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Is There Creativity in Testing? How Copywriters and Designers Can Find Happiness in an A/B World


Whether you’re building an in-house testing team or trying to find a vendor to set your program up, one thing is certain: it’s a challenge to find creatives with testing experience. Even beyond that, it’s a challenge to find writers and designers that have an interest in testing. So why do these roadblocks exist, and what can you do to mitigate them?

This is unchartered territory for the creative side. Testing is a relatively new aspect of the online advertising and marketing industry. So those already in the field have to play catch-up, and those just entering the field most likely haven’t gotten a testing education in school. What’s the best way to get a jump on testing knowledge?

Set up for success. Hopefully, you’ve already got some testing experts on your team. Get their input to set up a training program geared for writers and designers. Consider this from the side of the creative—we are very visual, and we enjoy the freedom of learning without a lot of parameters. Most importantly, we want all the information and facts, so that we can then go about breaking the rules. As for writers and designers, the best thing you can do is research, observe and expand your knowledge base. Check out testing blogs, learn about the various platforms used and get a solid idea of the moving parts of a testing program. Follow hashtags on Twitter like #Measure and #Analytics to dive deeper. Basically, come to the table with a good idea of how testing works and, more importantly, a deep curiosity and interest in learning more.

Most creatives want to be creative. Let’s be honest. From the outside, testing doesn’t have a very sexy appearance. And the creative types love the sexy aspects of advertising—the brainstorming, the unfettered imagination. Testing might not appeal to the average copywriter or designer. So how do you get them excited about testing?

Keep it real. It’s important to be honest upfront when hiring your writers and designers. No bait and switch. Let them know exactly what testing is all about. But also find the creative soul of testing (yes, there is one) and really show them all the ways they can get their right brains in on the party. And once you have the team assembled, try not to put heavy parameters on their brainstorming. Even when creatives are thinking far outside the box, that kind of free thinking can mean some brilliant testing ideas. You creative types…the world of advertising has changed. This will never be a Mad Men scenario. Instead, it’s a super-smart, data-driven approach to design and copy. And what’s cool about that? You can prove that your awesome ideas work.

Testing is left-brained. Creatives are not. When I first started learning about testing, I got a bit of old-school anxiety. It seemed like a lot of logic, linear thinking and numbers. And for a designer or copywriter, that can seem really unappealing. So, is there room for right brains in a left-brained niche?

Yes. Sure, we think differently than the analysts. But I’ve found that there is a creativity to testing that goes beyond the data. Getting strategic about your messaging and design is just another way of solving creative problems. It’s important to include your creative team on the strategic process—let them contribute their ideas. Then they can see it all put into action through the testing. And from that, they start to get an idea of what wins and what doesn’t. It becomes a pretty addictive process…always wanting the winning copy and design.

Testing offers a different kind of creativity for us. If you’re a writer or designer wanting to break into this part of the industry, don’t despair. There’s not a degree you need or a training program. It’s all about shifting your perspective, thinking from a different angle. Rather than going for a snappy line or a never-seen-before design, you have to think about what gets people to convert. Go into the psychology of online behavior, and you’ll start feeling comfortable with this side of creativity. If you write, take a look at successful sites and notice the messaging being used. If you design, notice all the elements involved with building a home page…they’re all testable and they all can impact conversions. Who knows? You might just find your left brain getting in on the creative conversation.