External human-machine interfaces (eHMIs) may be useful for communicating the intention of an automated vehicle (AV) to a pedestrian, but it is unclear which eHMI design is most effective. In a crowdsourced experiment, we examined the effects of (1) colour (red, green, cyan), (2) position (roof, bumper, windshield), (3) message (WALK, DON’T WALK, WILL STOP, WON’T STOP, light bar), (4) activation distance (35 or 50 m from the pedestrian), and (5) the presence of visual distraction in the environment, on pedestrians' perceived safety of crossing the road in front of yielding and non-yielding AVs. Participants (N = 1434) had to press a key when they felt safe to cross while watching a random 40 out of 276 videos of an approaching AV with eHMI. Results showed that (1) green and cyan eHMIs led to higher perceived safety of crossing than red eHMIs; no significant difference was found between green and cyan, (2) eHMIs on the bumper and roof were more effective than eHMIs on the windshield, (3) for yielding AVs, perceived safety was higher for WALK compared to WILL STOP, followed by the light bar; for non-yielding AVs, a red bar yielded similar results to red text, (4) for yielding AVs, a red bar caused lower perceived safety when activated early compared to late, whereas green/cyan WALK led to higher perceived safety when activated late compared to early, and (5) distraction had no significant effect. We conclude that people adopt an egocentric perspective, that the windshield is an ineffective position, that the often-recommended colour cyan may have to be avoided, and that eHMI activation distance has intricate effects related to onset saliency.