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How do you know "call us now" works better than "get in touch"?
2010-12-22: How do you know the product photograph works better than the picture of the satisfied customer? Simple, you run a split test.
Basically split tests provide one version of a website to half of your visitors, and another version to the other half. You set up a goal .. usually that the visitor buys something, ends up on a particular page, signs up for something or enquires through an enquiry form, and then you sit back and watch the games commence.
After a while (it depends how much traffic you get) you'll see one version 'converts' better than the other.
When enough results are in you end up with a statistically significant result, which basically means the winning page is unlikely to have won out of pure chance.
So then you close the test and use the best performing page as the basis of another test, maybe use different photographs, try a different headline, even list a different price.
In that way your website evolves and develops, but in the best possible way .. based on what your website visitors actually do. Not what they say they would do. And not, heaven forbid, based on what you or I think might work best .. although it's good fun to pit your judgment against real life users.
So long as the tests don't interfere, you can run a test on every one of your pages and move forward even faster.
And the beauty of split testing is that it strips out things like the day of the week, time of day, political mood, seasonal changes, economic climate and the rest because all that affects both test pages equally. If you just change a page and say "aha, that's much better" you can't be sure it wasn't something else that changed .. the sun came out, and you sell sunglasses, for instance.
Imagine you potter along with a normal website, and your competitor uses this against you .. in the end, you don't really stand a chance.
Or just think how many enquiries you are throwing away with a lacklustre, unoptimised website .. even if you are getting traffic.
And speaking of traffic, which site do you think people will recommend to their friends on Facebook or Twitter or in the pub. Which will they save in Delicious or blog about? The boring one, or the one that really stimulates and motivates and presses all their buttons? Now you know how it's done.
So .. best climb aboard and start doing A/B split testing. If you need any help, you know where I am. Either that or "call me now!".

By John Allsopp
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