A/B testing and user testing… differences as strength

Companies often opt for one or the other of these tests without realising the benefits of using them together. Given that the benefits of one test may sometimes outweigh the disadvantages of the other, the lessons from user testing and A/B testing complement each other to refine your conversion optimisation strategy.

All sites are trying to attract more traffic, but they are also seeking to increase their conversion rate in order to raise profits. The understanding and optimisation of their customer paths are therefore essential.  In order to understand the problems faced by their websites, it is possible to design a series of tests, such as user testing and A/B testing.

User testing

User testing, or usability testing, makes it possible to understand the needs of users and observe their behaviour. This data is qualitative and offers a rich, detailed and very helpful source of information which provides the company with an understanding of what works or does not work in its offer.

Advantages

  • Provides better knowledge of the user as a person (and not just as a virtual visitor).
  • Offers comprehensive and often unsuspected sources of data through which the company discovers new areas of improvement.
  • Always offers a workable response to improve the user experience.

Weaknesses

  • Significant investment of time and money for purely theoretical results.
  • Observed results are not quantified and do not allow the company to estimate the revenue potential of the test findings.
  • Returns are based on the subjective behaviour and opinion of a few users.

 

A/B testing

A/B tests are based on an idea pre-conceived by the company, which seeks to test and quantify the effectiveness or otherwise of a proposed change. They are based on specific, targeted changes whose outcomes will be automatically quantified.

Advantages

  • Rapid implementation and real-time monitoring (number of clicks, conversion rates, heatmap).
  • Quantified and representative results (KPIs and ROI simulation).
  • Allows significant flexibility in changing one or more points on a page.
  • Very cheap and requires minimal effort in the long term.

Weaknesses

  • Significant advance preparation (targeting areas to change/watch).
  • Not all tests always produce results.
  • Requires a large number of visits to statistically validate the assumptions.

Different but complementary tests

The choice between these two tests mainly depends on the question you want to answer: How much? Why? If your question concerns quantifiable results regarding a specific change on your website, then you must perform an A/B test. If the purpose of your question is to understand your consumers’ behaviour, usability testing will better meet your needs.

Although users testing and A/B testing differ in their setup and objectives, their features can easily complement each other. It is recommended that you use both types of tests sequentially. Starting with a usability test allows you to locate the points of friction to address. You can then conduct an A/B test to validate the relevance of the changes you are considering.

The most important prerequisite for achieving valid results from your A/B testing is to build strong test hypotheses that will involve the modification of elements that are actually used in the conversion process or really hamper the process. Find out more about the formulation of test hypotheses.

By combining the two methods, it is possible to make reasonable use of your time and money, while obtaining usable quantitative and qualitative results. Using a tool such as A/B testing is advisable only when an idea for improvement has been identified. If you lack ideas, your users may not – test them!

Anthony Brebion
Anthony is Product Marketing Manager @ABTasty. He was previously SEO consultant and worked several years in digital ad houses. He's now an A/B testing and optimization evangelist.

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