Practical usability testing; the 5-second surprise

Practical usability testing of websites

I was researching some data on website usability recently. Having been involved in many usability tests over the years I am perhaps now programmed to view issues in a similar way all the time.

Equally, having been involved in statistical studies for sites such as, citybaseapartments, and many others, I perhaps have a jaundiced view of the resulting discussions over what the results suggest as courses of action.

5 second ruleThe key issue however seems to boil down to how valid an in-depth study is versus a snap-shot?

I came across a study by Jeff Sauro* which encapsulated the whole issue.

The study researched some public sites in the US. Over 250 people were exposed to sites for 5 and 60 seconds, and one group had unlimited time.  A post-test usability questionnaire was used (the SUS scale; System Usability scale) and the results between the 3 groups (5 seconds, 60 seconds and unlimited time) were compared.  To paraphrase the results of Jeff’s work, essentially there was virtually no statistical difference in the resulting judgement of the sites viewed by the 3 groups. In other words, the 5-second viewer had the same impression as the unlimited viewer.

This of course places major emphasis on the much maligned “bounce rate” from Google analytics. So many colleagues and clients have disregarded this core statistic.

I’ve been told by powers-that-be that  bouncers “… aren’t our customers then so ignore”.

I’ve been told bouncers come back.

I’ve been told bounce rate is from people who can’t be bothered to read so  “,,,we’re not interested in them, they will turn out to be problem customers”.

So I propose the next new website your involved in developing, you only let your Board/boss look at it for 5 seconds, then ask three core questions;

  1. What would you do next?
  2. What did the site offer?
  3. Did you want/need to scroll

That’s it. That’s your usability project!

Of course, you could also add in the need for independent evaluation of your website usability. So that’s where people like myself and Braid consulting come in….but that’s another story as they say!

* With thanks to Jeff Sauro and the inspiration of his study;