A/B Testing And Your Website

abtestingwebsiteEvery month here at Breaking Even, we try to have a loose theme. This theme determines a series of blog posts, our monthly email newsletter subject, and gives us an opportunity to dive into a concept we think people should care about.

How many of you have said one of the following things?

“My customers would never be interested in that.”

“My website visitors can get to my shopping cart just fine.”

“I never go to our website on my phone.”

We ALL say them (I am including myself here) because, after years in our business, we have a pretty good idea of what our customers want and don’t want.

Thing is, we don’t know what anyone thinks. Ever.

We can guess. But we can’t know.

We can really only manage what we measure.

So in order to get an accurate view of what is and isn’t happening is present the same set of customers with two almost identical options with one variable change (ex: color of a button) and see how people react. This concept is called ‘A/B Testing’ and is this month’s theme! If you want to know some basics about A/B testing, I wrote a lovely blog post about it previously. Click here to read it.

OK, so what can you test on your website?

  • Color of a button
  • Position of a button
  • Size of a button
  • Writing on a button
  • Lead photo on a page
  • Headline of a page
  • Size of product photos
  • Featured product photo
  • Length of a form
  • Color of text
  • Text in your menu
  • Position of your menu
  • Size of writing in your menu
  • Number of photos in slideshow
  • Order of photos in slideshow
  • Changing a step in an order/checkout process (ex: wording on a particular page)
  • Changing position of sidebar (or adding a second sidebar)
  • Changing position of item in sidebar/footer
  • Changing color of sidebar background
  • Length of testimonials
  • Size of social media sharing buttons
  • Position of social media sharing buttons
  • Lots more!

I wanted to make that list somewhat ridiculously long but I think you get my point.

What should you test?

Deciding what you are going to test to start off with may be as simple as deciding what’s important to you. For example, if email signups are important, you may test an email signup positioned in header area versus sidebar and see how this change affects signups.

You may want to start with testing something ‘controversial’. Maybe everyone in your company argues about whether your products should have a plain wood or a plain white background.

When should you test?

You obviously need to test long enough to collect some data, so when and how long you run your test may depend on how much web traffic you get, among other factors. That said you probably don’t want to do this during a really important time, say, during the holiday rush. Think long enough to get data to make a decision and not so long that it annoys everyone.

How often should you test?

You don’t want to be in testing mode all the time, so plan your year accordingly. Quarterly tests may feel often enough, or twice yearly may be more than enough. Just put it on your calendar/agenda as something to do at a regular interval.

How do you test?

This is probably your biggest question: how do you do split testing on a live site?

You have three options:

  1. Using your current website software (ex: Wordpress) with Google Analytics goals. There is a robust discussion and how-to here: http://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-tutorials/how-to-ab-split-testing-in-wordpress-using-google-analytics/ Note: this is somewhat limited as, for example, it would be somewhat impossible to use this method to change, say, menu text as it works best on main page content.
  2. Use an add-on to your current website software. So there are tons of Wordpress plugins that allow you to, say, split test headlines “Title Split Testing For Wordpress”, or do more general changes. Some ideas here: http://wplift.com/ab-testing-in-wordpress (Note: just because a plugin works, doesn’t mean it’ll work on ALL websites so test test test! Want to know how to pick a plugin? Read this.)
  3. Use a third party A/B testing service like Optimizely or VWO. Check out their complete guides to A/B Testing, here for VRO and here for Optimizely (not affiliate links). Note: Remember if someone makes something easy for you, you’ll likely have to pay them.

If you’d like to learn more about A/B testing this month, subscribe to both our blog and monthly email newsletter. 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
Nicole Ouellette
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she's not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.