Is your website perfectly optimized for your website visitors? Probably not, let the consumers help you out with all the guesswork. A/B testing helps explain how website visitors will respond to certain design elements, it does this by providing visitors with two versions of a landing page and letting them choose which one they like most. It is that simple. With that information you can optimize your website in the way site visitors want to see it. Most everything on your website that a visitor comes across can be A/B tested such as: links, call to action buttons, images, headlines, etc. You have full control over how a visitor interacts with your site.
There is however a right and wrong way to conduct A/B testing as well as some steps to follow. First off, you want to make sure that you A/B test is consistent across the whole website. Next you want to conduct multiple tests and then examine the results. This is important because visitors may not have a specific preference on their first site visit. You do not want want to let your gut instinct undervalue the test results. You may be surprised.
In the example above they simply moved the sign up button higher up on the landing page. That shift of position resulted in 45 more signups than before. It is amazing how a minor adjustment on a landing page can significantly change the way that a visitor interacts with your website. As a visitor of a website I find myself mainly caring about the organization and layout of the website, whether it is easy for me to get to where I want to go or find what I am looking for.
A beautiful design is not always better. That is one thing I learned from Amelia Showalter and her team who did work for the Obama 2012 campaign. They found through testing that an ugly design for an email or direct mail tended to raise more money then a colorful design. Are people really attracted to ugly? In this context yes, essentially ugly just does a good job standing out. This idea completely contradicted my stereotypical understanding on what people are drawn to. I would have thought that you would want to have the most eye-catching design. Below is an example of an A/B test for the Obama re-election campaign where they changed the media and introduced a picture of Obama himself.
The version with Obama overlaid next to the sign up form provides a different visitor experience than the simple version with no picture at all. Which version are you drawn to?
With the knowledge I learned from Amelia and her team businesses too might want to rethink the way that they are optimizing their sites and instead of designing a flashy color laden website, maybe try out its polar opposite and compare the results. I foresee this testing being especially helpful in the digital world with businesses mobile sites and applications. With users on their phones more than their computers, I think that mobile versions of websites still have a long road of improvements ahead of them.
To end this post I will leave you with an A/B test that you can do for my blog: