You may have heard the old adage, “A website is never done.” Even the best digital platforms go through multiple rounds of changes, updates, and a complete overhaul now and then. Because even if your platform is already good, there’s always something you can do to improve the user experience and better support your business goals.
The key is figuring out which changes truly result in improvements, and which are a waste of your money and time.
Why You Need A/B Testing
Here are a few use cases where A/B testing can deliver crucial info:
- You’re redesigning your platform with new branding, new content, or new architecture.
- You’re looking to expand your platform with a new service or feature.
- You need data to share with other stakeholders to validate content-related activities.
- You need to increase engagement or conversion rates to achieve your business goals.
Whatever the business case, you must understand how users interact with your platform and how its features impact their experience, in order to make informed decisions about platform design and content.
Too often, companies evaluate changes with internal stakeholders instead of real users. In the end, you may go through a lot of development work without knowing if the changes you’re making will result in something impactful. Instead, with less time and fewer resources, __you can use A/B testing with your actual audience to find out definitively what’s effective and what’s not. __
How A/B Testing Helps Your Platform
In addition to helping maximize the effectiveness and minimize the resources invested in platform redesign, A/B testing provides invaluable short- and long-term benefits:
Probably the number-one goal for most redesign efforts, increasing conversion rate is one of the most robust uses of A/B testing. Rather than guessing at what makes users complete a registration form or take a desired action, you get hard data to confirm whether a change truly produces a lift in conversions.
Improve User Engagement & Retention
Bounce rate is often a key indicator of user experience and can have a significant impact on your conversion goals. Testing multiple elements of a particular page can help you find visitor pain points and improve their overall experience, ultimately getting them to spend more time on your site.
Learn About Your Audience
By progressively testing which elements your users gravitate to (or from), you can learn a little more about your audience at each step, and then use that data to inform future design and content.
Road-Test New Features
Before you introduce a new feature, launching it as an A/B test can show how your audience is likely to react. You’ll get hard and fast data in a real-world environment with less risk.
Personalize User Experiences
You can use A/B testing as a way to identify steps toward platform personalization, to understand which forms of personalization could potentially increase user engagement.
What Should You Test?
A/B testing can be used for everything from full page designs to single content elements. Even small and simple changes can significantly impact the user experience and, consequently, your engagement and conversion rates.
When Humana A/B tested a website banner, the version with pared-down copy and a different photo increased click-throughs by 433 percent! In a second test, changing the call-to-action (CTA) copy increased click-throughs by a further 192 percent, showing that even subtle word changes can boost engagement.
How do you figure out what to test? Examining quantitative or qualitative data will help you identify potential pain points and give you a basis for experimentation. Maybe your homepage has an unusually high bounce rate, or users are providing negative feedback on your sign up process. Once you’ve identified an issue, form a hypothesis to test: define a problem, propose a solution, and identify metrics for success or failure.
Whatever you include in your testing plan, focus on things that are most likely to impact the metric you’re trying to improve. For instance, if you want to increase conversion rate, you might test the design or placement of a CTA.
Here are some commonly tested elements:
- Headlines and copywriting: length, language, and detail
- CTAs: word choice, placement, button color/size/shape
- Navigation: nav bar placement, content groupings, dropdown options
- Product pages: placement of images, product description length and format
- Landing pages: photography, amount of copy, visual design, placement of CTA
One caution: if you’re testing multiple elements simultaneously, make sure they’re distinct enough that they don’t affect each other and impact the results of each test. Your results should be related only to the options you’re presenting, so there’s a clear understanding of what exactly is influencing your audience.
One Last Word of Advice
In the end, one form of testing alone is never a panacea for improving your platform. While A/B testing provides valuable data, it has limitations, too. Most importantly, unlike qualitative analysis, it doesn’t explain the why behind your measured results. Also, the data produced is only relevant to the specific area you’re testing, versus open-ended user testing that could surface other challenges hindering your platform’s performance.
That’s why qualitative feedback is still vitally important for your site — it surfaces things you can’t learn from numbers alone (like a user not finding you trustworthy or credible). A/B testing can give you relatively quick and easy ways to improve your user experience, but it doesn’t give you every answer you need.
Your business never stands still, and your audience is always evolving and changing. We’re here to help you keep looking forward. Contact us today to talk about optimizing your platform experience.