Message Testing: Are You Getting Your Message Across?

Have you ever visited a horrible website and wondered about its purpose? Have you ever been turned off by a website’s color, music, or design? Chances are the company didn’t employ message testing. Message testing for online media allows companies to understand who is reading their content and how people are reacting to it. Indeed, this tool is critical to creating a successful media campaign and strong identity online. Further, how a company markets itself online is extremely important, especially for attracting new customers, and keeping current ones, so message testing is something that all companies should consider.

Survey research can help companies understand precisely how its message is being received by users. It involves deciding on a range of different ideas for how to market a company and helps them to dwindle it down to one that best gets the message across.

Message testing can be conducted several ways, however, there are a few key goals. The first aim of message testing is to ensure that the message is sticking with users. Is it memorable? Next, message testing should help companies understand if it stands out among competitors. If the company doesn’t stand out, it then knows where it needs to improve. The third goal of message testing is to help companies decide on a message that is an accurate reflection of its vision. The message should be all encompassing and broad enough target all potential audiences. Lastly, message testing should help companies develop a message that makes customers react positively—whether it’s a call to action or a conversion of some sort (buying a product or service).

While I haven’t had the opportunity to carry out message testing research on a grand scale, I can agree that it has the potential to help companies create campaigns or an online identity that will help them accomplish their goals. I think that one company that consistently has the same strong message each time I visit its website is Apple. The message is consistent, clear, and attractive and I always leave the website wishing I could upgrade to the latest iPhone or iPad (I’d say the message is a success!).

Questions to readers:

-What website has a strong message? 

-Have you carried out message testing? If so, how did it help improve your message?

-When is message testing most appropriate?

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Defining Split Testing and Multivariate Testing, and Revealing Their Many Benefits

Multivariate testing diagram

There is a lot more to running a website than getting the code right. To make sure your website is getting the views it deserves, you need to understand who exactly you need to reach and how to target them. This can be achieved by using several tools.

To be frank, this is entirely new territory for me. Indeed, I have heard of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, but I was not aware of the many tools that fall under this domain. The two in particular that I looked at this week are split tests and multivariate tests.

You might be wondering what split testing and multivariate testing are. I certainly did. Thankfully, the required class reading filled me in on these very interesting mechanisms that optimize websites.

Split Testing

First, split testing allows different visitors of a webpage to see different versions of one of the individual webpages. Through this technology, a designer can test out changes to their webpage before rolling it out full-scale. For instance, half of visitors will see an existing headline for a homepage, while the other half will see the new headline for a webpage. Now you are probably wondering how anything is actually “tested”.  This part, I cannot explain in detail but what I do know is that software keeps track of which version of a page generates the most positive responses or conversions over a period of time. A conversion is an industry term that can mean anything that the website is aiming to do—have customers place an order, click somewhere, register, or sign up, etc. So now you are probably wondering how this is helpful. Ultimately, you can test two different versions of a webpage and find out which one is more successful, thereby allowing your website to better reach its objectives.

Multivariate Testing

Next, is multivariate testing, which is basically the same as split testing but taken a step further. Split testing can take time to be completed depending on how often a website receives conversions. This is where multivariate testing comes into play. With this technology, you can conduct several tests on different pages versions at once. So if you need to test two different buttons along with different conversions, this is possible.

Example of Google Website Optimizer data

Thankfully, for novice web designers or for people who are on a shoestring budget, testing can be free through Google Analytics, which can perform split testing or Google Website Optimizer, which can conduct split testing and multivariate testing. However, people with larger budgets can pay for more advanced multivariate testing services. These can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to a few hundred dollars to set-up testing and maintain it.

After delving into this topic I have a few lingering questions. What percentage of websites use split testing or multivariate testing? How accurate is it? When could you justify paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on these testing mechanisms? Would these tests be worthwhile for a portfolio website?

Since I will be taking a second stab at designing and coding my online portfolio per course requirements, I will definitely consider these testing mechanisms. I look forward to learning more and implementing these optimization tools in future designs.