It used to be that running two separate home page designs (called A/B testing) was expensive and time consuming, but thanks to sites such as ABtests.com, Optimizely.com, and others, you can submit your site designs almost automatically and inexpensively. Why do this? Because it works. Those who do A/B tests have found ways to simplify their designs, increase click-through and conversions rates, and get more business and satisfied customers.
While it's a simple concept, the execution isn't. According to the folks at A/B testing service Maxymiser:
This is often because any form of testing is wrongly assumed to be very technical, time consuming and difficult to implement; however this is just not the case. When you consider what a key part of the sales equation conversion rate is and how valuable customer insight can be it is surprising that so many people ignore such a simple form of testing.
Some A/B tests show the best way to improve response rates is to just reduce clutter. User experience expert Danielle Cooley has plenty of examples on her blog about how less content is actually a better strategy. She points to many successful examples, such as a redesign of the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor where it took its site from 4,000 pages to 500 pages and doubled conversions.
At another site for an Irish wine shop, by using Google Analytics and some savvy moves, the store was able to more than double its checkout completions with a simple page design that cut down the number of steps, didn't ask for account creation, and removed other distractions from the shopping experience.
Sometimes A/B testing will reveal radical ideas. In a test for Vendio, ABtests found that including a sign-up form on the home page was actually a bad idea. Once they moved the signups to a button, Vendio saw an increase of 60 percent (see image below).
So let's get started. You first need a clear picture of what is wrong and what you want to change on your site. Is your home page too cluttered? Does it take your online visitors too many clicks and menu choices to get to your most popular content or products? Are too many purchases being abandoned before people pay for them?
Before and After
In these pictures, you can see the results of A/B testing done for Vendio.
Once you figure this out, you then need to properly test your A/B to ensure you can understand the effect of your changes. You also have to change just one aspect of your site at a time; otherwise you can't really track the causes of the resulting page view numbers. You'll find a good explanation of the steps involved at SearchEngineWatch.
And while we have just looked at Website design, there are lots of other areas of opportunity for A/B testing, including testing email campaigns. A good place to start learning about this concept is a tutorial from MailChimp.
ABtests.com is free, but you must agree to share your results in public. Optimizely.com has a basic monthly plan for less than $20. Good luck with your tests.
David Strom is a world-known expert on networking and communications technologies. He has worked extensively in the IT end-user computing industry and has managed editorial operations for trade publications in the network computing, electronics components, computer enthusiast, reseller channel, and security markets.