Why Left-Brained Analysts Need Right-Brained Creatives

  |  June 21, 2011   |  Comments

Consider this whole-brain approach to testing and experimentation.

The left side of our brain tends to be associated with functions that are analytical, rational, logical, and objective. The right side of our brain tends to orientate to creativity, intuition, and flexibility. In analysts, the left-hand side of the brain will tend to dominate, whereas with creatives and designers, the right-hand side will be stronger.

Optimization using testing and experimentation technologies (such as Adobe Test and Target, Webtrends Optimize, or Google Website Optimizer) is mainstream for a lot of organizations. Companies such as Dell have built teams and processes to drive testing and experimentation through the business. Those companies have learned - and others are painfully discovering - that successful testing and experimentation is not only about implementing one of the many available technologies. It's also about the need to harness people, resources, and processes around technology.

It's similar to web analytics a few years ago. Back then, organizations implemented a system thinking that it would solve their measurement problems but then realized they needed analysts. Likewise, organizations must build structures and processes around testing and experimentation technologies, otherwise the business will not extract the potential from the system.

Testing and experimentation involves a lot of moving parts. Tests must be designed, assets created, technologies configured, and results analyzed. Successful testing and experimentation programs require strong project and program management capabilities. Larger organizations typically have dedicated resources for program management, whereas in smaller businesses it might be part of someone's role. In either case, a central function must identify which tests are planned and then manage them through the system. Workflows must be created to ensure that the assets to be tested are created and deployed onto the system at the right time. Tests must be monitored to ensure that any variants that are adversely impacting the experience can be dealt with.

Two Places Where Right-Brained Creatives Can Assist With Testing

All of this is predominately "left-brain" activity, i.e., managing, coordinating, analyzing, testing, and experimenting also needs "right-brain" input, a more qualitative approach incorporating a user experience perspective. This right-brain input is important into two areas:

    • Test program development (what to test)
    • Test design (how to test)

Test programs are often built on the basis of web analytics reports showing which parts of the site might have problems. An additional input into the test program can come from understanding what's working and what's not working from the user experience perspective. The main sources of insight are from voice-of-the-customer survey programs and user experience testing. Many organizations have ongoing survey programs and many elicit user feedback through open-ended questions such as "How else can we improve the site?" User feedback can be a rich source of insight, but it must be mined, contextualized, and interpreted. These are right-brain attributes. This qualitative input helps to define what are the important areas of the site to improve and where to direct testing.

Second, right-brain input is needed for test design. Once a test area has been decided, the next issue is to decide what different elements will be tested. In a test, there will always be a winner even if it's the existing version. With testing and experimentation technologies, you can cycle through many different combinations until there's a significant improvement. But the challenge is how do you know that the variants that you've decided to test are the best ones? How do you know that the winner is not the best of a mediocre bunch? Optimization specialists may know that certain things tend to work from the body of tests they've seen, but other inputs such as user experience expertise help to improve the quality of testing.

Good testing and experimentation is a combination of both art and science, rational approaches and intuitive perspectives, and left-brain and right-brain inputs. It's time to take a whole-brain approach to testing and experimentation.


Neil Mason

Neil Mason is SVP, Customer Engagement at iJento. He is responsible for providing iJento clients with the most valuable customer insights and business benefits from iJento's digital and multichannel customer intelligence solutions.

Neil has been at the forefront of marketing analytics for over 25 years. Prior to joining iJento, Neil was Consultancy Director at Foviance, the UK's leading user experience and analytics consultancy, heading up the user experience design, research, and digital analytics practices. For the last 12 years Neil has worked predominantly in digital channels both as a marketer and as a consultant, combining a strong blend of commercial and technical understanding in the application of consumer insight to help major brands improve digital marketing performance. During this time he also served as a Director of the Web Analytics Association (DAA) for two years and currently serves as a Director Emeritus of the DAA. Neil is also a frequent speaker at conferences and events.

Neil's expertise ranges from advanced analytical techniques such as segmentation, predictive analytics, and modelling through to quantitative and qualitative customer research. Neil has a BA in Engineering from Cambridge University and an MBA and a postgraduate diploma in business and economic forecasting.

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