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Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

Is A/B Testing Worth It for Bootstrappers?

“Companies that use innovative and data-driven analytical approaches to marketing are found to have the highest success rate of conversions on their website.” — WeSpotlight

In case you’re not familiar with A/B testing, here’s a quick definition from Visual Website Optimizer: “A/B testing (sometimes called split testing) is comparing two versions of a web page to see which one performs better. You compare two web pages by showing the two variants (let’s call them A and B) to similar visitors at the same time.” Then you record how those website visitors behaved differently based on which version they were shown.

After analyzing the data, you keep whichever design performed better, discard the other one, and start the process again with a new tweak. Over time, you iterate toward the Holy Grail: a perfect landing page that converts 100%! Jkjk, that’s impossible — but you can certainly improve your baseline. A/B testing is a simple way to ensure that the changes you make are doing what they’re supposed to.

This is obviously a very clever idea. Equally obviously it takes time and energy to pull it off. If you have limited resources and you’re forced to be ruthless about where you focus your effort, is it worth it to A/B test? You have to come up with website variations, deploy your A/B testing tool(s), and then wait for enough visitors to be processed. The concept is simple, but the execution is often lacking. From the Kissmetrics blog:

“A/B tests are designed to imitate scientific experiments, but most marketers running A/B Tests do not live in a world that is anything like a lab at a university. The stumbling point is that people running A/B tests are supposed to wait and not peak at the results until the test is done, but many marketers won’t do that.”

As a bootstrapping entrepreneur, maybe with a day job to balance, it’s important to evaluate where your energy will have the highest impact. Of course, “is it worth it to A/B test?” is one of those trick questions: the real answer is that you have to weigh your priorities and decide for yourself.

This issue is on my mind right now because I’m personally debating whether I can justify spending time and effort A/B testing the Product Communication Basics landing page. And I think the answer is… no. Here’s why: opportunity cost.

Investopedia handily defines opportunity cost as “the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.” Right now I don’t even have enough website traffic to get statistically reliable results from an A/B test! So I’m gonna work on that first. Hi Reddit ;)

Do you need a practical guide to writing sweet landing page copy? Check out Product Communication Basics.

Instapaper Saves You from Terrible Web Design

I have vehement feelings about web design, especially since I read a lot of articles online. The overall principle is that simplicity trumps everything. Well, everything except functionality. I wanna be able to frickin’ do whatever I’m trying to do on the website!

Usually all I’m trying to do is read something. However, most online publishers don’t prioritize my ability to process the content they post. I find this astounding. Don’t they want me to derive value from their sites and feel motivated to return? Apparently not. It’s baffling.

Here is my rubric for judging a website:

  1. Large font. Like, 16-point Times New Roman or larger. (Unfortunately, text is almost never big enough. Luckily I can fix the problem with Ctrl+.)
  2. Black-on-white text. Any other combination is less readable. Pale grey text, even on a white background, is especially obnoxious.
  3. Minimal visual clutter. Adblocking is a phenomenal help, but I do feel guilty about using it on websites that I want to support.

According to these rules, The Awl is a good website, but not a perfect one. Its sister site The Hairpin sucks. Medium is even better than The Awl. (I considered taking screenshots to document the websites’ current forms, but on the other hand, whatever.) The rest of the internet publishers range from “mediocre” to “I can’t believe this is a professional endeavor; shoot me”.

Photo by Johan Larsson.

AND YET! THERE IS HOPE. I recently started using a service called Instapaper, which Ryan Holiday suggested in one of his articles. Instapaper exists as a website, Chrome extension, and phone app. The service enables you to save articles to read later and has an adaptable interface similar to the Kindle app. In their own words, “Instapaper is the simplest way to save and store articles for reading: offline, on-the-go, anytime, anywhere, perfectly formatted.” Usually a brand’s self-description is hyperbole, but not in this case. Instapaper is right on the money.

But wait, are they? Without running tons of ads, how can Instapaper be financially sustainable? The answer is Instapaper Premium, an upgrade that costs $29.99 per year, which I just bought. I don’t even want the expanded features, although I may use them now that I have them. What I want is to support technologies that make my life — in this case my media consumption — better.

Curious about the articles that I’ve been queueing up? Check out my Instapaper profile.

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