By Damion Wasylow, University of Florida
Launching a website is inherently risky. Countless hours go into finessing each element, but that investment of time and energy is fruitless if the website doesn’t perform. Just as user testing should be applied to make informed design decisions, A/B testing should be used to confirm and continually improve conversion optimization. Whether you are building a brand new website or optimizing a current one, A/B tests are the best way to evaluate real-world user behavior.
It all starts with a hypothesis…
We believe that by changing X, the conversion rate will increase. In a classic A/B test, two variations of a Web page are created with only a single element altered between the two. Version A is commonly the existing design or the control, while Version B is the alternative design or the variation. Each version is displayed to a percentage of your visitors seamlessly, and their behavior is compared to see which version of the page performs better. Whether your goals include form submissions, purchase completions or button clicks, A/B tests allow you to quickly validate the effectiveness of changes or additions to your designs and flows.
Before you embark on testing, you need to select your testing software. There are a number of options that can make A/B testing a simple and painless process. Here are a few of the most popular.
When it comes to value, it is difficult to beat free. Formerly known as Google Website Optimizer, Content Experiments enables users to segment and measure website visitors to A/B tests from within the Google Analytics interface. Integration with your Google Analytics account allows you to utilize previously constructed audience segments and conversion goals during testing, all in a familiar environment. The downside is a relatively steep learning curve. Content Experiments handles the test set up, but it is on you to build the test Web pages manually.
Self-proclaimed as the easiest A/B testing tool, VWO’s highly intuitive interface makes making changes to your website practically effortless – no development experience necessary. Quickly adjust headlines, buttons, images or other elements to create testable variations. Also included is their “idea factory” that provides best practice tips and test ideas. Additional tools like heat maps and visitor surveying provide further insight into your website’s performance. You can analyze your data inside the VWO dashboard, or it also integrates with analytics platforms including Google Analytics.
Price: Starts at $49/month
Optimizely quickly became one of the top tools for A/B testing on the Web. Simple installation and an intuitive editor make it the ideal solution for those new to the world of testing. Much like VWO, the interface is extremely visual, making it easy to change text, colors, images and layouts without writing any code. The free starter packages are a great choice for beginners, while customized enterprise solutions offer premium tools for experienced testers.
Price: Free starter package or customized enterprise options
Through these tools, A/B tests can validate whether a new design or element change is improving your conversion rate, often with a small, one-time change to your site code. With a variety of affordable options, regular testing should be a part of any website optimization efforts. After all, sometimes the smallest changes can lead to some massive improvements.
Damion Wasylow writes for the Web Design and Online Communication master’s degree program at the University of Florida. He has more than 20 years of experience in graphic design and digital marketing.