A reader pointed out that I referred to something in a recent post called “A/B testing,” but I did not define it.  Essentially, A/B testing is something you do when you are re-designing a web site or building new software, in order to find out if a new change will be popular among your users.  You set up an A/B test in which one visitor to your web site (visitor “A”) sees the original feature, and another visitor to your web site (visitor “B”) sees the new feature, and then you compare the behavior of Group A and Group B.  The results of this type of test frequently are among the strongest factors in determining which features become a part of a web site.  (When it comes to building a company like AlumniFidelity, which has products that live exclusively on the web, A/B testing should be done as often as possible to help you make sure the product fits the market the way you want it to.)

It used to be that A/B testing was the type of thing that only major companies like Google did.  But now it takes know-how more than money to make A/B testing a part of your operation.  The cost is really the time it takes you to learn how to use the free tools (or the fees you pay to the consultant you hire to do the work for you).  You can begin with two free tools in Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer, and you can get started with A/B testing on your web site.

Why do you want to know about A/B testing?  Because, people, in another day it will be 2010, and staring at shapeless, uninterpretable masses of data hasn’t been cool since the 1990s. 🙂

Will Marlow is the co-creator of AlumniFidelity, which helps schools and nonprofits improve their online fundraising results.  Email him at will@alumnifidelity.com.