As a Web Strategist and A/B testing consultant, I’ve worked with everything from Fortune 100 companies to freshly minted start-ups. Regardless of the length of their customer list or the volume of their website traffic, they all ask me the same question: “How long should I run this A/B test for? How long will it take to get accurate results?” It’s a natural question and one that may be even more fundamental if you’re trying to reach a particular quarterly goal for your testing program. And while I’m not a statistician, I’m not afraid to say that it’s very rare that you’ll be able to conclusively say how long a test will need to run. Continue reading
Do you ever find yourself puzzled at which site design would serve your business best? Good. You’ve come to the right place.
The possible combinations of headlines, colors, buttons, images, forms, placement, etc., are dizzying. Often times, the highest paid person’s opinion dictates the site layout based on personal hunches and preferences. Hunches are risky. Why not let actual data drive the decision? Act on your questions. Demolish your assumptions. Start experimenting with different variations of your site and let real data collected in real time inform your site design. A/B testing, split testing, or bucket testing – go with whichever name is least intimidating to you – has become essential for optimizing both the user experience and the traffic flow through your site. You can learn surprising facts about your audience, just by serving up alternative versions of your pages. Find answers to these five questions when you start testing.
1. What do my users like best?
Present them with multiple options and let them tell you. With testing, you can quickly understand what grabs your users’ attention best. Big words? One word? Images of smiley women? Or images of casual men? The team at 37signals tested the homepage for their CRM, Highrise with a few radically different ideas and sure enough, the specific human smiling/staring/frowning back at users mattered. They found some surprising results. A long-form sales letter about Highrise performed 37.5% better than the original illustration heavy, app-centric information page. Quite a significant increase, but they didn’t stop there. They tested a homepage featuring an oversized portrait of a user. It performed 102.5% better than the baseline design. That’s a turbocharged difference. The test got even more nuanced when they started testing different portraits of users. Beware, testing can be addictive.
2. Why do people abandon their shopping cart?
Video Fun Fact: Before the internet, people were still abandoning carts
The possibilities are many. But one thing’s for certain: you can influence (and decrease) the rate at which people walk away from a full cart. Articles about best shopping cart design practices are bountiful online. Implement those insights with A/B testing and you will have yourself some answers and more revenue. Shoppers walk away from about 50-70 percent of online carts for various reasons. E-commerce sites have huge testing potential. Companies like Fab.com, Amazon and Groupon aggressively test shopping cart elements to drive revenue. Even the slightest improvement in the shopping cart funnel can lower your abandonment rate and generate more money for you. Who doesn’t want more money? Test it and figure out what works.
3. What will it take for people to complete a form?
Forms can have a huge bounce rate. People see a page of blank boxes and freak out. Designing a form is an art, and a valuable testing opportunity. Don’t underestimate how important each element of the form is. Ask yourself these questions while creating your form: What are the most essential pieces of information you need? Do you really need a phone number? Apart from the questions themselves, what parts of the page might be distracting a user away from completing the form? Will moving the form to a different part of the page do anything? Probably. A/B testing on forms is a thing of genius and a very effective way to achieve many of your company’s goals fast.
4. Which words prompt action?
Call to action words, are the focus here. Running experiments on your call to action buttons are great tests to run early that yield surprising results. Your site exists to fulfill some purpose, and that purpose requires visitors to act. Make the certain action obvious. Play around with different combinations of words – don’t be afraid to try something out-of-the-box – and test them live concurrently to see which receives the most clicks. You will be glad you did.
5. How do returning users navigate my site versus new visitors?
Your site may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for every visitor. Returning visitors want to use it one way, first-time visitors another. How do you figure out who wants what? With A/B testing, you can specify which type of visitors see which variations. In other words, you can target different populi with different content, buttons, layouts, etc. You can even show visitors who land on your site via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc, with specific pages. What an incredible way to learn about all types of visitors.
A/B, split or bucket testing is an explosive tool. Do it to learn about your users, how they engage with your site and what they respond to best. Look at the data. Implement those winning changes and start achieving goals you never even knew you had.