A/B testing is a process also known as split testing. It is an experimentation process in which two versions of a variable (known as version A and version B) are shown to different website visitors at the same time. These variables can include content, design and layout, navigation, or forms. By observing the way that customers interact with version A and version B, marketers and developers can make informed decisions to increase conversions.
A/B testing is nothing new. Marketers professionals have long used this approach to test how customers react to certain advertising materials. What is new is the way in which A/B testing is applied. These days, web development services teams can set up real-time tests that draw results from thousands of participants. The amount of data that can be collected means that web design and development no longer involve educated guesswork about how users will interact with a page. All decisions can be backed by data.
Should I use A/B testing?
Most, if not all, website owners can benefit from implementing A/B testing on their website. It’s a strategy that tends to be associated with e-commerce stores, but that shouldn’t prevent others from also jumping on the bandwagon.
A/B testing should be used by anyone aiming to:
Improve user experience: When you’ve built a website from scratch, it can be hard to remove yourself far enough from the situation to objectively study the user experience. A/B testing can be used to identify visitor pain points (ie. areas of your website that visitors continually struggle to navigate) to make informed improvements.
Reduce bounce rate: Bounce rate is a very important SEO metric that can have a significant impact on search engine rankings. Google defines bounce rate as the percentage of all sessions on your site in which viewers viewed only a single page before exiting the site. Generally, this type of interaction indicates to the search engine that your website does not contain the content users are looking for, which you will likely be indirectly penalised for.
By running A/B testing, you can determine what variables impact bounce rate and use the data to build useful, engaging pages.
Inform website redesigns: Redesigning a website tends to be a costly process. It shouldn’t be undertaken without thorough research and planning. A/B testing can be used prior to the redesign process to gain data on how visitors interact with certain variables and help make informed design and development decisions.
Setting up A/B testing on your website
There are a few different types of A/B tests and there are a number of different programs you can use to set up the experiment. Regardless of what tool and test you choose to run, the most important thing is that you conduct appropriate research before starting the process.
The data obtained from A/B testing is most fruitful if the test itself is structured and based on pre-existing data. That is to say, don’t simply guess what your customers might be struggling with or what website improvements they will most benefit from. Use the data you have to identify areas of improvement and set up the test like you would a scientific experiment.
For example, perhaps you have noticed that site conversions are down. Your web development services team believes that your customers might be finding the final checkout stage confusing, so you install a from analytics tool to check user behaviour. Sure enough, customers entering their information and then becoming confused by the shipping options. Many are abandoning the website at this point, driving down your conversions.
Having established that this is the problem, it’s time to go about brainstorming a solution. By developing two separate versions of this webpage — the confusing original (A) and the new and improved form (B) — you can gain real data customer data that will help inform any changes you make to the checkout process.
Undertaking this process without having first fully established what the problem is means that your data will have no context and you will struggle to infer what your customers want or need.
Other common A/B testing mistakes include testing more than one variable at a time, testing for too long or too short a time, and using low-cost, low-quality tools.
It’s true that there are many different testing tools out there, with some being certainly better than others. The quality of testing tools you use can have a significant impact on your results, and therefore, the design and development decisions you choose to make for your website.
If A/B and user experience testing is important to you, it might be a good idea to speak with a Kentico development agency. Kentico is a very popular CMS platform that provides a vast array of testing tools, designed to help all website owners (but particularly those in e-commerce) design appealing, functional, and personalised websites. Setting up A/B testing on a Kentico website is not difficult for a web development services team, and you can really trust the results.
All business owners and marketing professionals can benefit from running A/B testing. In the end, however, it’s your customers who will see the biggest gains as their user experience improves and they find it easier to access the information and services they need.