Understanding How A/B Testing Can Lead to Better Website Design

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If you have been online for any length of time, then you probably understand the importance of A/B testing. 

However, you may not be sure how A/B testing can lead to better website design

If that’s you, read on to gain a better understanding of A/B testing – why it’s important for design, and how you can get started running tests on your pages.

But first, the basics…

What is A/B Testing?

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A/B testing is the process of splitting traffic between the two different versions of a website page (such as a homepage, landing page, etc.) in order to determine which one performs best. 

Also called “split testing”, A/B testing is not to be confused with multivariate testing.

Multivariate Testing

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Multivariate testing is where you identify a key section on the page and then come up with variations for those areas specifically (instead of creating variations of the entire page, as you would do in an A/B split test).

Why Is A/B Testing Important for Design?

A/B testing is crucial for design because it allows you to make small adjustments CONTINUALLY so you can improve your website’s performance. 

When you think about it, there are literally thousands of tiny changes you can make to each page on your site. 

But, with A/B testing, you don’t need to make them all at once. 

You can alter one element and compare performance between the original page and the new variant. 

Once you have a winner, you can then alter a different element and conduct further A/B tests to make even more improvements.

Designers and site owners can use A/B and multivariate testing to make their website design better by letting tests run and adjusting the final design of the page to lead to the one that has the best conversion. 

Advantages of A/B Testing

  • A/B testing is extremely simple in design and concept
  • It’s a powerful, reliable, and widely used testing method
  • Because of the small number of tracked variables, tests deliver data quickly
  • Running A/B tests doesn’t require a large amount of traffic
  • Test results are very easy to interpret

This testing method is particularly useful for small websites with a limited number of daily visitors.

On the flipside…

One of the main limitations of AB testing is that it only measures the impact of a few variables (often 2 – 4) on interactions with the webpage.

In and of itself, split testing doesn’t reveal information about the interactions between variables on a particular page.

If you require that type of information, that’s where multivariate testing comes in.

When to Use A/B Testing or Multivariate Testing

Ultimately, the decision to use either testing method (or possibly even a combination of both) comes down to several factors.

Use A/B testing if:

You want to make simple design changes that have a quantifiable impact.

A/B testing is the optimal approach in instances where you want to redesign your website without incurring the risk of making big changes that might ultimately perform worse.

This testing method is also great if you want to change a service, feature, or plugin, or when you want to change prices. 

Use multivariate testing if:

You require information about how various elements interact with each other on a webpage. 

For instance, during a major redesign of a page where you’re changing elements such as the headline, image, call to action, and opt in form, multivariate testing (MVT) will provide you with better insights.

This offers a faster, and easier way to find the most successful design by changing a lot of variables at the same time

MVT can also potentially reveal the elements that have the greatest impact (both positive and negative) on your website visitors’ interaction.

So, Which is Better? 

Although these two website optimization methods are designed for use in different situations, they do share the same concept.

In fact, you can create better results by using both testing methods on your pages.

Now that you know what A/B testing and multivariate testing are, and when to use each method, it’s time to take a look at how you can get started with A/B testing pages on your site.

Getting Started in A/B Testing

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Follow the 5 easy steps below to learn how to conduct your own A/B tests.

Step #1: Choose the Right A/B Testing Platform

Your first step is to choose an A/B testing platform.

Luckily, there are MANY options available to you.  

Here are 3 top A/B testing and multivariate testing tools to choose from:

1. VWO

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With VWO, you can conduct both A/B and multivariate testing. 

This is a great tool to use if you want to find ways to refine your pages for better conversions.

2. Unbounce

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This is a great tool for businesses with small traffic numbers that want to conduct quick A/B tests for bigger gains.

3. Google Optimize 

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This tool is designed to help you optimize your webpages, and even your entire customer journey, whether your business is new or receiving large amounts of web traffic.

In case that you are running a WordPress website, you can use various WordPress plugins that provide great solutions for improving conversion rate, your click-through rate and time on content.

If you need more options, consider checking out this post on the best A/B testing tools in the market. 

Step #2: Pick a Variable to Test

Since you’ve decided to start A/B testing your pages to improve website design, you may already have a list of variables you want to test. 

However, you ONLY NEED TO START WITH ONE so you can evaluate how effective the changes are that you make to the page. 

If you try to measure more than one variable at a time, then you won’t know which one was responsible for any change in performance. 

So pick a variable, such as:

  • The headline
  • Call to action
  • Button color
  • Sales copy
  • Offer
  • Font
  • Layout
  • Product description
  • Any visual elements that are in direct correlation to sales efforts

The list isn’t all inclusive either.  For instance, this page has a job search function and they could test the look of the page, but also the different variables that a site visitor could input for their job search. 

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Once you’ve isolated the one “independent variable”, you can get started with your test. 

Keep in mind that you can test more than one variable for each of your pages, just as long as you test them one at a time.

Step #3: Identify Your Objective

You will likely measure multiple metrics for every test you run, but you need to choose a primary goal to focus on. 

For instance, if you create and sell online courses, you may want to test how course landing page design impacts how many students sign up for your course.  This is the primary goal, you’re trying to understand how design affects that.

Do this prior to running the test. This will be your “dependent variable“. 

Ask yourself where you want this variable to be by the end of the test. 

It’s helpful to come up with an official hypothesis so you can examine the results of your test based on the prediction you made. 

Don’t wait until afterwards to consider the metrics that are important to you. 

In fact, before you even set up the second page variation, make sure you have considered the following:

  • Which metrics are most important to you?
  • What are your goals?
  • How might the changes that you’re proposing affect user behavior?

Answering these questions before running your A/B tests will help you set up your tests in the most effective way.

Step #4: Conduct Your Test

Now comes the fun part: running the test. 

Don’t worry, this is not as complex as most people would have you believe

And, depending on the A/B testing tool you choose, you will find helpful prompts every step of the way.

First, you need to create a “control” and a “variant.

The control is the unaltered webpage you want to optimize. 

The variant is the same page with the one element changed. You will test this against the control.

For example, if you’re wondering whether a shorter opt-in form would work better than a longer one, you would leave the control with the regular opt-in form, and create a shorter form on the challenging page.

Next, split your traffic between the two pages.

You must do this in an equal and random way. 

The good news is most A/B testing tools automatically split your traffic to each variation so that a random sampling of visitors is sent to each page.

Step #5: Take Action Based on the A/B Test Results

The entire purpose of your A/B test is to give you insights on what you can change on your pages to optimize them for better results. 

Depending on your goal, you can now use the results of each test to optimize your website design

This part is simple. 

If one page variation is better than the other (statistically), then you have a winner. 

All you have to do now is to disable the losing variation on your A/B testing platform. 

If neither page is better than the other, then what you have learned is that the variable you tested didn’t have any impact (positive or negative) on the results. 

You can mark the test as inconclusive. 

At this point, you have a choice. You can either stick with the original page, or you can run another test.

Using A/B testing in your marketing efforts can have a significant impact on your business as a whole.  For instance, if you frequently host informational webinars and are able to increase your signups by 20% through A/B testing after numerous tests, you’ll have significantly more opportunities to sell them on your product or service. 



Conclusion

We’ve come to the end of this article on understanding how A/B testing can lead to better website design

This information can be extremely valuable it you’re aware of what the issues are within your organization and you have pinpointed the weak points in your sales process.  If that isn’t you, consider using environmental scanning to best understand your company’s current situation. 

Use the A/B testing information you have learned here to help you create optimized website pages for better conversions.  

Has this article helped you understand how you can use A/B testing to improve your website design? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Author’s Bio:

Prof. Ron Stefanski is a successful online entrepreneur and college professor who helps people create and market their own online businesses.  Learn more about Ron by visiting OneHourProfessor.com 

You can also connect with him on YouTube or LinkedIn, or on his Facebook Community.

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