split testing

I wrote a split-testing plugin (also known as “A/B testing”) for my CMS early last year. It wasn’t very good, so I wrote an external split-testing tool instead, which you can you for your own websites if you want.

Split-testing application

It works similarly to Google’s “web optimiser”, but I think it’s easier to use.

As a test, I chose to optimise the front page of KV Sites, to see if I could encourage people to contact me or read other pages on the website.

In particular, I wanted to see if it was better to explain what I do, or to assume that the reader knows and just wants to get on with.

As an example, consider the following two extracts:

Indirect speach – explaining what I do
Web Development
Reduce costs by automating and networking your business.
Proven record, with a number of large projects completed. Example projects include Duffy Transport's management application, the crop prediction software used by Cropworks, ongoing development of the WebME CMS, and technical support for a number of projects by other web development companies.


Direct speech – asking what the reader wants
I am looking for Web Development
If you are looking for an online solution which to reduce your office expenses, we have experience writing solutions which can cut hours of work per day off your load. Read more about our web application development here.

It seems obvious that the direct speech version would work better, but when your job is involved, it’s better to be certain than to work based on assumptions.

So, I set up a split test. On the homepage of KV Sites, I sent the HTML for both versions to the browser, and set the different versions to display randomly using CSS.

Each version includes a “more info” link (of sorts), so I added the “conversion” code (which records when people go to the page you want them to) to the pages they were linked to, and started recording.

It took a few weeks for the information to come in, as my site does not have heavy traffic, and I didn’t want to artificially boost it in any way, but here’s how it turned out:

Name Visitors Conversions
front page direct marketing 237 v2: 12
v1: 24

It’s obvious from the above that “v1” (the direct speech one) is twice as effective as “v2” (indirect speech).

I’m very encouraged by these results. They mean that it is possible to both a) improve “conversions” based on text changes, and b) provide numbers proving those results.

growing up

For a long time, whenever I did something that I thought was interesting, I would write it in an article.

I don’t write as much as I used to. Not because what I’m doing is not interesting, but because it’s taking a lot longer now to complete the interesting jobs, now that they’re basically full projects and not just little snippets here and there.

As an example, we’re doing some interesting work over in the KV WebME project. The most recent is an upgrade to image galleries allowing the gallery layouts to be defined using templates, instead of saying “you want layout 1, or layout 2?”. This work is then also used in the products plugin to let people sell images in their online stores.

There are a number of bits in that project that deserve full posts themselves, but as I basically commissioned the piece and got others to do the work, it’s no longer mine to describe. For me, the cool little tricks are now just a smaller part of a bigger picture.

The bigger picture right now is 20eu.com, where you can create your own online store within literally minutes for only €20 (compare that to the “free” getting business online project, which doesn’t have an e-commerce aspect).

It’s now harder for me to write about, because there are no longer single cool aspects that I can point to that can be re-used by other people.

I was walking to work today with Conor (an employee), discussing stuff along these lines, and these points stood out:

  • In the beginning, I was a programmer, and every task had something new to me but nothing I could write about that would interest experienced programmers.
  • After a few years, I was a good programmer, and I did less tasks, but they were larger, and there were often aspects to them that were brand new, so I ended up being one of the first to build them (it helps that my field is Ajax, which is basically new-born).
  • And now, I’m tired of being just a programmer and have started branching into managing other programmers. I’m more interested now in getting full projects done than in the nitty-gritty.

Unfortunately, this means there is less to talk about that is even vaguely techie. I feel like I’m shifting focus into marketing and project management.


On the plus side (for me), it means that eventually, I’ll have enough resources that I can get the projects done that I’ve always wanted to do.

So, I plan on starting to write about the business end of my work.

Don’t worry – I’ll categorise it correctly, so if you’re only interested in my PHP or Linux posts, then just change your reader settings to only read from those RSS feeds.