VWO Logo
Dashboard
VWO Testing
A/B Testing

A/B Testing Solutions to Maximize Your Website Conversions

Create and A/B test different versions of your website and its elements to continuously discover the best-performing versions that improve your conversions.

Know more
Complies with:
VWO GDPR Ready Badge
VWO CCPA Ready Badge
VWO G2Crowd Leader Spring Badge
VWO BS 10012 Certification Badge

We tweet useful stuff daily

Related content:

No, that won’t work

3 Min Read

Hi 👋  I am Paras Chopra, founder & chairman of VWO. Here is the 7th post in my fortnightly series outlining a new idea or a story on experimentation and growth. Hope you find it valuable.

Last week I interviewed Ian Harris, a professor of surgery, for my podcast. His research has found that over half of all surgeries are ineffective.

Yes, you heard that right: the majority of surgeries don’t work (as compared to a placebo). The list of what doesn’t work includes commonly done surgeries such as those done for knee pain, back pain, hip replacement, and so on. (If you don’t believe me, I highly recommend watching this talk by the professor.)

Nl

This claim indeed sounds shocking, but recall that the most common surgical procedure in human history was bloodletting. In this practice that lasted for thousands of years and was common until the 1850s, the doctor would make a cut in the body and simply let out the blood of the patient.

Everyone thought this should work (partly because everyone did it) and many different variations of bloodletting were iterated and compared with each other. But, amazingly, a question that wasn’t asked until the 19th century was whether performing bloodletting works better than not doing it at all? Once this question was asked and a randomized control study was done, it was quickly understood that bloodletting doesn’t work (but may actually actively harm the patient).

Let me reiterate… bloodletting was performed for over 2000 years before it was discovered that it doesn’t work.

This makes you wonder – what else that we do commonly doesn’t actually work?

Actually, the sad part is that we don’t know what doesn’t work because, apart from medicine and science, we don’t perform enough randomized control trials (which are nothing but A/B tests in the marketing parlance). Even in the field of surgery, a systematic review of ~10,000 surgical procedures discovered that an A/B test was conducted for only 1% of such procedures. The remaining 99% of procedures were simply assumed to work.

In our day to day work as marketers, product managers, or leaders, we take so many decisions that feel right. Surely, that “best practice” change should work. Or this new campaign makes sense, so it should be run. But does it really work? What evidence do you have that if you hadn’t done anything, that metric wouldn’t have gone up?

Like the human body, businesses and markets are complex systems. There are thousands of factors that influence whether a particular action will have the desired impact. If the suggested action is our idea, we’re biased to believe that it works. 

However, learning from the ineffectiveness of bloodletting and many such surgeries that are still performed, the right attitude should be that best practices and genius ideas may simply not work (or, worse, may actively harm).

Unless a properly set up randomized control trial (or an A/B test) gives clear evidence of harm or benefit of a particular action, it would pay to believe that it probably doesn’t have any impact. The default orientation towards a new idea should be: no, it doesn’t work (unless you can prove that it works).

In other words, yes you should really be planning to run 25,000 A/B tests in 2021.

Do you have a story of an A/B test that debunked a widely held belief? I’d love to know about it. Send me a note at paras@vwo.com. I read and reply to all emails.

Paras Chopra
Paras Chopra Founder and Chairman of VWO
More from VWO
Google’s Page Experience Update 2021: Prioritize UX Optimization for Success

Google’s Page Experience Update 2021: Prioritize UX Optimization for Success

Your website represents the character of your brand in the digital world. It is the…

Read More
Niti Sharma

Niti Sharma

7 Min Read
What Goes Into An A/B Test And How To Improve Testing Efficiency

What Goes Into An A/B Test And How To Improve Testing Efficiency

Your peer comes over to you with a test idea. They want it placed in…

Read More
Shiva Manjunath

Shiva Manjunath

14 Min Read
An eCommerce Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Visual Search

An eCommerce Marketer’s Definitive Guide to Visual Search

Google is constantly changing its algorithms and updates, and eCommerce brands looking to outperform the…

Read More
Lucy Manole

Lucy Manole

9 Min Read

Scale your A/B testing and experimentation with VWO.

Start Free Trial Request Demo
Shanaz Khan from VWO

Hi, I am Shanaz from the VWO Research Desk.

Join our community of 10,000+ Marketing, Product & UX Folks today & never miss the latest from the world of experience optimization.

A value for this field is required.

Thank you!

Check your inbox for the confirmation mail