I love testing, and I feel that others need to see the amazing the power it can bring to bear. It is so easy to look at a tool and think of just how to use it or how do I do what I am asked to do, but tools are just magnifying glasses, they can magnify what you do well, or they can magnify what you do poorly. Testing is the ultimate expression of this, as it allows you to look at the world through a different lens, one that is no longer about being “right” or being “wrong”, but instead about efficiency and creativity. Testing does not constrain you, it frees you. Done right, testing allows you to try things you would never have thought of and go in directions you would never have gone. Testing is the ultimate expression of making what you do better.
Too much of the world is stuck in a responsive evaluation, one that is about proving to others that you are right. We make a change, or sell an idea, and we are desperate to find data to support it. We become trapped in a never ending cycle of selling ideas, not of generating performance. Testing can be the exact opposite. You are no longer constrained in the world of “I think” or “I believe”. You can push the envelope and challenge your own fundamental assumptions. You can look at what happens when you remove “important” pieces of a page, or if you target to a segment that you would never have thought of. Even better, you can do those things in a way where you don’t have to preconceive what is going to “win” but instead in the purist form of exploration. You can generate ideas, but you are not constrained by them.
People start out thinking of testing as this thing that settles arguments, or just something you do before you launch a new idea or a new feature. It is that… but it is so much more. It is something that you can use to look at things differently, to talk about feasible alternatives instead of just trying to copy something that you saw on another site. You can make sure that are always getting better results, and you can do so in a way that is not about getting your agenda over someone else. You can measure the value of the changes. You can generate a type of data that never had before. You can do all of those things while at the same time opening your own creativity to discover new things that you never knew before. Be it that a certain section of the page does not impact performance, or that people respond to a type of messaging that you never would have thought they did.
The world is an amazing place, and thinking that you know everything is limiting. The point is to discover and exploit, not to create a bias of “I am right”. There is so much to discover, and so much to learn that getting caught up in proving your point limits so much of what can be done. Testing, at its purest form, is something that allows you to celebrate being wrong. Think about it, in order to be wrong, you must first generate an alternative than what you were going to do… and it must out perform that idea you had before. Not only have you gotten better results, but you just learned something. All of the long term cost is on thinking you are right and never finding out if that is the case. The cost to find out your wrong is extremely low when compared to the massive long term gain. The moments when you get an answer that just goes against everything you thought you knew are some of the greatest moments you will ever have in your business, so don’t run from them but run towards them.
I have been lucky enough to work with hundreds of sites, on both the client and vendor side, and on both the analytics and optimization side. I have gotten to lead products and sites and I have gotten to work with some of the brightest people in the industry. I love testing because it is the one thing that if I am doing it right, I will never waste an action. It is the one discipline that brings all those divergent skills together with the sole purpose of discovering something we did not know before. It is the one act that guarantees that it is not me versus them, but all of us learning and growing together.
I hope that one day, everyone gets the chance to appreciate testing like I do, and to view the world through the lens of everything can get better. I hope everyone appreciates how powerful it is to be wrong, and how much better we get by working together instead of trying to prove our value against each other. Don’t get caught up on just the simple act of running a test, but learn to think about testing differently. Try testing in places and in ways you have never done before, and try new variations that you would never have done before. Think of each test as an opportunity to go beyond your comfort zone and to expand your view of the world. Learn to love testing, love exploration, and love the discovery of the unknown.