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Written by Mark Parent
on June 15, 2016
Inbound marketing strategy

How do you know which type of ice cream is your favorite? You try all of them and compare the taste.

Otherwise, you might stick with coconut crunch all your life when you actually prefer buttered pecan. A/B testing for website design works the same way: You can test different web elements and track the user response.

Essentially, you're testing two different flavors of design or content to see which one causes more of your prospects to grab a spoon.

Choose an element to test

Image of topiary maze featuring tree and shrubs. Avoid the maze of potential factors with A/B website testing.

Forget the maze of potential factors that could influence site performance. Go with cold, hard dataTwitter icon for click to tweet

You don't want to test multiple elements at the same time because you won't know which one had an impact on performance. Instead, select a single element to test, after which you can move on to another one.

For instance, (calls-to-action) CTAs are among the most powerful elements of any web page. They're the vehicle through which you convert readers or visitors into prospects. In fact, one study found that adding a CTA to a business's Facebook page increased click-through rates by 285 percent.

You could also test the headlines you use to introduce your content. Make one headline fun and quirky, then choose something more serious and literal for the second. A/B testing works for product descriptions, promotion wording, page layout, font colors, and more.

Decide what determines success

Image of tangled yarn. A/B website testing shouldn't involve untangling a mess of possible threads.

A/B testing shouldn't involve untangling a rat's nest of possible threads.
Boil it down to the least common denominator. 
Twitter icon for click to tweet

You must now decide how you'll compare the two elements in your A/B test. The determining factor should relate to your goal with the web page. For instance, if you're hoping to generate more traffic to increase brand visibility, you'll use visit numbers to decide which version prompts the most enthusiastic response.

However, you could use other metrics for different goals. If you're trying to boost sales, measure the number of purchases that result from each page. You can measure click-through rates, conversion rates (such as when a prospect signs up for your email list), or the click-to-open rate (for email marketing), among others.

Choose your test duration

Don't run A/B tests indefinitely. Instead, decide how long each test will run and use the same duration for both A and B. Use A/B testing conversion calculators if you want an expert recommendation. You can also review your historic web traffic to set a deadline that will allow you to accumulate an acceptable sample size.

If you're using A/B testing for email marketing, you'll want to send both versions of the email to the same number of people. You can then track your web metrics to determine how many recipients clicked on your links and visited your site.

Just like ice cream flavors, website elements elicit a different reaction depending on who samples them. A/B testing allows you to determine which flavors appeal to the most people, which makes your marketing campaign stronger.

For more web design tips and strategies, download our Growth-Driven Design Playbook and learn about our unique, proven approach to web design.

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