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Full Stack Testing: How Do You Stack Up?


Imagine this scenario. A couple of years ago you invested in a testing tool and start running simple A/B tests on your website.

Since then, you have a couple of test wins and you’ve learned a little more about your customer. You prove enough value in experimentation that you gain support from your senior leadership. From there, you start expanding where you are testing on your website and you gain even more support across the organization from product managers to designers. However, not everyone is on board with this optimization growth. Your main roadblock in the organization is IT because they feel like they ‘own’ the site. In their eyes, experimentation is a risk and it’s detrimental to page performance.

This is actually a very common scenario. The conflict can usually be attributed to misaligned goals and lack of understanding. Oftentimes we see IT Teams with goals around site performance and Marketing/Product Teams with goals around revenue. This can create tension when it comes to experimentation because any way you spin it, adding a front-end testing tool to your site will add weight and flicker (sometimes noticeable). This is a hard truth to front-end testing.

Luckily, we are in an industry that is consistently understanding and solving unique problems. Testing tools have been developing ways to enable server-side testing and make it easier for technical teams to get up and running with A/B Testing. This enables companies to combine efforts from the Marketing and IT teams to maximize the value they are getting from their testing tools.

Enabling your tech team to run backend tests means that IT can keep a close eye on site performance and there will be absolutely zero flicker. Your tech team will start to gain an understanding of optimization and its value. This will, hopefully, open up a good dialog between the two teams and allow for additional structure around the types of tests that should be run on the backend and the types of tests should be run via front-end.

To me, there is an ideal state where both Marketing and IT Teams are leveraging the capabilities of front-end and back-end features of their optimization tools. In this ideal state you should see positive impact on page performance, the types of tests you can run and, ultimately, revenue. In addition to the tests that you traditionally run on the front-end, your tech team should now be enabled to run more complex tests around pricing, algorithms (think search, product listings), and any new features they plan on releasing.

Testing tools such as Optimizely have put a heavy focus on Full Stack and have some unique features around things like rollouts and feature flags allowing enhanced control of your website outside of code releases. Also, the great thing about Full Stack is that it isn’t just about your website anymore. It’s now about anything that is internet enabled, think OTT, Alexa Skills, Native Apps, Kiosks, Interactive displays… the list goes on!

Optimization is a way of life and a testing mentality should be shared throughout an organization. There is value in testing everywhere, it should never be limited to certain departments or areas of your business. Optimization technology is at a point where it should be enabled and leveraged with anything digital. When your organization embraces optimization across the board, you will not only gain great insights about your customers, you will increase revenue.

Mike Adams, VP of Optimization Engineering
Mike heads up our team of optimization engineers and oversees strategies as the team executes tests for clients including Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us, and Consumer Reports. He has over fifteen years of experience in web development, having previously worked for a digital agency in North Carolina. Mike is a graduate of ECPI College of Technology in Raleigh, NC with a focus in Web Development and IT.