Have you ever clicked on a Google search result on a website and hit the back button immediately?
First impressions do matter online, a lot. Either your visitors want to stay on your website and eventually become a client, or they want to leave. It's the point of no return.
We do the same online, but sometimes in just a few seconds, just like we judge or form an opinion about a person in a matter of one or two minutes.
What is a 5-Second Usability Test?
According to Usability Hub, “Five-second testing is a form of usability testing that allows you to measure how well a design quickly communicates a message. This kind of test provides both quantitative and qualitative feedback that helps you optimize a design.”
In this test, a person is shown a static image of a webpage or mobile app for five seconds and then asked to recall key pieces of information, like whether they noticed what action an app developer wants them to take next or what's the purpose of a webpage.
The test works well for designers getting feedback before their creations go out into the wild.
But what if you already have a live webpage. What can you do to pass a real-life five-second usability test, where your visitors want to carry on reading and not hit the back button?
Ask yourself 5 questions:
#1 Does Your Page Have a Strong Informational Scent?
To decide whether to visit a page, people take into account how much relevant information they are likely to find on that page relative to the effort involved in extracting that info.
Visitors are foraging for information when they visit your site. They always have a question, and they decide very quickly how likely their concern can be addressed by your website, and how much time and effort it takes to retrieve that data. So, your job is to convince visitors to your website quickly that you can address their problems, and you do this by laying down a strong informational scent'.
Here are some ways you can create an informational scent:
- Put yourself in your customer's shoes to understand what questions need answering before they are ready to buy.
- Make your content easy to scan (see checkpoint #2) and using headings as signposts to the questions you answer.
- Build up an increasingly strong informational scent by addressing common problems with detailed solutions.
#2 Is Your Writing Succinct?
According to Jakob Nielsen, people read 25% slower onscreen, and they skim rather than read. So, web text should be short, scannable, and structured as linked, topical pages.
Because people read slower online, it’s recommended that you should write 50% less text when compared to a hardcopy publication. Always make sure that you are succinct in your writing, and provide the essential information that offers a strong informational scent towards the products and services you offer.
Besides, your content needs to be easy to scan. People scan text first and only read properly if the informational scent is strong enough.
You can make your content scannable by:
- Outlining content with clear headings and subheadings.
- Include meaningful images that are relevant to the page's content.
- Emphasizing important words and sentences through bolding and bullet points.
#3 Is Your Page Easy to Use on a Mobile Device?
Since 2016, more people use mobile and tablet devices to browse the web than desktop computers. As a minimum, your web pages should at least pass Google's Mobile-Friendly Test.
The test covers the basics of how easy a webpage is to view on a mobile device. For example, it will flag whether the text is too small, touch elements are too close or if the viewports are incorrect. If your pages aren't mobile-friendly, there's a chance Google won't index or rank them at all.
To increase your mobile usability further, Google recommends:
- Keep calls to action (CTAs) front and center.
- Keep menus short and sweet.
- Make it easy to get back to the homepage.
- Don't let (pop-up) promotions steal the show.
- Make site search visible.
#4 Does Your Webpage Load Quickly?
You may be surprised that even a one-second delay in mobile load times can impact conversions by 20%. If you think more about it, that is one second less to make a great first impression in the five-second test.
In fact, Google has been obsessed with page speed for a long time. While a really slow website can seriously affect your SEO and usability progress, a top page speed score would only give you a slight ranking boost.
#5 Is Your Content Trustworthy?
It may not be possible to tell if a website is trustworthy after only a few seconds of viewing it, but that doesn't mean people won't try and make estimations.
Here are three steps you can take to ensure your web pages are trustworthy:
- Compare one of your most important pages to the competition - how do the designs and visuals compare? What can you improve?
- Does the page include social-proof that it's credible? This could be reviews, case studies, awards won or simply your business credentials.
- Are all your web pages on HTTPs? If not, Google Chrome will flag the page as "not secure", and visitors will trust the content less.
To sum up, some of these hacks are easy to self-fix, such as making the content more succinct while scannable, and some are more technical, such as speeding up a website that might require a web developer's support.
Either way, note that it's crucial for the first few seconds that a visitor lands on your website. By laying down a powerful informational scent, loading quickly, looking nice on mobile devices, and displaying adequate and trustworthy content, the web pages can make a great first impression.