How To Improve And Optimize Your Website With A/B Testing
“The true method of knowledge is experiment”. William Blake
Our society has evolved so rapidly over these past few decades. Of course, nothing has been more of a catalyst than the rapid pace of innovation in information technology products and services. Naturally it has made our lives easier, and people and companies are constantly trying new ways on how to improve their current products and services, especially their web presence. One of the ways that companies use to improve their websites, apps, or web apps is the way that science has always been done: by experimenting. In this industry that is known as A/B testing.
Why A/B Testing is important for User Experience
Our interactions on the web can be pleasant or unpleasant. Everything is about communicating information in the most efficient manner in order to achieve any set objectives. People want to read an article easily on the web, that looks good, has legible fonts. They want to find and buy products without many clicks. They want to communicate with others seamlessly with even fewer clicks. In general, people want to have a good experience while using the web. User experience is one of the most important aspects when developing any web property. When people have good experiences with a website, they will return to it more frequently, or stay there longer. Naturally it depends on the purpose of the website as well. A good experience can be when the purpose is to spend a lot of time on a website (i.e. Instagram, Amazon, New York Times) or as little time as possible (i.e. Google search, Kayak, Uber). That’s why it is crucial to have designers and developers work together to create the best user experience possible for any website or app.
One thing that is true with digital technologies especially web facing services is that they are not static. You cannot find any website today that was developed once and never changed. Well you can find one maybe, but you can’t find more than one. It’s because technologies change, and how people want to consume content changes. For designers and developers, creating the best user experience is Sisyphean task. There are multiple approaches on how to implement a feature or present something online, and the only true way to know is to have empirical data by testing it.
Thus people and companies need to approach their web presence not as some task that can be completed, but rather an ongoing process that needs constant work. Through A/B testing every website can be improved and optimized so that it can better achieve its purpose. The process is fairly straightforward:
(1) there’s a goal and multiple ways to achieve it
(2) decide on the two best waysand create both
(3) gather data on both, then analyse the data
(4) one variant will be eliminated and we start again at (2)
Web analytics are crucial to the A/B testing process because they’re the feedback that you get from applying your tests. Naturally, web analytics is a whole field on its own and there are multiple methods of analyzing the user experience on the web.
Mistakes and Limitations
One of the most common mistakes that happens when websites or apps are created is that their purpose is not fully analysed. Companies usually set it as a task, but they don’t really thing about the user experience. Banks are notorious for this; they usually have very clunky e-banking apps and platforms, that their clients (especially those that are not tech savvy) usually just go to their branch and get business done. No one wants to waste time on figuring out how to pay a bill or transfer money to someone. Thankfully, some fintech companies are solving this problem, and the way they’re doing it is by fast paced changes to their platforms through A/B testing. Many companies have beta programs where they can employ this A/B testing, even Microsoft has their “Insider Program” that they use to test Windows 10.
The only limitation to A/B testing is that the feedback from the process is not very informative. If something is done well, then of course it is evident, but if something doesn’t work A/B testing can’t tell you why it doesn’t work. That can only be found out by further testing. Test two methods (A/B), if one doesn’t bring results, then you try a third (B/C), and so on, until one is found that can’t be improved further.
When a purpose is set, then achieving that purpose is just a matter of time, and of course testing. Designers can create beautiful User Interfaces that work well both on desktop and mobile screens, and together with developers they can create experiences that are pleasant. Naturally, as mentioned above, this is a constant process, where every creation is tested, and the analytics data is analysed.
A/B testing is a popular method of improving User Experience because it is direct and inexpensive. So next time you’re looking your company’s website or web application, think about what can be improved and test it.