Friday, June 13, 2008

Multivariate Testing Moves Further Upstream

Two press releases crossed my inbox yesterday that made me smile. The first was from Clickability, a hosted Web Content Management solution and the second was from Google. The information was largely the same, announcing Google’s Website Optimizer Technology Partner program, where they’ve made their testing solution widely available to content creators using Content Management Systems (CMS). Partnering CMS providers can automate page tagging enabling more testing and easy setup.

These releases made me smile because I’ve been preaching the merits of moving testing upstream in the Web site optimization process for a while now. All too often, multivariate and A/B tests are performed as a means to identify problems and address issues, rather than a method to create better pages from the start. Interwoven was the first company to key into this potential and snatched up industry leader Optimost back in October of last year. They’re doing a great job of promoting the benefits of multivariate testing and including testing as a part of the content creation process. The caveat here is that testing should not impede progress. Even for sites that do move testing upstream, testing should start after a control page (build on best practices of course) has launched. This will establish a baseline for optimizing and ensure that sites get to market with something, rather than testing themselves into oblivion.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tom Leung of Google Website Optimizer this afternoon who reiterated the synergies between testing and content management. We both pondered on why all content management companies don’t offer testing capabilities? When I asked about the basis for the new partner program he referenced Marqui as the company who really drove the project based on the initiative they took on integrating Website Optimizer into their own platform. They leveraged the IT Guy link to parse tags for clients and get them started with testing online advertisements. The idea snowballed and with Marqui’s initiative and Google supporting the effort, the partner program was born. Different levels of the partnership exist from simply certifying that the CMS and Website Optimizer systems are compatible and won’t break each other to automated implementations that permeate across an entire CMS solution. Down the road some partners will likely make the integration even more seamless to achieve one-click testing and optimization nirvana.

Tom agreed with the upstream concept and took it even further to state that testing shouldn’t be a big deal to set up. In fact, his vision is that testing becomes inherent to content creation and as ubiquitous as spellchecker or print preview. As with Google’s Analytics tool, Website Optimizer is free and their mission is to raise awareness of testing and make it available to the masses. The key takeaway here is that testing shouldn’t be something on your long term roadmap. The tools are here and there are increasing resources ready to help you get up and running.

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