We have a saying in Poland: ‘the better is the enemy of the good.’ And while I don’t entirely agree with it, I think it reflects something everyone is afraid of, not only Poles. What if, by improving something good, we’ll actually make it worse? After all, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, they say.
Sometimes we don’t even know if enhancing our product is the way to go. And if we know it is - it’s hard to pin down what needs fixing and how to make it better. And every so often we stand in front of the ubiquitous dilemma: blue font or red font? A picture of a puppy or a picture of a kitten? This or that? A or B?
That’s when A/B testing, also known as split testing or bucket testing, comes to the rescue. Introducing an easy pattern for live-testing different scenarios and solutions, it lights the way to achieving the best results - and provides data to support your decisions!
Why A/B Testing Is A King
They say that the key to getting anyone to choose anything is narrowing the area of choice. Think of the last time someone asked you to order something for lunch. The options are endless! Even if you decide on one cuisine, say Italian, there’s the ultimate battle of pasta vs. pizza. And even if you manage to choose one of them, should you go for a carbonara or aglio e oglio? Mozzarella di buffala or prosciutto di parma? Hours pass, your lunch partner went home (or died of starvation), and you’re still there wondering if a good old kebab wouldn’t be better.
If you’re capable of fishing out that one special thing from an ocean of others, kudos to you, my friend. How do you do this?! Most of us feel lost when facing too many options at once! In fact, the term ‘overchoice’ has been coined to reflect this state of initial paralysis and post-decision regret (the more the possibilities, the higher the chance of you regretting the one you chose).
What’s A/B testing? In a pinch, it’s giving your users two options (hence the ‘A’ / ‘B’) and seeing which of them checks out better.
Think of it as sort of an experiment, in which you’re randomly showing your users two variants of your page. Then, you analyze their performance, combine it with statistics and your conversion goals. The answer to which of these versions should be implemented to the final product will show up right in front of your eyes.
A/B Testing As A Way Of Introducing Changes To Your Website
Of course, A/B testing is not only useful for new products - it’s proven to be an excellent and effective method of introducing changes to your existing design. If you experience low conversion rates or hit a plateau, bucket testing will determine the source of the problem and pin down the right steps to heal it. If you’re not the person who has the final say, the results of those tests will help you prove that it’s time to mix things up.
The results of A/B testing will show the impact of the proposed changes based on accurate, verifiable data. You won’t step inside the world of web design blindfolded ever again. You’ll never have to guess the best solution.
Split Testing Saves You Money
Let’s face it - many businesses don’t have the budget for an entirely new website anytime the novelty wears off. A/B testing has been proven to be an effective method of tracking your site’s weak spots and fixing precisely what needs some TLC, no fluff. This is cost-effective and saves you the time you’d have to sacrifice for an entirely new product.
Thanks to A/B testing, you can direct your budget to the places that need it the most and work your way from there. It’ll also save you from investing in random changes that may or may not bring the expected results. No more playing roulette with your website!
It Helps You Understand Your Website & Your Audience
If you’re relatively new to the concept of running a website, you’re probably learning as you go, making lessons from your own failures, and carefully observing the others. Maybe you’re saving every penny so you could partner up with an expert. Perhaps you’re hoping a fairy godmother will tell you the secret to the best conversion rates in your sleep.
What if I tell you that you can find it out by yourself, and considerably faster than waiting for a good dream or a reasonably-priced professional? By introducing a series of A/B tests, you’ll instantly have a better understanding of your users’ behavior and engagement. Hard data will help you grasp the reason behind the impact of certain webpage elements on your clients. This can either prove you right or make you forever question your intuition - don’t say I didn’t warn you. But hey, finding out that you’ve been wrong about everything is also learning, right?
It Gives You Nice & Clear Demonstration Material
No matter the type of your product and your current situation, running A/B tests gives you a perfect mock-up of possible outcomes. The data that you get out of it will be undisputed and easy to demonstrate in any way you please: graphs, comparisons, numbers, you name it.
If you’re working on a product for a client with strong opinions that may not be the best solution for their business, the results of bucket testing will serve as an excellent gateway to discussing other options. Similarly, if you need to convince your boss or the company’s board that some things don’t work anymore (or never did), it’ll be more efficient to show them the research behind it. They’ll be more likely to agree to aimed, budget-friendly improvements anyways.
On the other hand, split testing can lead to surprising results: maybe the ‘better’ is the enemy of the ‘good’ after all? In some cases, the outcome of an A/B test can tell you you really should stick to what you have… or work harder to come up with a new solution!
Food For Thoughts
A lot of the time, website owners say: ‘something’s not working, the click-through rate hit rock bottom, but we don’t know for what reason and how to fix it.’ Well, the chances are that most of your product does its job, but you’re missing out on one key element that collapses the entire pyramid.
Say you’re running an eCommerce store, and you’ve found out that a lot of your clients don’t hit that final ‘buy’ button. At the same time, they tend to go for ‘clear your basket’ option. One way of dealing with this would be marking down your products so that the prices would be more appealing, and more people would actually click all the way through the process.
But what if we run some A/B tests first to determine what is really the cause of the problem?
By introducing a small change to a website variation, we might discover that the problem wasn’t actually in the products themselves or their price. It may turn out that the reason for so many people clearing their baskets was actually… the color of the button leading to it!
The initial design didn’t respond to the users’ intuition, so they didn’t empty their baskets on purpose. In fact, some of them may have been so frustrated by this fact that they’ve ditched the idea of buying anything at all. As a result of bucket testing, we’ve received a thorough analysis of our users’ engagement, backed up by statistics.
A/B testing has saved us from sacrificing our profits by giving us a clear-cut, unmistakable proof of how changing one button will affect the sales and the clients’ satisfaction.
How To Get Started With A/B Testing
I hope I got you excited for your first A/B test results. If you can’t wait to see them, start by collecting data from your website’s highest traffic areas. Look for sites with low conversion or high drop-off rate, then establish a measurable goal that will determine if a variation of these features is better than the original.
Then it’s time to get creative! Team up for a brainstorming session or concentrate and be the hero your product needs. Once you have a list of ideas for your “B” versions, curate it, and prioritize the tasks - remember that some may be more complicated than others. Make sure that your variations are still variations, not two totally different visions - if you implement too many changes at once, the results will be blurred and misleading.
A/B testing software is relatively easy to operate, as a lot of tools feature a visual editor for maximum convenience and minimal learning curve. Still, make sure you run your tests through a QA process - yup, it’s kind of a QA inception if you think about it ;)
For the next few days, your users will randomly experience both versions of the website. Each visit will be measured and compared. After the testing time is done, your software will analyze the gathered data and give you a detailed report.
Split Testing - A Cure-All?
In fact, split testing is much more versatile. The ways of using it to your advantage go way beyond checking for best design or best placement of critical features. Here’s a couple of ideas on how to squeeze the most out of this technique:
- Create and test two versions of ad copy to see which attracts more clicks;
- Come up with two layouts of a landing page to see which converts better;
- Post a video and an image on your social media to determine which is more attractive for your followers;
- Tweet different styles of texts (emoji vs. no emoji, quote vs. link, etc.) or even different wording to address your audience the best possible way;
- Release ads with different CTAs and track the click-through rate;
- Make the best use out of targeted ads tools to get a deeper insight into different user groups.
So… Should You Try A/B Testing?
Absolutely yes! The tools make the process easy and intuitive, and the outcome is extremely useful data that’s hard to question. It can be analyzed and showcased in many different ways and scenarios, giving you a professional report that leaves no room for guesswork.
With split testing, you’ll save time and money and learn a lot about your website and its users. What’s more, you can learn a bit more about yourself and your intuition too! It’s a giant step towards the best version of your product - don’t miss out on it.