Inside A/B Website Testing Technology

Wired magazine’s latest issue has one of the most practical descriptions of A/B testing I’ve ever read. What is A/B testing? If you’re new to the web, you must know that A/B testing is a force to be reckoned with. 

The story follows Dan Siroker, a data evangelist who introduced A/B testing to the Obama campaign in 2008. Wired offers this description of what A/B testing is:

Wired magazine AB testing article

Using A/B, new ideas can be essentially focus-group tested in real time: Without being told, a fraction of users are diverted to a slightly different version of a given web page and their behavior compared against the mass of users on the standard site. If the new version proves superior—gaining more clicks, longer visits, more purchases—it will displace the original; if the new version is inferior, it’s quietly phased out without most users ever seeing it. A/B allows seemingly subjective questions of design—color, layout, image selection, text—to become incontrovertible matters of data-driven social science.

It’s a perfect illustration of how a web design is never truly finished. There’s always room for improvement, and even minor changes in design can make a big difference in user engagement and conversions. Click through to read the four new principles of A/B testing.