what I have experienced so far.
  • Five seconds - it isn't all or nothing, as users will spend more than this on a site or looking at an interface, but it does give you a good steer on how visitors absorb your interface on first glance.
  • This type of usability testing should be used only as part of your efforts to improve conversion rate and effectiveness of your interfaces.
  • This type of testing isn't a substitute for live testing (split and multivariate) - this is a pre-live testing bonus which provides data that can be used to compare against live testing.
  • You will sometimes get blankentries in the five fields that users are asked to complete - this isn't always a bad sign, especially if you want the user to focus on one key element of the page.
  • Apologies for missing some glaringly obvious examples of where this type of testing can be used!

Questions to the floor

  • What do usability consultants and information architects think of this as part of the usability testing mix?
  • What do marketers think of this type of activity to help inform marketing and design decisions?
  • Is this something search marketing professionals feel could help deliver better converting campaigns?

Finally, if you are wondering what the image is all about, it was my lame attempt at combining two phrases: 'seeing things from the other side of the fence' and 'you can lead a horse to water...'!

[Image by dgj103 via Flickr, various rights reserved]

Paul Rouke

Published 26 August, 2009 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

37 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

Nikki Rae

Nikki Rae, Managing Director at Future Insight Analytics Ltd.Small Business

I've just signed up!  Its good fun too.  Well done. (PS - just sent email about getting on beta programs with you (nikki@freshegg.com)

Nikki Rae

about 7 years ago

David Hamill

David Hamill, Usability Specialist at Freelance

Hi Paul, I think this application is very close to being useful but am not yet convinced by it.

If you want to see if your proposition is clear, you need to first ask the participant to look at the page and work out what the proposition is. Otherwise they're just looking for things that they'll be able to remember. A bit like the Generation Game only with a webpage.

People don't stare at pages without purpose. Let me use an anology to explain. If I asked you to look at the front door of my house, you'd probably look all around it, just to please me. However if I showed you the door and asked you to open it, you'd look at the handle. If I asked you to remove it, you'd look for the hinges.

It's the same with web pages. In order for this application to be reliable, you need to tell the participant what they're doing looking at the page. So if you wanted to test the proposition you just need to ask them what the site's for. Then show them the page and then ask them what the site is for.

However the click test thing has more potential. Just now it only really works to find the most obvious thing on the page. With a bit of tweaking this could do a lot more. It would be interesting to run a click test simultaneously with split A/B testing to see if the results match.

Sorry for waffling on so long.

about 7 years ago


Patrick Baker

I have to agree with David, I can't really see how something like this can "form part of your user-centered design process". There are better tools out there, like Loop11 that allow you to run proper online user testing projects.

about 7 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Nikki - it will be interesting to see how you find using the app, keep me posted. Regarding the email you mentioned I've not had anything through from you?

@David - thanks for your comments, and I wouldn't say it was waffle at all - more like constructive feedback and opinions!

On your comments about needing to first ask participants to look at a page and work out the proposition, you could say that this type of first impression test allows you to see whether visitors are immediately drawn to where you are putting forward your proposition (if that is your objective on the interface in question).

For example, if by doing this generation game style test on a homepage, where you are looking to push your new product launch, if users are remembering things such as you email sign-up button and some stock photo that is used simply to add some colour into the page, perhaps it is worth reconsidering how you are presenting your new product information on the homepage. As I mentioned this 5 second test isn't all or nothing, but at least it provides insights on what aspects of your interface are receiving more user attention in the first few seconds.

Your point on purpose is a very interesting one too. How I've been explaining this tool is from the business perspective, where its the business who has an interface that has a purpose and objective. The list of example objectives should clarify what I mean a bit more. Therefore, the business has their purpose, the user doesn't know exactly what the businesses purpose is (true in most real life cases I would say), and this type of test provides insights on whether the businesses purpose is immediately obvious for the visitor. Once again as I said in the original post, this optional test process is not a substitute for other forms of testing (user testing, split testing etc) but it can provide insights you maybe wouldn't normally get.

Finally point (phew!) on your comments on the click test, I agree this could do alot more - I suspect the app developers are first trying to determine what their revenue stream will be for on-going development! I also agree about your suggestion of comparing results you get from this with live split testing, something which I mentioned in the notes section of the post.

@Patrick - thanks for your comments. I'll send a quick reply separately to this essay!

about 7 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Patrick - in terms of other tools that are available, I'm sure you could do these types of tests and much more with other tools, although whether they are free or not could be a different story. I must say I haven't had experience of other tools such as Loop11, but from what you say it sounds like its worth looking at.

Finally on your point on wondering how this application can be used as part of a user-centered design process, I'll give you an first hand example.

Where budget and timescales permits we adopt a user-centered design approach when developing websites and applications. During the design phase, we do rapid paper prototyping followed by iterative wireframing and visual design. During this design phase we will (going forward now I've found this application!) use it to test both 1st impressions and focus points and whether call to actions are meeting with expectations set out during the analysis phase.

Hopefully this firms up what I meant about using the application forming part of a user-centered design process?

For reference you may like to see a breakdown of our user-centered design process.

about 7 years ago

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