A/B testing, at its core, is a simple idea: We compare the performance of one website element or design to a variation. In practice, however, testing quickly becomes complicated. Even before the first test is launched, a seemingly endless number of questions emerge.
- Which test should we launch first?
- How do we prevent tests from interfering with one another?
- What part of the site should we optimize?
- What do we do once a test is complete?
Answering these questions requires experience and expertise, but there is one resource that can help even the most inexperienced website optimization teams direct their testing program.
A testing roadmap is a powerful planning tool that does much more than outline a testing program’s direction—it drives the program forward.
An early sign of success in testing, for example, is an explosion of enthusiasm within your team. Word of big wins spreads, and suddenly everyone has an idea to test or a part of the site that needs attention. It’s easy, at this point, to begin testing to fulfill every request or to satisfy every curiosity. The result of this shotgun approach is a wide range of discontinuous learning—and no clear path for iterative improvement.
Here are three benefits to developing a strategic roadmap for website testing:
1. Movement toward a clear goal
Applying a roadmap—which establishes a formal queue for test ideas—at this point helps to direct testing efforts towards a clear goal.
Testing toward a complete homepage redesign is a great example of this. Those familiar with user testing know the value of such pre-launch validation. Using a long series of A/B tests in conjunction with user tests can help pinpoint the elements of the new design that will represent the greatest improvement—and those that may cause the biggest problems.
2. Connecting website testing to other areas
Working from a formal testing roadmap also helps connect A/B testing to other areas of research—like user testing or focus groups, for example—by creating clear opportunities for the inclusion of other data. The roadmap helps to align testing teams with other groups, like merchandising or IT, which helps reduce conflicts with sprint releases and promotional campaigns and utilize resources efficiently. It also helps increase test velocity in organizations that require numerous approvals before a test can launch. Because ideas are developed long before a test is coded and launched, there’s plenty of time for review by the appropriate people.
3. Creating momentum for your testing program
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a formal testing roadmap is that it creates momentum within a testing team and helps drive the process forward through many iterative variations of an idea. By working through these many steps, documenting the results along the way, the team develops a deep understanding of customer needs, the mentality of website users, and the best way to satisfy them.
Growing a testing program can be a huge challenge—sometimes, simply because there is so much opportunity. However, by focusing efforts through a formalized process, outlined by a testing roadmap, small teams can strive for and achieve huge wins, spread the excitement throughout the organization, and begin building a data-driven culture based on testing.
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David DeFranza is a senior content strategist at Brooks Bell. Applying customer data and psychological frameworks, he contributes to client strategy and develops creative and copy solutions. Before joining Brooks Bell, David was a web producer and editor at Discovery Communications, working with media brands including The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, and others.