Impression Testing


The “five-second test” is a very simple method for capturing a user’s first impressions of a website. Based on a handful of critical components – images, colors, layout, key words and phrases – people can formulate their expectations for a website very quickly, and those perceptions usually influence the rest of their experience on the site.

We did a few experiments with five-second tests on various websites (some ours, some not). In our experiments, five seconds was really not much time to register a value proposition; in many cases it was just enough for the brain to register images and perhaps a headline or two.

15 second impression test stopwatch

Since we cared more about users’ understanding of the websites' value proposition and less about strictly visual judgments, we extended the time length of our impression tests to 15 seconds: the average amount of time visitors spend on any given webpage. We found that this was an ideal amount of time for users to quickly look over the page and form a basic grasp of the website’s main purpose and value proposition.

Using the impression test

When commissioning a use test, you can specify if you want to include an impression test. If you check Yes, then we precede the actual test with a short impression test. The user is shown the landing page for about 15 seconds (it’s rough because it may take the website a second or two to load), and then we ask them 4 basic questions:

  • Say three words that you remember from the site, or that you would use to describe the site.
  • What is this website about?
  • What services and/or products are offered on this site, and for whom?
  • What is the feel of this site? (e.g. professional, fun, small-company, corporate?)

Basically, with the impression test you get a quick review of the user’s impressions of the landing page. It doesn’t cost any more, and it’s a great way to gauge whether you’re sending the right message and setting the right tone.

Read: Understanding your impression test results

Landing Pages are like Billboards

Your landing page is like a billboard. You only have a short amount of time to catch people’s attention and communicate your core purpose. Making the right impression on new visitors can be the difference between losing or keeping them. Including an impression test at the beginning of your user test also helps to orient the user and gives them the chance to understand what the site is for before jumping into the tasks.


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