Online Testing and Optimization Solutions: Quick Quide to Visual Website Optimizer

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Visual Website Optimizer is a very simple split testing tool. To use, it’s as simple as adding a URL to the interface, waiting for it to copy the page, and then clicking the page sections they want to test. There’s virtually no involvement from IT. Users only have to insert a code snippet once and then can create an unlimited number of tests. The JavaScript code snippet you insert on your pages contacts the Visual Website Optimizer server whenever a visitor lands on your page.

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Visual Website Optimizer was founded in 2009 and has more than 1,200 marketers, including Rackspace and 99designs.com, that trust it with their online testing. Here are a few points to consider if you’re thinking about implementing Visual Website Optimizer…

Key Benefits

  • Visual Website Optimizer requires no page tagging. Patent-pending technology eliminates the need for page tagging.
  • Only requires that a JavaScript code snippet be inserted once, and then allows for unlimited number of tests.
  • Has a WYSIWYG editor interface to create test variations.
  • Easily copies the control (original page). Add URL to interface and begin selecting sections in which you’d like to test variations (will copy CSS, HTML layout and images).
  • Includes an image uploader to test button copy with ease. This may require a designer to create button variations.
  • Has option to create and host page variations on your server and just use the tool to split traffic. This can be done in any number of variations.
  • Has Advanced Code, which allows you to make CSS changes if you provide access
  • Has the ability to integrate with Google Analytics, Adobe SiteCatalyst and other web analytics tools
  • Provides CSS-based testing: test styling, layout, colors, etc.
  • Tests by splitting between the traffic when adding two different CSS files.
  • Recently released clickmaps and heatmaps.

But keep in mind…

  • When using the WYSIWYG editor, you can only test minimal elements (i.e. headlines, images, buttons, etc). To test a more radical design you need to know HTML and/or CSS.
  • You may need Web design help when dealing with more radical page elements.

What types of elements can you test?

  • Simple elements such as headlines, calls to action, copy, images (using WYSIWYG).
  • Radical page elements such as layouts and navigation (using CSS).

How does it validate?

  • Visual Web Optimizer reports and calculates the relative change in performance, as well as the statistical level of confidence, which it terms as a “chance to beat the original.”  Like most testing tools, Visual Web Optimizer appears to presume that the distribution of samples across time is necessarily Gaussian/normal (think of a bell curve). However, this means that is makes several assumptions that may not reflect real-world activity…
  • Presumes that your test design is set up correctly, the mix of incoming traffic does not change during the test, and there is no inherent seasonality in the performance characteristics of the page. It is our experience, however, that these presumptions are often misplaced, and that it is valuable to be able to assess test validity in more than one dimension.
  • Visual Web Optimizer, like most of the online testing tools (A/B and Multivariate), appears to lack the ability to readily evaluate time-series patterns and potential of performance to validate treatment performance once they are identified and adjusted.  This is perhaps the next frontier for the online testing analytics market space.
  • Visual Web Optimizer provides more specific details on its blog.

Cost

  • There are several packages available that range from a free trial to $729/month. The cost depends on how many visitors you want to include in the test.

Support

  • Three different packages:
  1. Basic package: Provides email support, typically 2-3 hours; at max one day
  2. Mid package: Provides priority email
  3. Highest package: Provides account manager

Technology / Development

  • Need to add JavaScript code to header file
  • May need design/HTML help if you’d like to test more radical page elements (i.e. layout, navigation)

Reporting

  • Includes a pre-packaged report, which doesn’t allow customization
  • Provides the options to add Google Analytics, Adobe SiteCatalyst and other web analytic tools

We’d love to hear some customer reviews as well. Use the comments to share your experience with Visual Website Optimizer. And stay tuned to this blog as we provide quick guides for more online testing solutions to help you choose a platform that is best for your individual situation.

Related Resources

Quick Guide to SiteSpect

Quick Guide to Adobe Test&Target

Quick Guide to Google Website Optimizer

Quick Guide to Unbounce

Quick Guide to Internal Proprietary Tools

Quick Guide to Content Management Systems

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5 Comments

  1. Dan says

    Hey, this looks like a great package. I’m going to ask the inevitable question…
    How is this better than Google Website Optimizer?

    Thanks,
    –Dan

    1. Gina Townsend says

      Hi Dan,
      Great question. I’ve worked with Google Website Optimizer quite a bit and in reviewing VWO I noticed one key difference… VWO’s interface uses a WYSIWYG editor wherein you can click on a specific part of the page that you’re going to test and easily change out content, images, etc. With GWO, in setting up a test you’ll need to work with someone that is comfortable with HTML as you’ll add the test URL to the interface… GWO does not have a WYSIWYG editor to make the changes in the tool itself.

      Now, while the WYSIWYG editor is great, especially for someone that doesn’t have HTML experience, it can limit your test elements. To test more radical design elements (i.e. page layout, etc.) you’ll need to know HTML and/or CSS.

      I hope this helps!

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