How to Get the Benefits of uSplit with Zero Headaches
All of the benefits and none of the headaches? How?
In previous posts, we covered in detail why GA Experiments was such a great tool to for conducting A/B tests, but we also stressed the issues that using it presented. Google Analytics Experiments allows you to leverage the power of Google Analytics with your A/B tests, evaluate tests in terms of goals, and have access to reporting, but visitors who see the variation of the original are redirected to a different URL, which isn’t necessarily great for UX in general. On top of that, redirects means you need two URLs, and two URLs means you probably have to duplicate the content including the child nodes.
The other major hurdle is that creating a variant requires you to Copy the page in Umbraco (and making copies of the children of those pages even if they haven’t had any changes made to them). This is particularly annoying because they aren’t really part of the experiment but now identical content is available at different urls, which is bad for your SEO, pollutes search results, and misattributes the pageviews of the child between the two instances.
This makes it particularly difficult for you since the variations will start to clutter your menus (Umbraco shows siblings of the current page in a menu, so if you are on the original page, and have a variation there, both would show up in the menu) or show in places you don’t want them to (such as your sitemap). Also, there’s the fact that every time you want to set up a new experiment, you’ve got to log in to GA and navigate to where you can begin an experiment.
uSplit does away with all that. No redirects, no SEO issues, no visitor-side UX issues, and no needless legwork. Here’s how it’s done:
- Server-side experiments- uSplit functions on the server-side of things, making for better, faster experiments. Variations for A/B testing are served directly under the original URL during the initial request, getting rid of redirects and all of the issues associated with them. Since the variation is stored on the server, you’ll be able to change everything from visuals to data loading or even the business logic that drives your app (though these things may require more effort and help). Server-side experiments even allows you to run several experiments at once on a single page. This normally isn’t a good idea, but could be a viable option (for example, when you want to experiment on different audience segments).
- The same friendly CMS you’re used to- it’s great that you’re familiar and comfortable using Umbraco, but A/B testing is mostly treated as an afterthought. With uSplit, it is officially a first class citizen. After a bit of setup and configuration, uSplit integrates with the CMS at crucial points, decreasing the amount of time needed and the overall complexity of running split tests (for example, starting a new test in just a few clicks rather than having to log into GA). You’ll still be integrated with GA and still be able to tweak more advanced parameters if you wish, but the rest of the actions with GA are automated. Anything managed through the CMS can still be tweaked without the need for a dev, and should you want to dive into more advanced scenarios (for example, template tweaks or changes to your business logic) that can be done easily with a bit of outside help. You still get the same Umbraco that you’re comfortable with, just now with some bonus features! No need to train your people in anything new.
- A/B testing the smart way- being smart isn’t about knowing everything. It’s about getting the most out of something with the least amount of effort. uSplit approaches A/B testing from a smart angle, eliminating a lot of the needless obstacles that running tests normally presents. With it, there’s no need to duplicate the descendents of a page (and therefore no cumbersome updates or SEO penalties each time you create a new variation). Each variation is stored as an ordinary page, and uSplit doesn’t care where you store them. You can create one special, inaccessible folder and keep them tucked neatly out of the way. This ensures that they don’t invade your menus or sitemaps. No redirects, no broken menus or sitemaps, more experimenting power, and better convenience. Sounding good yet?
- It’s free- unlike other tools that hide advanced features behind a paywall (we’re looking at you, Optimizely!), uSplit is totally free to use. You have access to the full product with no trial at zero cost.
- It’s open-source- uSplit is open to contributions from the community. This two-heads-are-better-than-one approach means that the growing community of Umbraco faithful can expand the tool and increase its power (new versions are rolling out often). If there’s a feature missing, you can just tweak the plugin to fit your needs. No need to sink hours of development time into your own tool.
Getting your first test up and running
Ready to change your company’s split testing experience forever? Good. Let’s install uSplit, then. After about 20 minutes of mildly backbreaking labour, you’ll have saved your company a lot of time.
For the best experience, we recommend using NuGet. It allows us to automate some of the setup and makes distributing updates easier. After searching for Endzone.uSplit via the Nuget Package Manager and installing the package a readme will appear prompting you to complete one more manual installation step. Installation is now complete. That wasn’t so hard, was it? We’re almost there. Now it’s time to configure things.