Testing,Testing 1-2-3: Website Testing for Results

As a small business you may be crunched for time and resources so testing your website might near the bottom (if not last) on your list of to-dos. But you might want to rethink that approach, because doing some simple tests on your site can result in some big learnings that can lead to even bigger results for your business so let’s break it down.

Testing 101

If you’ve never conducted a test, or an A/B test as it’s called in marketing speak, it simply means to compare two versions of the same element for an equal amount of time, to check which of the two versions performs better. Based on what you learn from your test, you can make educated choices about how to improve your website.

Remember to test one element at a time so you don’t muddy your results and ensure that you run your test for a long enough period of time to get enough traffic to your website so your data will be relevant. If only 10 people see your test, you need to keep running it until you can get some statistically relevant data.

And lucky for us, there are some simple and user friendly tools out there that make website testing a snap. Two that we use include Google Website Optimizer and Optimizely. Optimizely allows you to enter the URL for your website, then they hold your hand and take you on a “guided tour” to start what they call your “experiment. As you can see in the screenshot below, I selected the nav bar from our Skadeedle website and Optimizely began showing me how to set up my test. Easy-peasy.

Testing,Testing 1 2 3: Website Testing for Results image Screen Shot 2013 05 29 at 3.48.01 PM 1024x461Testing,Testing 1 2 3: Website Testing for Results

What to Test

You may be chugging along thinking that everything on your website is rocking, but until you test you’ll never know if it could be even better. If you don’t quite know where to begin I’ll list some of the most common elements you can test to give you actionable information to make improvements:

  • Call to Action buttons – Size, color, copy and placement. Test buttons vs. text links.
  • Color Scheme – How does color affect your website. We tested this recently and chose purple as our main color based on our test results and audience. See how color influences people in this article from KissMetrics.
  • Page Layout –People should know where they are and what they can do on your website within seconds of arriving. Does your current layout support this? Test changing it up and see what results you get.
  • Navigation – Your navigation should naturally follow the actions you want your website visitors to take and the information you want them to find and discover on your website. Is your main navigation across the top or down the side? What works best for your audience?
  • Copy – We live in a scanning world, where most people are short on time and just want to get a snippet of information. However, you can also have more copy on subsequent pages of your website if you have a very detailed product or service that requires long copy. Test long copy vs short copy and see what you get.
  • Offers- Try different offers ranging from % off, $ off or length of time and see what pops for your visitors.
  • Forms – Forms follow a similar path as copy. Should you have short forms or long forms? Usually less is more but it depends on your product/service and your audience. You may want to try a short form for an email subscription or sign up and try to get more information later in the customer lifecycle but this is always good to test as the results may surprise you.

And of course, Boostsuite’s Website Report Card can give you a great to-do list of things to test.

Real Life Example from the Big Guys

Colleen Corkery, from VerticalResponse wrote about a test run by Dell (even the big guys are always testing) on their search box. Why test a search box you might wonder? Well, according to Corkery, “Dell tested theirs by displaying a plain box with a “search” button on the side vs. including the word “search” within the box alongside a magnifying glass. Sure enough, the plain box with a “search” button increased revenue per visitor by 6.3%.” Not bad eh?

Corkery suggests, “Change up your own search box by including or excluding a button or magnifying glass. Change the placement of the search box, or try pre-determined search options vs. manual typing.”

More Testing Tips from the Pros

You can also learn more about testing from one of my favorite sites called Which Test Won by Anne Holland. Each week Holland and her team feature a Test of the Week (here’s an example from Harry & David’s) testing one of the elements we’ve outlined in this post and many more. They’ve got a library of over 350 A/B tests to help you get ideas, and see which tests improve conversions the most. A great time-saver and packed with information for those new to testing and old dog pros alike.

I hope this post got your testing wheels turning. I’d love to hear about what tests you decide to run in the comments.

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