There are a ton of AB testing tools on the market right now, and that number is only going to increase.
When evaluating these tools for use in your own business, it can be difficult to wade through the marketing rhetoric and identify exactly which tools are a good fit. That’s why we reached out to our network of CRO specialists in order to bring you a comprehensive look at the best AB testing tools on the market.
Our goal here isn’t necessarily to give you a complete review of each tool, but rather, to show you which split testing tools are preferred by fulltime CRO experts – people whose businesses depend completely on the results they are able to deliver to their clients.
We’ll cover two primary categories of tools:
At the end of the day, the “right” tool is going to vary depending on the business. As Paul Rouke explains:
We see it time and time again: companies sign up to multi-year contracts for feature rich, enterprise level tools which have a fantastic looking client list, and it ends up burning through their entire CRO budget. Companies invest without considering the need for resource and skills, or they are simply sold on the tool’s ‘ease of use’.
Many companies don’t have the internal skills in place yet to actually utilize this tool, and so the all-singing, all-dancing tool hardly gets used. Also, people using the tool don’t understand the need for or cost of customer research, data, psychology, design, UX principles etc., meaning they’re ultimately testing the wrong things.
The tools that in my experience deliver the most long-term value are those which are reasonably priced, allowing companies to spend more of their budget on making sure they are testing intelligently and developing an effective testing process.
No tool on this list will be the right fit for every business. That said, without breaking up our list into tiers, we would like to note 4 tools that came up very consistently from the experts we queried.
The two most popular AB testing tools by a wide margin were Optimizely and VWO. These are the most common AB testing tools used by Conversion Sciences clients, and virtually every single expert we chatted with is using both of these tools on a regular basis.
Another two tools that came up frequently (in about a third of responses), were Convert Experiences and UsabilityHub. Both of these tools received consistently strong reviews from the experts who used them and fill key needs in the CRO space, which we’ll discuss in their respective entries.
Without further ado, let’s talk a look at our list of recommended AB testing tools.
AB Testing Tools
The following tools are our experts’ recommended options for running AB tests. We’ve listed these in order of frequency with which they were mentioned by our experts. This is not to be confused as a ranking by quality.
- Convert Experiences
- AB Tasty
- Sentient Ascend
- Google Experiments
- Adobe Target
- Marketing Tools With Built-In Testing
Optimizely is basically the big kid on campus. It’s our experts’ go-to choice for working with enterprise level clients, and despite the significant price increases over the years, it remains the king.
It’s also reasonably user friendly for such a complex tool, as Shanelle Mullin summarizes:
Optimizely is the leading A/B testing tool by a fairly large margin. It’s easy to use – you don’t need to be technical to launch small tests – and the Stats Engine makes testing easier for beginners.
Since the Conversion Sciences team uses this tool every single day, I asked them to give me a few thoughts on what they like and dislike about it.
According to the team, Optimizely offers some of the following benefits.
- Easy editing access through the dashboard
- Retroactive filtering (i.e. IP addresses)
- Intuitive data display and goal comparison
- Saved Audiences (not available in VWO)
- Great integration with 3rd party tools
On the flip side, Optimizely is bit lacking in these ways:
- Test setup is not as intuitive compared to other tools
- Slow updates for saved changes to the CDN
- Doesn’t carry through query params/cookies within a certain test
- Targeting is more difficult
Optimizely’s multivariate setup is simple and intuitive, and it’s the leading split testing tool for a reason. For businesses with the budget and team to utilize Optimizely to its fullest potential, it is clearly a must-own.
Coming in just behind Optimizely in the AB testing pantheon is Visual Website Optimizer (VWO). VWO is incredibly popular in the marketing space, and in addition to serving as a top choice for businesses with smaller budgets, it is also frequently used in conjunction with Optimizely by businesses who run complex testing campaigns.
According to the Conversion Sciences team, VWO offers some of the following benefits as compared to Optimizely:
More intuitive interface with color coding
- Faster updates
- Easier goal setup
- Easier to download data
- Better customer support
On the flip side, VWO is lacking in the following areas:
- Can’t view goal reports all at once, which makes them harder to compare
- No saved targeting, so you must start fresh with each test unless you clone
- No cumulative CR graph if you have low traffic (or what VWO considers low traffic). Instead it gives CR ranges. You must export the data to get any usable information.
This perspective is mostly shared by the ConversionXL team as well, as explained by Shanelle Mullin:
VWO is very easy to use, especially with its WYSIWYG editor. They have something similar to Optimizely’s Stats Engine called Smart Stats, which is based on Bayesian decisions. VWO also offers heatmaps, clickmaps, personalization tools and on-page surveys.
Overall, VWO is in intriguing solo option for smaller to midsized businesses and also works very well in conjunction with Optimizely for enterprise clients.
While Optimizely and VWO were the tools most commonly mentioned, Convert Experiences received some of the most effusive praise from those who had worked with it.
It seems to have hit a sweet spot for SME/SMBs, combining an exceptional power-to-price ratio with an intuitive interface and highly regarded customer support.
We are platform agnostic, so if our client already has a tool in use, then we try to use that. But in cases where the client has never done any testing before, we typically look first to use Convert (convert.com). I like Convert for a number of reasons. From the very beginning, it has been one of the easiest tools to integrate with Google Analytics. Also, for tricky variations, I’ve had better luck with Convert than others (Optimizely) at getting the variation to display just the way we want. And the support at Convert has always been excellent—again, better than most of their competitors.
We focus on small to medium size clients, and Convert is excellent for that segment with flexible pricing. It’s a great solution for small businesses doing in-house conversion optimization, but it can also work very well for agencies.
– Tom Bowen, Web Site Optimizers
Convert Experiences also stood out as the type of tool that catches new fans wherever it’s discovered, leading me to believe that it will continue to grow and pick up market share.
We have come across convert.com more and more in recent months working on client campaigns. If you are a true marketer and want actionable data then they are a good choice. The user interface is actually pretty good and you can actually understand the data they give you on experiments. They run on the typical drag and drop style experiment setup engine that most others do and can be manipulated even if you aren’t a technical wizard.
The price isn’t too bad either as they fall somewhere in the middle of Optimizely and VWO. I would recommend them to someone who has a bit of budget constraints but wants a bit more testing power. We have used them on multi million dollar per month campaigns with much success.
– Justin Christianson, Conversion Fanatics
Convert Experiences is known for having some of the most robust multivariate testing options in it’s class. At the same time, it is also one of the few tools in its class to not offer any sort of email split testing capabilities.
Overall, it’s a highly recommended AB testing tool that is worth trying out.
Convert has great customer support (via live chat) and is easy to use. We’d recommend it to the same people who are considering using Optimizely and VWO.
– Karl Blanks, Conversion Rate Experts
SiteSpect initially distinguished itself as one of the first server-side testing solutions on the market, and it has remained a top choice for more technically sophisticated users and security-conscious clients.
– Stephen Pavlovich, Conversion
SiteSpect has the advantage that it works in a different way. It’s tag-free. SiteSpect edits the HTML before it even leaves the server, rather than after it has hit the user’s browser. It tends to be popular with companies that want to self-host and are technically sophisticated.
– Karl Blanks, Conversion Rate Experts
- Tag-based solutions typically charge by the number of tag calls you make, even if those tags don’t end up being used.
- Tag-based solutions often require third-party cookies, which certain browsers or browser settings might not support, causing you to lose the ability to test a large percentage of traffic.
While this value proposition won’t be the deciding factor for many businesses, for those requiring a server-side solution, SiteSpect is one of the best options on the market.
The tools that in my experience deliver the most long-term value are those which are reasonably priced, allowing companies to spend more of their budget on making sure they are testing intelligently and developing an effective testing process. I talk about this in-depth in my article The Great Divide Between BS and Intelligent Optimization.
On this note, my favorite tool would be something like AB Tasty, which is priced sensibly, yet has a powerful platform that facilitates a wide range of testing, from simple iterative tests through to innovative tests, along with strategic tests which can help evolve a business proposition and market positioning.
I would recommend AB Tasty (and similarly Convert.com) to the following types of companies:
(1) Companies just starting to invest in conversion optimisation – they won’t break the bank, they won’t overwhelm you with add-ons you will never use as you’re starting out, but they have the capability to match your progress as you scale up your testing output
(2) Companies who have been investing in conversion optimisation but who want to start using a higher portion of their budget (75% or more) on people, skills, process and methodology in order to deliver a greater impact and ROI
(3) Companies frustrated at investing significant amounts of money in enterprise testing platforms, which aren’t being used anywhere near their potential and are taking away from the budget for investing in people, skills and developing an intelligent process for strategic optimisation
Sentient Ascend (formerly Digital Certainty) is a new player bringing advanced machine learning algorithms to the CRO space. Conversion Science’s own Brian Massey explains why this is a big deal:
Sentient Ascend is one of the new generation testing tools that utilize machine learning algorithms to speed multivariate testing. Evolutionary, or genetic algorithms do a better job of finding optimum combinations, isolating the richest local maximum for a solution set.
We love being able to assemble our highest rated hypotheses and throw them in the mix to have the machine sort them for us.
In the future, tools like this will let us optimize for multiple segments simultaneously. We believe this is the final step forward full time personalization solutions.
Google Experiments is a split testing function of Google Analytics. If you are looking for a reasonably powerful AB testing solution with no monetary cost, look no further.
Although I am not normally a big fan of Google for the sake of split testing, Google Experiments has its advantages. The first one is that you can’t beat the price. The second is you can have all your data in one place under your Google analytics account. There are some downfalls in that you are going to have to leverage a bit more technical gumption in setting up your experiments and the overall process might take a little longer, but if you are looking for a low barrier to entry in your testing then this is a good place to start.
– Justin Christianson, Conversion Fanatics
As Justin eluded to, Google Experiments is going to be particularly useful to avid Google Analytics users who have the ability to utilize its more complicated features.
Qubit is a testing platform focused primarily on personalization. Accordingly, it has some of the strongest segmentation capabilities of any tool on this list.
Qubit has a strong focus on granular segmentation – and the suite covering analytics through to testing gives it an advantage. They’ve now broken out of their traditional retail focus to become a strong personalisation platform across sectors.
– Stephen Pavlovich, Conversion
If advanced segmentation or personalization are a priority for your business or clients, Qubit is a tool worth checking out.
Adobe Target works great with sites that already use Adobe Analytics.
There’s honestly not much more to say here. If your business is already paying for Adobe Analytics, adding Adobe Target is virtually a no-brainer. If your business is not using Adobe Analytics, ignoring Adobe Target is virtually a no-brainer.
Just for good measure, here’s Stephen Pavlovich to reiterate the point:
I like Adobe Target. The integration of Adobe Analytics and Target is strong – especially being able to push data two-ways. And the fact that Target is normally an inexpensive upsell for Analytics customers is a bonus.
Marketing Tools With Built-In Testing
In addition to dedicated AB testing tools, there are some great marketing tools out there that include built-in split testing capabilities. This is fairly common with tools like landing page builders, email service providers, or lead capture solutions.
As Justin Christianson explains, there are some positives and negatives to relying on these built-in tools:
Most page builders out there such as LeadPages and Instapage have split testing capabilities built into their platforms. The problem is you don’t have much control over the goals measured and the adaptability to test more complex elements. The good thing is they are extremely easy to setup and use for those quick and dirty type tests. I recommend the use of this to just get some tests up and running, as constantly testing is extremely important. If you are currently using a platform with these native testing capabilities then this is a good place to start.
One particular tool that was highlighted by several of our experts was Unbounce, one of the web’s more popular landing page builders.
I also like Unbounce, and not just because I like Oli Gardner. It seems most everyone there lives and breathes landing pages, so the expertise that comes with the tool is virtually unmatched. Their support is also excellent. Unbounce works really well when we’re creating a new landing page from scratch and want to try different variations, since it’s so easy to create brand new pages using the tool.
– Tom Bowen, Web Site Optimizers
Unbounce is an excellent tool for A/B testing your landing pages. While many landing page tools also offer A/B testing, I think Unbounce has the best and most flexible page editor when creating variations of your pages to be tested, and their landing page templates have the most CRO best practices included already.
Unbounce is outstanding for online marketing teams that want the most flexibility when creating and A/B testing their landing pages – many other landing page tools are limited to a fixed grid system which makes it much harder to make changes.
Another popular tool was OptinMonster, which began as a popular popup tool and has evolved into a more fully featured lead generation software.
Optin Monster is an outstanding tool that lets you easily A/B test visitor opt-in incentives to see which converts best – not only headlines, images and CTAs, but also which types perform best (like a discount versus a free guide). In particular it offers great customization options and many popup styles, and exit intent popups.
Optin Monster is particularly useful for the many website marketers who don’t have enough traffic to do formal A/B testing (using tools like Optimizely or VWO) but still want to get a better idea of their best performing content variations. It has great pricing options suitable for online businesses on a low budget.
Tools For Gathering Data
As every good split tester knows, your AB tests are only as good as the hypotheses you are testing. The following tools represent our experts’ favorite choices for collecting data to fuel effective AB tests.
- Google Analytics
- Crazy Egg
- Lucky Orange
- Adobe Analytics
UsabilityHub was by far the most frequently mentioned analytics tool by our group of CRO experts. UsabilityHub is a collection of 5 usability tests that can be administered to visitors in order to collect key insights.
UsabilityHub is great for clarity testing and getting quick indications of potential improvements. It is also great for uncovering personal biases in the creation of page variations. I would recommend it to anyone doing conversion optimization or even basic usability testing.
– Craig Andrews, allies4me
While many of the tools on this list deal primarily with quantitative data, UsabilityHub offers uniquely efficient ways to collect valuable qualitative data.
Once I’ve identified underperforming pags, the next step is to figure out what’s wrong with those pages by gathering qualitative data. For top landing pages, including the homepage, I like to run one of UsabilityHub’s “5 Second Tests” to gauge whether people understand the product or service offered. The first question I always ask is “what do you think this company sells?”. I’ve gotten some surprisingly bad results, where large numbers of respondents gave the wrong answer. In these cases, running a simple A/B test on a headline and/or hero shot to clarify what the company does is an easy win.
– Theresa Baiocco, Conversion Max
It also can be a cost-effective alternative if your website doesn’t get enough traffic to facilitate use of an actual split testing tool.
UsabilityHub is essential if you want to do A/B testing but your website doesn’t have enough traffic to do so. Instead it enables you to show your proposed page improvements to testers (including your visitors) to get their quick feedback, particularly using the highly useful ‘Question Test’ and ‘Preference Test’ features.
UsabilityHub can be particularly useful for the many website marketers who don’t have enough traffic to do formal A/B testing (using tools like Optimizely or VWO) but still want to get a better idea of their best performing content variations.
To the surprise of exactly no one, Google Analytics was high up on the list of recommended analytics tools. Yet despite its popularity, very few marketers or business owners are using this free tool to its full potential.
Theresa Baiocco makes the follow recommendations for getting started:
There’s so much data in Google Analytics that it’s easy to suffer from paralysis by analysis. It helps to have a few reports you use regularly and know what you’re looking for before jumping in. The obvious reports for finding the most problematic pages in your funnel are the funnel visualization and goal flow reports. But I also like to look at top landing pages, and using the “comparison” view, I see which of them have higher bounce rates than average for the site. Those 3 reports together are a good starting point for identifying which pages to work on first.
When it comes to applying Google Analytics to your AB testing efforts, John Ekman of Conversionista offers some advice:
Most of the AB testing tools provide an easy integration with Google Analytics. Do not miss this opportunity in your AB testing setup!
When you integrate your testing tool with GA it means that you will be able to break down your test results and look at A vs. B in all dimensions available in GA. You will be able to see behavior segmented by device, returning vs new visitors, geography etc.
For example: if you are using Enhanced Ecommerce setup for GA you will be able to compare your E-commerce funnel for the A version vs. the B version. Maybe the A version gets more add to carts, but then that effect withers off and the result in the checkout is the same?!
Word of warning: as soon as you start segmenting your data you might lose statistical significance in the underlying segments. Even if your AB test results are statistically significant on the overall level that does not mean that the deviations you see in smaller segments of your test data are significant. The smaller the data sample size, the harder it is to reach significance. What you think is a strong signal is just some data noise.
For those interested in tapping into the full potential of Google Analytics, here’s everything you’ll ever need.
Crazy Egg is one of the more popular heatmap and click-tracking tools online, thanks to an attractive interface, an affordable price point, and a deceptively powerful feature set.
Crazy Egg is a highly recommended budget tool by Brian Massey and the Conversion Sciences team, who had the following to say:
Crazy Egg offers tools to help you visually identify the most popular areas of your page, help you see which parts of your pages are working and which ones are not, and give you greater insight as to what your users are doing on your pages via both mobile and desktop sites.
UserTesting.com is a unique service that provies videos of real users in your target market experiencing your site and talking through what they’re thinking.
This service is recommended by Craig Andrews, who had the following to say:
UserTesting.com is great for hypothesis generation and uncovering personal biases. It is an absolutely fantastic tool for persuading clients on the reality and importance of certain site issues, and I would recommend it to anyone doing conversion optimization or even basic usability testing
Lucky Orange is kind of like Crazy Egg with a bit of UserTesting.com, a bit of The Godfather, and a bit of a hundred other things. It’s a surprisingly diverse package of conversion features that make you start to believe their claim as “the original all-in-one conversion optimization suite”, despite the incredibly low price point.
Despite the hundred new tools that have popped up since Lucky Orange hit the market, Theresa Baiocco still swears by the original:
No testing program is complete without analyzing how users behave on the site. Optimizers all have their favorite tools for gathering this data, and while the newest and hottest kid on the block is Hotjar, I still like using my old go-to: Lucky Orange. Starting at just $10/month, Lucky Orange gives you visitor recordings, conversion funnel reports, form analytics, polls, chat, and heat maps of clicks, scroll depth, and mouse movements – all in one place.
Clicktale is a cloud-based analytic system that allows you to visualize your customer’s experience on your website from their perspective. It’s an enterprise-level tool that combines session recording with click and scroll tracking, and while it comes with an enterprise price tag, it’s made some significant quality strides over the last few years.
There has been a huge improvement in Clicktale over the past three years, in tracking, reporting and accuracy. If you want “any old session recording JS”, boxed-product application out there, there are a variety of options. If you want accurate rendering that is linked to your existing analytics and a company that will help you tune as your own website evolves, then Clicktale is a good choice. It’s the one I’ve chosen as I wouldn’t want to risk the privacy of my customers or risk degrading the performance of my website. Clicktale also gives me a representative sample that is accurate by resolution and responsive design.
HotJar is the latest SaaS success story to blaze its way across the web. It’s a jack of all trades type tool: an all-in-one tool that does heatmaps, scroll tracking, recordings, funnel tracking, form analysis, feedback polls, surveys, and more.
And from what a few of our conversion experts have seen so far, it does all of those things about as well as you would expect from a jack of all trades.
On the plus side, Hotjar has prioritized creating an exceptional user experience, so if you are a solo blogger wanting a feature-rich, easy-to-use toolkit in one place with a reasonable price tag, Hotjar might be the perfect choice for you.
Stephen Esketzis had the following to say about his experience with the tool:
So overall, HotJar really is a great tool with a lot of value to offer any online business (or website in general at that). There’s not many businesses that work online I wouldn’t recommend this tool to.
With a no-brainer price point (and even a free plan) it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
Inspectlet is simple to use. It gets out of the way in order to let the user do what he or she needs. The simple funnel analysis and filtering options is a breeze to use and covered my basic needs.Inspectlet does what it does good with a few minor glitches. It doesn’t have the newer features that have started appearing lately such as watching live recordings, live chatting, surveys, and polls.
In other words, Inspectlet is an easy-to-use, budget-friendly session recording tool that might be right for you depending on your needs.
SessionCam is a session recording tool that has also added heatmaps form analytics to its offering. It’s a classic example of a tool that combines better-than-average functionality with a more-difficult-than-average user interface.
SessionCam provides a lot of useful functionality, but its user interface isn’t the easiest to learn or use. Getting the most out of it requires a nontrivial investment of time.
UX designers have long known that, where there is internal resistance to change, showing stakeholders clear evidence of users experiencing problems can be a powerful tool in persuading them to recognize and address issues. SessionCam meets the need for a tool that provides this data in a much more dynamic, cost-effective way than using traditional observation techniques.
SessionCam [also] manages [to protect user data] effectively by masking the data that users enter into form fields, so you can put their concerns to rest.
If you are looking for a more robust session recording and form analytic tool that keeps user data safe, SessionCam is worth checking out.
Adobe Analytics is a big data analysis tool that helps CMOs understand the performance of their businesses across all digital channels. It enables real time web, mobile and social analytics across online channels, and data integration with offline and third-party sources.
After a thorough review of the market, we chose Adobe Analytics to satisfy our current and future analytics and optimization needs. We needed a solution that could scale globally with our business, improve productivity, and offer out-of-the box integration with our key partners to deliver more value from our existing investments. Adobe’s constant pace of innovation continues to deliver value for our business, and live stream (the event firehose) is the latest capability that opens up exciting opportunities for how we engage with customers.
Well that’s that: 20 of the most recommended AB testing tools from a diverse collection of the web’s leading CRO experts.
Have you used any of these tools before? Do you have a favorite that wasn’t included? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.