Split testing and usability testing are probably the fastest ways to improve the profitability of your website. If you are not spending time on these two things, your web business is much less likely to succeed.
If you are not sure what split testing and usability testing even are, here’s what Wikipedia say about them:
Split testing is a testing technique wherein a control sample is compared to other samples in order to discover how to improve response or conversion rates.
Usability testing is a testing technique used to evaluate a website by testing it on users, with the aim of observing people using the product to discover errors and areas of improvement
Split testing tools
There are a bunch of split testing tools, but these ones are easy to use:
Convert.com, Visual website optimizer and Optimizely – these three enable you to actually make changes to your pages without getting a webmaster involved and then split test the changes. Also you can use the free Google Analytics tool called “content experiments”, although the features are not as comprehensive and it does not allow editing of the pages.
Omniconvert is another great option. It is designed to be the Swiss knife of any conversion rate optimization specialist. It bundles together 3 of the most important CRO tools: online surveys, AB testing & web personalization, saving both time and money for clients.
Any of these tools will work and are okay so just pick one and start using it!
Usability testing tools and services
Split testing is great and very powerful, but it’s not enough. You need to see with your own eyes what happens when people visit your site. You can do that by sitting down with customers or potential customers and watch them using your site. The ideal situation is to sit down next to the customer and watch them using your website. The problem is that this is very difficult and usually costly to organize. Automating the process using any of these tools is easier:
- UserTesting – this site is fantastic for doing live tests with your audience. You will see a video from 10-20 minutes of real browsing your site and attempting the actions you want them to attempt. They explain to you what is going on for them as they browse. You will find problems that you could not imagine existed without going through this process.
- Clicktale – Shows you videos of your actual visitors and where they are clicking on your site. My experience is that you will only need this service for about 1 month to review everything that is going on and then can probably cancel, although if you have a large site and a significant budget it makes sense to use this for the long term and gradually analyze all the different sections of your site.
- Crazyegg – Has a bunch of features to see heatmaps of where people clicked on the page and how they scrolled down the page. Similar to Clicktale, you probably won’t want to use this at the same time as Clicktale. I noticed that they allow a 30 day free trial but only have a yearly plan, so you need to consider carefully if you really need the service for an entire year.
- Qualaroo – Another way to find out what is going on with your users is to ask them! You can ask users what they are looking for, if there is some information that is missing, ask them why they didn’t buy if they try to exit the site. Qualaroo is a very simple service that allows you to do this.
Should you hire a full time or part time tester?
If your developer is occupied with other tasks its probably best to hire a part-time staff to do split testing and usability testing, unless you are able to do the job yourself.
7 Key ingredients to successful split testing and usability testing
- Don’t think that you already know what your visitors are doing on your site. You have no idea until you watch them and see with your own eyes what they are doing. You will be shocked; that form you thought was simple to fill out? They can’t fill it out.
- If you have less than 200-300 visitors per day then split-testing is going to take a long time to become statistically significant. You are probably better off focusing on usability testing until you build up enough traffic.
- When split-testing, make BIG changes to your site. You don’t want to bother with testing small things, such as changing a button from green to red. Instead change something significant, such as the offer.
- Survey your users to find out what is going on for them as they visit your site. When you find out the reasons why they do not register, use this information to make changes to your sign up process and test these new changes.
- Learn from other people what they have split tested on their websites. There are hundreds of free case studies available online where you can learn the best practices for conversion rate optimization (see below).
- Pick ONE goal that you want your visitors to achieve when visiting your website and direct every page towards them achieving that goal. For example, if you want your visitor to call you then your phone number should be on EVERY page of your website in big letters at the top of the page.
- Remove everything from the page that is not necessary and not contributing towards your visitors achieving this one goal. A big reason why visitors do not register is when they are confused with too much information on one page. They get distracted from the most important goal that you wanted them to achieve on the site.
List of free sites to learn about split testing
Here are a bunch of websites with lists of actual split tests and also loads of free information on how to improve your split testing process.
- OmniKick – A list of the most effective conversion optimization tips
- Visual website optimizer – has a bunch of case studies on split testing.
- 53 ways to increase your conversion rate – and there are a bunch of other case studies on this blog as well
- Unbounce blog – great articles on conversion rate optimization
- Conversion Rate Optimization Techniques: The Complete List by Backlinko – a CRO guide that includes a bunch of A/B testing and UX tips, techniques and case studies!
- Wider funnel – even more case studies
There are hundreds of case studies here. If you spend a few hours reading all these case studies about split testing and usability testing you will start to become an expert yourself!
Rob Rawson is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve work productivity and help keep track of what your team is working on, even when working remotely.