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.

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