We know you’re website is never finished and that there are always little things that can be done to improve the overall site and user experience. Some are small, like publishing regular posts. Others are large, like a site redesign.
An A/B test involves testing two versions of an element on a web page, a control version (A) and a variation (B), with live traffic and measuring the effect each version has on your selected goal. A/B testing allows you to continually make small adjustments to improve the performance of your site. There are literally thousands of small adjustments you can make to your site and you don’t need to make them all at once.
The aim of A/B testing is to make a change and compare the performance between the two. If you test too many variables at once then you aren’t going to get a good (“statistically valid”) conclusion. For example, if you’re testing a new color scheme on your website while also changing the font, you can’t say that the color change is a success because you can’t determine if the font helped or not. The overall change might be better, but you can’t single out one element over the other as the cause.
If this is enough statistical theory for your brain, skip the following paragraph:
A/B testing is great if you are testing just two versions of the same page (i.e. making a small change and comparing the performance between the two). However, if you want to test multiple different components of the same page (i.e. colors, fonts, image placement, etc) all at the same time then you want multivariate analysis. Google Analytics allows something in addition to both of these, “Content Experiments”, which allow you to test multiple versions of the same page (and not just alter individual page components). For simplicity, we are using only A/B tests as the basis for making website changes but just be aware that there are multiple ways of performance testing.
Start With Your Goal
Before you make a change, you have to understand why you are doing it. If you’re goal is to get people to spend longer on the site and read more articles, you need to know that simply changing the color of links won’t affect those variables.
Ask yourself two questions:
1) What is the goal I’m trying to reach?
2) How will I measure success or failure of the goal?
This is important because how will you know if you’re change is a success? If a page has a high bounce rate and you think changing the font will help, make sure you’re measuring bounce rate as your performance yardstick and not other variables that are unrelated to this specific goal.
Some of the goals you might look to improve:
Longer time on site
More pages per visit
More visits to a specific page (contact, etc)
Higher click through rate
Decrease Bounce rates
Things you can A/B test to achieve the goals:
Maybe the font you have is too small and difficult to read. Are people actually reading your post or skimming and leaving because they don’t want to strain their eyes? You want the font to be easy to read and skim. You can play with font sizes, types, weights, spacing, and even color.
Calls to action
If you want the reader to do something, are you making it obvious? Play with the call to action and see if you can improve the conversion rate on that action. You can change the colors, font sizes, placement, and more.
Colors can really say a lot about your site. Is the impression you’re leaving the one you want? You can change the basic color scheme of your site or the color of certain items to try and find the best performance.
A/B testing is an effective tool for making incremental changes to your website. Done properly, you can gain insight into the behavior of your clients and visitors as well as gain a deeper understanding of what they expect out of you and your site.