What should I test?

There are lots of ways to approaching testing and optimization. You can be more opportunistic and test pages or elements ad hoc. There can be some success, but it’s often by chance. Being more methodical about what you test and where you test can yield much higher returns.¬†Assuming you’ve got an overall strategy in place, you need to determine what you should test and where. (If you haven’t got the foundations yet, take a look at my previous post on Taking optimization from strategy to execution.)

Where to test

Take a look at your sites top pages for traffic and conversion. If a lot of visitors are going to these pages, there must be something worth looking at. Your home page is a good start, but depending on what line of business you’re in, it might be tough to know what visitors’ intent is. At Adobe, we get millions of visitors a month coming to our site just to download the Flash plugin or Adobe Reader. Others come because they recalled advertising they saw and just typed in the URL.

You can leverage search keywords to see what landing pages or preferred landing pages the visitors have been driven to, and leverage those pages as well.

Test types  

There are lots of types of things to test:

  • Content
  • Appearance (creative execution)
  • Layout
  • Functionality
  • Existence (does having an element on a page matter)

Content and appearance are the easiest things to test. As long as you have the means to have well written content and/or well executed design, it’s fairly easy to implement.

Layout and functionality require a bit more work. And by someone who has web development skills.

Existence falls somewhere in the middle in terms of level of effort. It really depends on the page and it depends on what you’re removing or adding in.

A methodical approach 

It’s great to know all these different types of tests you can do, but now what? Ideally, you’d want to find out first which elements make a difference or do an existence test. Surprisingly on some of our web pages, we have actually experimented with removing the purchase “pod” to see if it makes a difference. In some cases, it actually doesn’t, so we’ve taken it off the page to clear up the clutter.

If you’ve determined you have the right elements, you can try moving the elements around (layout test) or treat them differently creatively (appearance test).

Lastly, and certainly easiest, you can experiment with content. You can try different positioning, specific words to define a feature of your product, or maybe experiment with catchy headlines.

Functionality is by far the toughest thing to test. And because it is, you have to have a pretty good reason to want to. Do you have access to usability studies or customer satisfaction reports from your site? These are good indicators if the user experience is amiss and you need to intervene.

You know your business best

Ultimately, you might find yourself weaving in and out of these different types of tests because of opportunities that present themselves. As long as you can continue to learn while you approach your testing program, you are well on your way.