As UX designers, we all strive make technology products accessible, usable, and enjoyable for human beings to use. From making changes to an existing product to designing a completely new product, we must always consider what is best for the overall user experience. After all, the user experience is a critical factor in building a bridge between your brand and your customers.
UX designers may face situations in which multiple solutions might seem correct. The dilemma they face in such a situation is how to choose the optimal solution from among several. To identify the best solution among them, test all of the solutions. When you’re testing just two solutions, this method is called A/B testing, or split testing; when you’re testing several, multivariate testing.
What Is A/B Testing?
In A/B testing, you compare two versions of a digital product or service side by side to learn which one performs better or is more profitable. As depicted in Figure 1, users are channeled into two groups, each of which sees a different version of the product—version A or version B. You can use this method to compare user-satisfaction rates, conversions, or the overall experience.
A/B tests let you eliminate guesswork when making design modifications. You can test one variant of the same design or element—such as images on a landing page or calls to action (CTAs)—against another. The differences between the A and B variants can be large or minute—for instance, ranging from different placements of all design components to just changing the color of a tiny element.
How can you measure the effectiveness of each variant? You can use different criteria such as clicks, pageviews, sales leads, or numbers of subscriptions. Which criteria you should select depends on the goals your creative team or company has established—for example, what would impact their marketing funnel.
Now that you know what A/B testing is, let’s consider its importance in improving a UX design.
How Can A/B Testing Help You Improve a UX Design?
During the period of time over which a company actively markets a product, its business goals can change dynamically. Therefore, the design of the product may need some improvements. A/B testing is an effective approach when you’re changing a design to ensure that the changes actually enhance the user experience. For example, the design might offer greater convenience to the product’s user.
Moreover, with the help of A/B testing, designers can learn about the peculiarities and patterns of the target audience’s behaviors. When testing different versions of the user interface, UX designers can see the impact each solution has on the users and determine which one is most effective.
A/B testing can also help you to remedy any poor decisions your team has made when creating previous designs. It can even help eliminate conflicts between designers and their clients. When they disagree about the best design solution, A/B testing can help them to identify the best solution to a design dilemma.
Two Versions of a Design to Test
Examples of A/B testing demonstrate how you can improve a UX design and are important in fully understanding the positive impacts a good design can deliver. Let’s consider an example of an A/B test from Humana, which used A/B testing to evaluate its homepage’s banner designs, whose color schemes, banner images, button forms, and banner copy differed. As Figure 2 shows, they ran tests of two design options for their homepage banner design.
After carrying out this test, the company realized that a simpler design with a stronger CTA gave them better results. Adopting the new design resulted in a 433% higher click-through rate (CTR) and increased the number of application-form submissions.
Design Elements That Designers Typically Test
Elements for which designers frequently choose A/B testing include the following:
images on landing pages
CTA buttons, with different sizes, placements, copy, and colors
headings and subheadings
copy that might vary in its placement, content, and length
videos—perhaps their absence or presence
Next, let’s learn about the A/B testing process.
Conducting an AB Test
As Figure 3 shows, conducting A/B testing takes just a few steps.
Before conducting an A/B test, you should first collect data about the current design’s performance. Your site analytics can highlight what aspects of the design might need optimization most. For example, your first target might be CTA buttons that have received fewer clicks or that have a low conversion rate.
Step 2: Set Your Goals
Goal setting is important because it helps you track the effectiveness of your design decisions. To determine what you stand to gain from your design improvements, ask yourself the following sorts of questions: Do you want visitors to spend more time on a site? Do you want more subscribers for a blog? Do you want CTA buttons to get more clicks? Based on the results of this assessment, you can decide what changes would be most beneficial.
Step 3: Build a Hypothesis
You also need to state your hypothesis. To understand how you might do this, let’s look at an example. The broadcast platform Ustream ran a successful A/B test. Their team had hypothesized that a clear CTA on their main page would increase the number of broadcast sessions—an outcome they desired. Ustream tested two design variants of a single button—one with a CTA and one without. The button with the CTA led to a 12% increase in conversions for the broadcast platform.
Step 4: Create A and B Versions of Your Design
For this step, the user stream is divided into two groups, with the help of a free or paid tool. Each group of users sees a different version of the design.
Step 5: Start Testing
Users demonstrate which design solution is most effective. By tracking the behaviors of the people who visit a site or use an application, these tools can transform their activity into helpful data that can help you decide which version of the design is more successful with your target audience. Depending on the volume of data that the A/B test generates, this experiment can go on for a longer or shorter period of time.
Step 6: Analyze the Results
Upon the completion of the A/B test, the UX designers must analyze the results they’ve gathered, comparing the metrics and data from the two versions. By carefully studying these results, the designers can determine which variant delivered better performance and helped the company achieve its desired business goals.
Some Tools for Implementing A/B Testing
There are some digital tools that can simplify the setup, execution, and analysis of your A/B testing. Try different tools to discover which ones best meet your needs. Here’s a brief list of tools that could prove useful for conducting A/B testing to evaluate your UX designs:
Google Analytics—This tool provides both Web-site analytics and real-time digital marketing reports. You can use this tool to gather information on user interactions and identify areas for improvement. Learn how to do A/B testing with Google Analytics.
Google Optimize—This tool from Google can help you to set up personalized A/B tests. It can even implement the best-performing variant of your design automatically.
Visual Website Optimizer—This tool is perfect for individuals who lack prior technical knowledge about A/B testing.
Adobe Target—This is both a rule-based testing tool and a targeting tool. It lets you know which experiences, offers, or messages customers find most engaging.
Benefits of A/B Testing
Now, let’s consider the advantages of A/B testing, which are as follows:
A/B testing is an inexpensive method. You don’t need to hire UX researchers to test a product or spend a lot on tools because A/B testing provides a more economical alternative.
It helps you create user-centered designs. After carrying out an A/B test, designers are more in tune with what makes a specific product more user friendly.
It lets you identify high-quality content. A/B testing is a brilliant method of learning what type of content works best for any product or service.
It enables you to test everything. Not every testing approach lets you easily test everything—from the smallest things such as fonts, heading placements, or button colors—to entire workflows. Any of these elements could profoundly affect user behaviors and the ways in which users perceive a design. A/B testing is one approach that lets you do all this and more!
UX designers shouldn’t limit their A/B testing to just a single experiment. They can test different elements one by one and use the information they gather to determine which of the design solutions is more goal directed and user friendly.
Because of the benefits that A/B testing offers, many companies now factor the expenses of implementing A/B testing into their budgets. Doing A/B testing is much more cost-effective than having to completely redo your product designs.
When all is said and done, the main goal of conducting A/B testing is to improve your UX designs. A/B testing enables you to involve users in your UX design and testing process. What you learn from the testing process can help you create a product design your users absolutely love.
Sean is currently a content developer at DashClicks, a digital-marketing platform that helps small and medium-sized agencies to scale. He has worked in the digital-marketing industry for several years. Sean’s experience and expertise enable him to help readers understand the technical aspects of digital marketing through his writings. Read More