YC-Funded Optimizely Makes It Remarkably Easy To Run A/B Tests On Your Website

If you’re running a website, you’ve probably heard of A/B testing, which entails running multiple versions of a site at once and tracking which one performs best with users. But there’s also a pretty good chance that you haven’t actually gotten around to running those A/B tests — the prospect can be daunting, and if you aren’t tech savvy, existing solutions can be confusing. Enter Optimizely, a Y Combinator-funded company with a great pedigree that’s launching today in private beta. The service is looking to make all aspects of running an A/B test as easy as possible, and it looks quite impressive. In fact, when I showed it to our lead developer, he responded “This is brilliantly simple. Can we get an invite?”.

If you’d like an invite of your own, head to Optimizely’s homepage, enter your email address, and use the invite code TECHCRUNCH on the survey you’ll receive. Optimizely will be giving out invites to the first 100 readers, with more to follow.

Getting started with Optimizely is surprisingly easy. After logging in and hitting the ‘Create Experiement’ tab, the service asks you to choose which website you want to run an A/B test on. Optimizely will then load that site, but with a key change: as you move your mouse over each part of the page (text, images, etc.) you’ll notice a light blue cursor highlighting each element. Click an element, and you’ll see a menu that lets you modify the element’s position or size, its image or text, or its Javascript.

Optimizely makes it easy for novices to tweak their pages. Want to make an image bigger? Just drag its edges. Want to move a widget that showcases your most popular posts to the other size of the screen? Drag it over.  When I tested this I found the widget editing to be a bit finicky at times, but it’s clear that this has the potential to be very powerful.  And it also lets experienced developers directly edit the page’s code, so they can adjust multiple items at once, or make other more sophisticated edits. You can create multiple experiments for the same page at once.

Once you’re ready to run your tests, adding Optimizely to your site is also simple; you just need add a special snippet of code to each page you want to test out. When a visitor hits your site, Optimizely sends them a small package of Javascript that will tweak the site based on how you’ve set up your experiments. If for some reason Optimizely fails to load, users will simply see the ‘normal’ version your site.

Optimizely tracks the performance of each experiment in a control panel, allowing you to compare the engagement rates of each experiment side by side (there’s a rating showing how confident Optimizely is that your changes made a difference in user engagement). By default Optimizely will pay attention to all user actions, like clicking links, but you can also tell it to analyze how often users are clicking through on specific links.

Optimizely’s founders have some pretty impressive credentials, too. Dan Siroker was a product manager for Google Chrome who also served as the Director of Analytics for the Obama campaign (the campaign did quite a bit of A/B testing, which resulted in an extra $60 million in donations). And founder Pete Koomen was the product manager for Google’s App Engine.

Also see VisualWebsiteOptimizer, which also has an editor that lets you edit elements on your site.