Simplify A/B Test Marketing for Your Website

By David Needle | Posted November 18, 2010

How effective is your website? Are you getting enough traffic? Is your current design generating enough sales and sales leads?

One way companies from Gary's Good Eats to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) can get a better idea of what works and what doesn't is what's called A/B testing, a technique that consumer companies have long used to test response to new products and services. Basically, the idea in advertising is to test one design or offer (Test A) and another design or offer (Test B) to see which one is better received.

Companies like Google do A/B testing all the time to test out new services and design changes to the user interface and design of their websites. But for smaller companies, or even departments within big companies, the A/B process can be time-consuming and expensive as it typically requires the services of a Web designer and consultant.

Enter Optimizely, a startup that this week launched an A/B testing service designed to be easy enough for any website operator to use.

"Our product enables you to do A/B testing in a nontechnical, self-service way," Dan Siroker, co-founder of Optimizely, told InternetNews.com. "The tool itself loads your website in our editor and you point and click on the parts you want to change, whether it's changing a button from blue to green or adding new copy. Then we give you one line of JavaScript to make the change happen."

Optimizely grew out of Siroker's experience as a product manager at Google and as head of analytics for the Obama presidential campaign where he said he helped the campaign's social media team improve online fundraising by over $60 million.

"So many businesses see the value of A/B testing, but think they don't have the time to do it or that they have to hire a fulltime consultant," said Siroker. "With our tool, you can do A/B testing with an easy to user interface and no coding."

Optimizely's pricing starts at $19 per month, or more based on the amount of Web traffic involved.

Features include "in-context variation creation," giving users the ability to make changes directly on the page using a drag and drop WYSIWYG interface without any coding. WYSIWYG means you can see exactly how a change, such as increasing a font size, will appear on the site as you make the changes in real-time.

Optimizely also lets you run multiple experiments over a set of pages that may have similar layouts or functionality to see which ones perform the best; you simply assign different names to the different pages. One might be named Small Download Button, while another one, Big Download Button, for example.

As you add new features using the drop down menu, like making a video load once a mouse pointer scrolls over it, a "preview variation" selection in the menu, lets you test to make sure the new feature works.

To run experiments using Optimizely, you need to copy and paste a snippet or one line of JavaScript code into your website. That line of code is unique to each Optimizely account and has to be inserted only once, regardless of how many other experiments you want to do on the page.

"Our mission is to offer better data driven decisions and we see A/B testing as a first step in delivering that," said Siroker. "We have other ideas in the pipeline, but right now we're focused on new features and ensuring an amazing user experience."

There's a brief video showing how Optimzely works at the company's website.

Optimizely said it's raised $1.2 million in funding from sources that include well-known Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway, and Gmail creator Paul Buchheit.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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