Once we start working with clients on a new CRO project, they’re understandably keen to start testing to find improvements as quickly as possible! However, a key part of our role is to invest time at the beginning of the project to fully understand the business we’re working with and its aims.

This is important because:

  1. It ensures attention is focussed on the right areas of your website
  2. The changes that are most likely to lead to a significant increase in conversion are applied first
  3. Each test is a learning curve and the testing process becomes more powerful over time

We therefore spend time doing research and analysis that allow us to identify the best opportunities for testing. From this we create testing hypotheses.

Hypotheses = A supposition or conjecture put forth to account for known fact… Which serves as a starting-point for further investigation by which it may be proved or disproved and the true theory arrived at.

In the context of seeking to improve the effectiveness of a website a hypothesis is not a guess, but rather it is a carefully considered testing idea based on research and data (both quantitative and qualitative). The more research and data you gather, the better your hypothesis will be and the more likely you will find significant conversion improvements.

A good testing hypothesis should follow this pattern:

  1. Our identified Conversion Challenge is: A
  2. Our testing hypothesis is: If we change the page from B to C then we expect more website visitors to do Y and hence we will get more Z

So as an example::

  1. Our identified Conversion Challenge is: Visitors are confused as to why they have to provide the required information in the form
  2. Our testing hypothesis is: If we change the page from containing no help messaging to include help messaging we expect more visitors to proceed to the next page because they will understand the need for the information and hence we will increase conversion rates and revenue

By following this process it allows us to carefully consider the proposed tests to make sure we don’t waste time chasing our tails. It also allows us to look back at the tests afterwards, learn from them and develop additional, even more significant tests.

One way to remember why testing hypotheses are so important is to compare your testing activity to going on a journey somewhere you've never been before. Are you more likely to arrive at your destination safely and in good time if you just head straight out of the door right away, or might it be better to check where you're going on a map (quantitative research) and ask others for tips on how best to get there (qualitative research)?

Hypothesis definition: Oxford English Dictionary