November 15th, 2005
I just recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Malcolm’s main premise is that people frequently develop important impressions in the first seconds of an experience. He asserts that the human brain works at lightning speed to come to snap judgments about information.
Malcolm’s argument is consistent with what we’ve often believed may be a weakness of traditional usability tests: we may not be accurately uncovering the users’ first impressions of the content. In most tests, users give us their feedback only after completing a task on the site, once they’ve had some time to consciously process their impressions. But is this really how users make their first judgment of a web site in a real-life setting? According to Blink’s argument, probably not.
To more accurately assess users’ first impressions of designs, we’ve developed what we call the 5-Second Test. The main purpose of this variant of traditional usability testing is to assess a user’s Blink response to a site’s design and content.
This technique has helped us to collect valuable feedback from users in a very short amount of time. A few months back, I wrote an article about the 5-second test methodology, outlining how we set up these types of tests.
Have you come up with any techniques to measure the first impressions of users? How have they worked for you?
[Editors Update: Esteban, our friend from Factor Humano in Argentina reminds us that a Spanish version of Christine’s article is available.]Tweet