How to A/B Test Like a Bad-ass and Understand Your Audience

A/B testing, ladies, and gentlemen, is the foundation of ad optimization. It is, at its core, a way of seeing how best to transmit the reason or reasons why people should pick one product (your product) over any other. Basically, that makes it a tool for optimizing communication.

A/B tests can be run on anything from websites and landing pages, to web forms and marketing emails, and today we will be taking a look landing pages, and show you how to A/B test like a badass.

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To do this, we looked around on the web to see what other people had to say on the subject and found two absolutely terrific articles by Kevin Holesh and James Scherer, respectively, which we will be synthesizing in today. You can find the full articles here, and here, so feel free to check them out for an even more in-depth look at A/B testing.

Now then, let’s get started.

1. Respondents


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Firstly, you need to have a statistically significant number of users access both of the landing pages. Kevin, in his article for SmashMagazine, puts that number at least 1,000 visitors, with 150 conversions. If your site is new and has not made a name for itself, that means that it will take longer for the test to run its course properly. This is why you do not test before you get a stable number of visitors.

2. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)


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James’ article is for Wishpond, and in it, he takes an ordinary looking landing page and changes it up to make it better, showing us what to change in order to properly do an A/B test, because the worst thing that can happen is testing two identical things.

One of the things he touches on is the unique selling proposition – or USP as it is also known. The point he makes about it is that you have to not confuse it with the company slogan. USP has to say something about what you are offering, and slogan usually do not cut it. He gives McDonald’s as an example, who on their landing page do not use the iconic “I’m loving it!”, opting instead for “The menu you love, plus so much more.”

3. Start Small


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For the first test, it is ideal if you focus on the low-hanging fruit. This means that the only differences between the two landing pages will be things like headings, the color, shape, and text of the call to action buttons and short page versus long page. During this time, you will be running several tests, and mixing and matching the winning variants, and this will lead to testing out the two best possible incarnations of the landing page.

4. Think Outside the Box


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After you are done with basics, it is time to dig deeper and see what over things besides buttons and headline copy can be changed to improve the page. Kevin listed lots of elements to test prior to creating a new landing page for the A/B test, and we have chosen a few of those perceived as most relevant, but feel free to check out his article for the complete list.

Survey new customers: See what made new customers sign up, and highlight these in the new test. This will show if is relevant for a majority, or just a few individuals. You can use a free survey maker such as JotForm to easily get the information you need from your customers.

Find out what confuses new customers: See what confused new customers, and incorporate that into the new test, as well. This directly helps in creating better communication between the website and the user.

Radically change the design: It seems weird that, after all, the hard work put into creating the landing page, you should test it against a completely different one, but you have to not be afraid of starting over.

5. Test the Image

Flattered Woman Smiling

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It is important you know your target audience when selecting the landing page’s image. But there are, perhaps, images that are universally appealing. James states in his article that the image of a smiling woman is the most reliable image one could go for – that is before you get to know your target audience.

Groups of people, inanimate objects, and abstract images can also be used, that is why it is best if you pit them against each other in several tests before seeing which one is best for your landing page.

6. Your or My


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Buttons are extremely important in landing pages, as pushing them is, after all, the first and most important step towards conversion. That is why taking the time to test which text works best for engagement is worth it. This boils it down to target audience, once again, but it can be narrowed down to using either “your XYZ” or “my XYZ”, so at least you don’t have to test the entire English language.

7. Information


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This is where you see if your USP is enough. Aside from it, you can add a list of benefits that people are opting to use whatever it is yours are offering will receive. Now, there is a chance that the point came across from the USP, but James states that it can’t hurt, so why not try it.

8. Trust Symbol/Customer Testimonials


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To be blunt, customers trust other customers more than they trust services; it’s just the world we live in, and -in our opinion- it is the services’ fault. But to get to the point: it helps if you add either a trusted symbol or a customer testimonial to your landing page. If you are unsure which, well, that’s where the A/B test comes in handy.

9. Don’t Go too Far


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A/B test is good for gathering data, but you always have to keep in mind that you, after all, applying the tests to people. People who have moods, feelings, and who have things happen to them. That’s why you have to keep in mind that what you are adding to the landing page has to be real to be relevant.

Sure, in the short run, simply adding things that people want to “hear” on the landing page will boost conversion rates. But you will see them plummet once they figured out that they have been lied to.

The purpose of an A/B test is determining which of the things you have on offer are most relevant to the consumer, so you should use it accordingly.

10. Tools


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Both in Kevin and James recommend a few tools in their articles, but there is one tool that they bot mention, namely Optimizely, which boasts being the number 1 optimization platform in the world. It is created by Dan Siroker and Peter Koomen, both former product managers at Google. They’ve completed the YCombinator in 2010, and since then, Optimezely has been in high demand.

That wraps up our article on how to A/B test like a badass. We hope you’ve found it useful, and that it will help you on your way to A/B testing with the best of ’em. Be sure to check out Kevin and James’ articles for more A/B test advice, and don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Editor’s note: “This article was originally published in March 2015 and has been since revamped and checked to ensure comprehensiveness and accuracy of the information presented.”

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3 Comments on “How to A/B Test Like a Bad-ass and Understand Your Audience

  1. This is a great article and subject matter. However, it becomes difficult to read as there are numerous spelling and grammatical errors. Please proofread, spellcheck, edit or have someone else do it for you. It will help a ton. Thanks.

  2. Buttons. Images.

    Don’t you think it’s all minor? It’s all based on usability improvements. Do you think those types of amends will affect perception or user behaviour? I admit, the USP bar specifically is a great one – we’ve tested this plenty of times before and got some great results as they reduce anxiety by answering key questions as well as inferring trust.

    When you say “start small” and “think outside the box” really you need to be asking “is this experiment a conversion affecting one?”. “Will is change my users behaviours or perception enough to affect conversions?”.

    We recently wrote a bunch of questions to ask yourself to see if you’re A/B testing properly – this includes the above. Be interested on your thoughts.

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