The 20 Second Gut Test is a workshop which can help you discover an initial visual design direction. It helps you identify general design aesthetics and is a good technique to help you get started.

The importance here is to ensure all the relevant stakeholders are in the room. After researching the clients brand, choose no more than 20 screenshots that you think displays enough diversity for the clients to have varying reactions. Display each screenshot for 20 seconds and ask each stakeholder to rate it out of 5. At the end of test collate the numbers and discuss the results.

When to use it

At the very beginning. During the conceptualisation or discovery phase of the project even in a kick off meeting, essentially as soon as the discussion around visual design starts.

What you’ll need

Gut test

A keynote deck

This is a deck which will show an image at 20 second intervals. There is a link to download a keynote template at the bottom.


You need some scoresheets for people to write down their scores. There’s a link to a scoresheet template at the bottom.


Sounds stupid but you’ll look more stupid if you don’t bring enough pens.

How much time do you need

You will want about an hour. Although it obviously depends on the amount of screenshots you’re showing its actually the discussion at the end which is the most valuable to you so make sure you leave enough time to get the most from that.

Step by steps

1. Prior to the meeting, research the company and their brand. Based on their brief collect no more than 20 or so screenshots. You want to make sure that there is enough diversity in layout and style within these designs to ensure some strong responses. I normally do a mixture of competitors, brands with similar values (not necessarily in the same sector) and designs which I think are aspirational and at the cutting edge.

2. Put the screenshots into a Keynote or PowerPoint deck with a 20 second delay on each screen (you can download a template below). If you want to make your own be sure to use letters for each screenshot as this helps when scoring later.

3. Create and hand out a scoring sheet (or download the template below) and explain the exercise. Your scoring sheet should have the letters corresponding to each screenshot going down the page and a numbered scale from 1 – 5 next to each letter.

4. Run the test by showing each screenshot (either a random or specific order) and get the stakeholders to mark each screenshot from 1 – 5, 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest based on their “Gut” reaction to what they’re viewing.

5. At the end of the test gather up the score sheets and tabulate the results (average the scores for each letter).

6. Present the top 5 and bottom 5 screenshots back to the room and discuss the results.


Keynote template: Download

Scoresheet template: Download

This was originally published on my own site.