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3 Ways to Break a Testing Idea Rut


rut_400x600It’s common for testing to start when business growth slows, when a website redesign causes a dip in traffic and conversions, or when a company needs to squeeze more performance from an already outdated website. Sometimes, a testing program is launched from a need to address all three needs. But in all three cases, there’s a lot of opportunity for test ideas. So much, in fact, that prioritizing ideas is one of the major hurdles new testing teams face.

Eventually, however, the steady stream of ideas slows, with brainstorming sessions returning to the same place again and again. At the same time, the results from testing often stagnate as a result of stale ideation. Perhaps the testing team has grabbed all the low hanging fruit. Perhaps the impact of the shotgun approach or obvious best practices has plateaued. When this happens, it’s time to invigorate the team with fresh ideas. It’s time to break your testing bubble.

Accomplishing this can be difficult, but there are three easy ways to start addressing the problem: Tweet_this

1. Find More Data

Testing, of course, is an excellent source of data and learning. When a series of carefully constructed tests leads progressively toward a deeper understanding of the customer or user, there is rarely need to search for a new test idea—they emerge as obvious next steps. When testing has been scattered or misdirected, when discrepancies have emerged in the data, or when new business goals demand a sharp reorientation, it’s helpful to have more data to help generate ideas. Whether this comes from third-party sources, qualitative research, or customers themselves, this additional information can sprout multiple new branches of testing.

2. Find New Inspiration

It’s only natural to be familiar with immediate competitors in your industry—and often, new features or designs are inspired by frequent visits to these websites. But chasing competitors can lead to stagnant strategies that don’t address the needs of actual customers. Certainly, if everyone in the industry is adopting an approach or new site feature, it’s worth testing. But a true competitive advantage comes from being different. As Michael Porter famously defined the idea, “competitive advantage is a function of…performing activities at comparable cost but in unique ways that create more buyer value than competitors.” A more efficient and appealing online experience is one way to achieve this differentiation. And ideas don’t have to be completely novel. Looking at other sites outside your industry—software as a service sites as inspiration for retailers, for example—can offer valuable inspiration for testing and optimization ideas. 

3. Find Alternate Perspectives

After months or even years working to improve your site, there’s an ever-present danger of becoming blind to the problems built into its foundation—and the opportunities for improvement that may have been ignored. Getting an alternate perspective is the best way to combat this tendency. Usability testing is perhaps the most common method for gaining this new outlook, but such a formal approach is not mandatory. Simply inviting a wider range of people to test brainstorming and strategy meetings is an excellent way to add new ideas to the process—something that has the happy side effect of increasing alignment and support, and improving communication across your organization.

Constantly generating test ideas can become exhausting and, as programs mature, increasingly difficult. While there is likely no single solution to this complex challenge, these three ideas can help refresh the brainstorming process.