Posts tagged a/b testing
4 Best Practices For User Testing Your Website

So you've built out a new website or landing page, and you're excited to show it to the world. Your colleagues, friends, and family think that your new creation is awesome - and you're feeling pretty good about yourself. You're thinking that you might be ready to launch..

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DO NOT GO ANY FURTHER WITHOUT USER TESTING!

Here at Delegator, we preach the gospel of thorough and unbiased user testing. In fact, we have distilled our approach to using a singular partner (most of the time) that we really enjoy working with, because they have a great platform: UserTesting.com.

Simply signing up for their service, however, isn't enough to get you the actionable data you need to properly optimize your new site.

Here are four best practices that will allow you to user test efficiently and effectively:

Get involved in, first hand, user testing videos AND analysis sessions:

User testing is one of the most important pre-launch protocols.  If you are a decision maker, there is no substitute for first hand consumption of user testing content.  If you pass the task off through multiple degrees of separation, you are opening yourself up to multiple layers of bias. Instead, consume the user tests first hand to see for yourself EXACTLY how people interact with your site.

Do not make definitive conclusions based on just a couple of user tests:

Although you may feel that a random user test is providing you with a goldmine of actionable data, temper your eagerness to make changes with the understanding that one or two tests are not statistically significant relative to hundreds of site visitors.  If multiple users tests start revealing similar faults or potential enhancements, AND your team agrees with said faults, you should probably feel safe making that change.

Find the right balance between instruction specificity and freedom:

Unless you want your user tester to be floundering around the site with no clear direction, be specific in dictating to the tester who they are, and what their goal is.  Don't, however, instruct them on every step they need to take to reach the goal.  You want your user tester to best emulate your actual customers.  You, unfortunately, won't be able to instruct each customer on how to use your website step by step, so take that into account during your UserTesting.com session setup.

Use the convenient annotations feature of UserTesting.com for efficient & effective sharing:

You'll want to share the user testing intel with your team members.  Since the tests are delivered in the form of a narrated video and can often be quite long, take a pass through the videos and annotate the important revelations.  This way, other team members can quickly scan the video and watch the important parts where your tester might be stumbling, or (hopefully) completing tasks with ease.

Delegator is an official partner of UserTesting.com and can help you set your account up,  work through your testing, and analyze the tests to form actionable recommendations.  Contact us here if you would like to learn more!

The Science of Digital Landscapes

Calm down, reader. We're not telling you to go out and buy goggles and an Erlenmeyer flask (but you can if that makes you feel fancy). The science of digital landscapes is grounded in one simple method: testing. As elusive as website testing may seem, it's a method with important foundational principles.

A/B Testing

Maybe you've known for years that your company should be testing its webpages, but you don't know where to start. Some testing tools that are marketed as easy-to-use quickly turn complicated, and sometimes they don't allow the full spectrum of testing that you're looking for. In our experience as a digital marketing agency, platforms for testing are ever-evolving, but throughout our years of testing we've established some staple principles and approaches that anyone looking to improve their digital presence should follow.

1. Annotate Everything

Even if you don't know what to do with Google Analytics data, annotations are a crucial piece to both effective testing and keeping track of your website history. If you ever think, "Should I annotate this?" the answer is usually, "Yes." We often dig into old data looking for trends and would never be able to identify what kicked traffic up or down without a stream of relevant annotations. Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 6.40.38 PM

2. Measure Results

With annotations in place, all you really have left is interpreting the data between and through these annotations. Figuring out what's really going on with your site and attributing that to a cause will continue the beautiful cycle of testing. Maybe you changed the color of a button, and suddenly navigation to the page referred from the button click drops off. This information is just enough to start back at square one and try a different approach.

3. Form Realistic Hypotheses

Sometimes it's hard to know what to test. As much as possible, let the data dictate what you test. Look for data drop-offs and low-engagement page elements. Rework huge eyesores, like walls of text and jarring readability roadblocks. Once you're in the regular practice of measuring results, you'll find yourself quickly collecting a pool of what to test and how to test it.

As a general rule, avoid forming hypotheses with "best practices." Your site users are your own, and they don't belong to A-list marketer/blogger Joe Schmo who wrote that post about always including purple unicorns in the footer. Nothing can inform what's best for your site like your data does.

4. Use only SIGNIFICANT DATA

"How long should we test this?" I dub this the question of the year, every year. My response: "Until the data is statistically significant enough to draw a conclusion."

Not everyone is a statistician. That's okay. Just make sure you've got one on hand to check your conclusions. Interpreting data is not necessarily easy, so it's best to leave any complicated analysis to the ones who can measure statistical significance.

5. Accept When You're Wrong

Hypotheses are going to be wrong. Many tests will show you that you didn't have it all figured out after all. Don't let this make you feel like a failure, or like you don't know your market well enough. There are too many factors outside of your control for you to always have a handle on how things should pan out. Being wrong in your assumption will ultimately land you on what does work. Let testing teach you about your audience. Relationships are hard!

We at Delegator know as well, if not better, than anyone else how difficult the entire testing process can be. We try our best to stick closely to these core principles and attitudes that we know will carry us through the frustrations, and, consequently, we land on many victories. Go ahead and make some adjustments. Approaching website improvements scientifically should alleviate some fears and uncertainty, and it's best to remember that your website can ALWAYS be improved, no matter how great you may think it is. Just ask the data.

World Series of E-Commerce: Part II

The MLB playoffs are in full swing now, with a no-hitter and the retirement of a legend highlighting the first round. A couple of weeks ago I began a post comparing our online marketing services to a baseball lineup. You can read the post for a full rundown of the first five spots in our lineup, but I’ll list them here again.

  1. Google Analytics
  2. SEO (site review)
  3. Content Writing
  4. Google AdWords
  5. Social Media

And, without further ado, the back half of our E-Commerce Starting Lineup:

6.  Local Search Marketing

  • In the major leagues, there is no room for a weak spot in your lineup. So at #6, we roll out a local search marketing plan, revolving around Google Places, Maps, and Earth, along with the newly released Facebook Places. With a strong organic and paid search outlook as well as social media integration, you might think your site has enough to sustain sales. The rules of the game are always changing though, and local search’s market share is growing faster than any of the aforementioned areas.

7.  Affiliate Marketing

  • Affiliate Marketing is a specialist hitter, not strong enough to be placed higher in the order, yet valuable enough to make the starting nine. To extend the analogy further, we might call this our Designated Hitter. Just as the DH only exists in the American League (not the National), affiliate marketing is almost exclusively the domain of e-commerce sites (and rarely useful in service-based sites). Still, it makes the cut because of its role as a power hitter, a true driver of sales (RBIs).

Bobby Cox

8.  Web Design/Development

  • Web design and development are good back-end services that clean up some of the work of the heavy hitters and lead in to our #9 hitter. If your site isn’t converting as well as you’d like, a few design tweaks can give it a boost. We are well-versed in web usability best practices and have advised many clients on ways to improve their site’s conversion rate.

9.  A/B and Multivariate Testing

  • Our last batter, and perhaps most effective, is multivariate testing. Once everything else is in place (top-level marketing goals, organic search strategy, paid search strategy, social media, local/mobile engagement of users) it is time to test and check everything to ensure that the marketing achieves optimal results. In baseball, the #9 hitter is not the most powerful; indeed he may often lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance a previous batter. This is the type of marginal improvement we see in Multivariate Testing. Whether it be a landing page, a homepage design, or an AdWords ad, testing and tweaking is a process of constant improvement.

Google Apps (pitching staff)

  • 2010 is the year of the pitcher in baseball and every team needs a good pitching staff to keep up. You don’t rely on your pitchers to score runs, but you need them to win games. Google Apps fills this role in a business. After all, you need email, a calendar, and data storage, and Google Apps is all of that and more (documents, chat, video, sites, etc.). Other platforms like MS Exchange are clunky, unreliable, and not easily scalable. Google Apps gives your business the data security you need combined with the collaborative tools that make everything else in day-to-day operations run more smoothly.

Of course, this is just one way to structure our services and we've seen a variety of different lineups among our clients. But we know e-marketing can be overwhelming to some, and we think this will be a welcome template to those who want to get into online marketing but don't exactly know where to start. Now we'll start thinking about our football post...