UX Blink Test: Seeing Without Thinking

  • July 05, 2019
man working at whiteboard happily

What good is a robust CMDB full of data or an organized Knowledge Base if your users disengage from the page as soon as they get there?

Users, customers and employees have a low tolerance for flaws in the products and services they pay for. And it’s not like you’re building each Service Portal, website or app page with a set of user instructions. So, when a user shows up to your page or opens your app, how are they supposed to know what to do?

Good design.

Even if you have the greatest content in the world, without good design, users will be left with questions and frustrations. This will severely impact your bottom line when they drop off the page without completing an action.

To save you from design calamity, we’re sharing a quick way to evaluate your own Portal, website page, or app. It’s called the Blink Test (often called the Five Second Test), and it’s something many designers swear by as a critical testing step.

As we walk through this qualitative and quantitative testing method, it might be valuable for you and your team to also read (or skim, we know how busy the workday is) a few of our Service Portal resources. Both your internal Employee Portal and your external Customer Portal are critical business investments that allow users to apply self-service tools and receive on-demand answers. But remember, no matter how robust your architecture and content is in the Portal, without the right UX and UI, your users will be left disengaged and frustrated.

Take the Blink Test

The Blink Test hinges on the fact that impressions of your product or page are determined within a matter of seconds. Why five seconds? That’s is long enough for a good design to communicate its primary message. Additionally, users are increasingly multitasking, whether it’s switching between apps with a single swipe of the finger or opening multiple browser tabs at once. Reduced attention means increased importance in effective design and messaging.

From a test user seeing your page for only five seconds and then reporting back what they saw before they had time to think about it, you can determine what visual elements are the most prominent, like if text placement was large enough or saying the right thing, if colors were misleading, and if the next steps the user had to take were identified right away.

Different companies and design agencies use a wide range of blink tests to find the nuances within their pages. We’re going to walk through three different types of tests, but if you have the critical basic elements, it’s up to you to determine which is best for your company.

1. Q&A Blink Test

In this approach, you simply ask the test user a series of questions after showing them a page for five seconds. Questions should ask, ‘what does this site convey?’ Or, ‘what is the purpose of this page?’ From there, you can ask additional questions about if they felt like they were the right audience for the page if they knew what the action item on the page was, or where they'd go next.

A couple of tips to help you get started:

  • Be prepared to ask 3–4 questions only. People forget quickly, especially with digital content. The point of the blink test it to get their initial responses, not to have them fabricate elaborate memories that'll skew your testing results. If you do want to ask more questions, split them up among users or among different versions of the page.
  • Provide a pen and paper. While some testers will be comfortable answering these questions verbally, many will prefer to write their answers down. This also guarantees that the tone you use to ask doesn’t influence their answers. Let the tester know they can write their answers and they can have as much time as they would like. Most sessions will last about 4–6 minutes.

2. Free-List Blink Test

As opposed to asking specific questions, this version of the test simply asks the tester to write down everything they can remember, after seeing the page for five seconds. Because the tester isn't forced to think about specific questions, they might bring up pieces of the page that you hadn’t realized were being highlighted, such as a header image distracting from the actual CTA on the page.

This test tends to be the shortest of all the versions, probably taking about 2–3 minutes to complete.

3. Drawing Blink Test

This third version of the test usually takes the longest, about 5–6 minutes per tester. For each case, ask the user to draw what they remember of the page, after showing it to them for five seconds.

This approach works well for pages that might be using a lot of visuals, such as dashboards, tiled modules or multiple CTAs.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you choose this test:

  • Remind the testers that this is a rough sketch. If they get too bogged down in the details, they will forget what they saw
  • Only provide pencils without color. Your testers will spend time picking out the exact right color instead of focusing on the sketching of the design elements that stood out to them

Interpreting Your Results

One of the best things about Blink Test tests is that analyzing the results is a straightforward task. You can simply categorize the results into one group of participants that ‘got it’, and another who didn’t. If more than about 80% of participants fall in the “got it” group, then you’ve got a successful design on your hands. If this number is much lower, then some changes are likely necessary. At this point, it’s critical to look at qualitative feedback from both groups. Sometimes, opinions from participants who missed the point will converge on similar ideas or themes. This is a clear indication that there’s a fallacy in your design that is throwing people off.

It’s also important to remember that the Blink Test is only one way to be testing your page. It’s used for very first impressions, so you should be testing all levels of your design and content through multiple methods.

If you take away one thing from the Blink Test, it should be that rigorous testing (no matter how you decide to go about it) should be an integral part of your architectural and design process. Creating a UX Design for your portal isn't just about making things pretty. You can have the most visually appealing website about, but if no one understands how to use it, then it won’t be successful.

Dive into our webinar on How to Deliver Better Self-Service Experiences using ServiceNow to ensure your UX game is on point.