There's no such thing as a perfect test idea: 7 key ideas for an experimentation mindset

Sam Walker
Lead Optimisation Consultant

Testing is an exciting opportunity to be innovative with your website. It’s a scientific process that allows you to trial new features without the pressure of a perfect implementation first time around. However, there will come a point when you start chasing the ‘perfect test idea’. This idea doesn’t exist - it never has and never will.

The need to hit quarterly targets can also loom large over your team’s work, ideas can be deliberated on for hours, designs changed, extra ‘pre-test’ research done. It can be easy to view your tests simply through a ‘pass/fail’ prism. Changing your mindset from testing to experimentation allows you to see your user base as a resource, and the experiments you run as research into how to provide the best experience possible.

CRO is about more than boosting revenue

If you see your CRO programme as purely a way to boost revenue, that’s valid, however the process may become very tedious very quickly. Revenue is of course important, but solely focussing on it means you can lose track of wider learnings, or even miss new ideas altogether.

This doesn’t mean you can’t run revenue focused tests, but they aren’t the only ones out there. Often an idea you think may be simple, and therefore not have a large impact can have a profound effect on a user base. You’ll know if it does because they’ll tell you with their behaviour. Your user base is a resource to help you mould your website, all you have to do is use it.

The perfect test idea doesn’t exist

It is easy to fall into the trap of searching for the perfect test idea. Put the notion that you’ll be the one to find it away. Every new feature / change carries an element of risk, and that is why we experiment. If there was a perfect structure and feature list for websites, then everyone would employ it.

Even an idea being translated across multiple brands under a parent company can have contradictory results. Different brands and sites attract different kinds of users who all have different needs. Use your experiments to find out how to best tailor for your audience because best practice isn’t the best implementation for everyone.

Tests you expect to perform well can do the opposite and vice versa

One thing I see time and again is tests providing opposite results to the expected outcome, good and bad. Keeping your mind on the idea of experimentation makes this easier to accept. Every test becomes a learning opportunity then. For example, you can run a test you feel makes it easier for users to choose a product, or identify a product that best suits their needs, however sometimes the already listed ‘bestseller’ products cover a wide enough base that adding extra options can only confuse the user. On the flip side, making a small change like a line of copy instructing what a user can input into a field can yield large uplifts because you’ve clarified something that users may have not understood.

It’s not just about rolling out new features

Whilst it can be useful to test new features you’re excited about, you mustn’t let this limit your vision for the website. Rolling out new features using CRO tools does allow real time tracking to identify problem areas early on so you can both roll back and make updates to a feature in real time. However, this can’t be the sum of your programme.

Experimenting with a new feature is an exciting time, but once it’s rolled out there is an opportunity to tweak and refine. Nothing is ever perfect on a first draft, and the more you learn about audience behaviour, the better experience you can deliver.

Experimenting to learn

Learning must be the cornerstone of your process as you move forward with conversion rate optimisation. The learning is what informs the roadmap and future strategy so you can consistently put forward the best experience for visitors on your site.

There will also be targets you wish to hit, whether it’s increasing AOV, or gaining more newsletter subscribers – all things users may be hesitant to do. Experimenting is finding the best ways to influence the users to complete certain objectives, does offering certain benefits like 10% off a first order increase newsletter sign ups? Does highlighting a starters bundle increase the AOV of starters as a whole?

Save those losses

Yes, it is disappointing when an idea you’ve worked on doesn’t prove to work out. However, a test run for 4 weeks that projects thousands of pounds in revenue loss has just saved you a whole lot more money than if a feature had just been rolled out.

Investing in CRO can mean £5k expenditure can lead to a saving of £150k / quarter loss, such is the benefit of testing features. Counting those savings is just as important as counting the quarterly uplifts you’ll see.

Keep Going

While experimenting is naturally a fast-paced endeavour, keep in mind that it is ultimately a long term effort. As time passes your website will gradually improve, your user base will stick around longer, and you’ll have more reasons for them to stay. It takes a great effort to increase that conversion rate, you will then need to find ways to maintain that level. That comes from being consistent and always looking for new ways to improve.

Experimenting is an exciting time, but that doesn’t mean it is without frustration. A losing test can feel like a setback but it doesn’t have to. Just because a test wasn’t a win, doesn’t mean it failed – as long as you were able to get something out of it.

Calling the process a ‘test’ can limit how you view your findings to a pass/fail binary, an experiment leads to learnings, current knowledge and future ideas. The switch to an experimentation mindset is worth it, and the good ideas will start rolling through in no time.

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