Friday, March 9, 2012
Learning through experimentation
Do an experiment every day.
-- Edwin Land
I've long admired Edwin Land. He was the inventor of many things but most widely known for in-camera self-developing film, co-founding Polaroid Corporation and for low-cost polarizing lenses that are now common in sun glasses. But what I like most about him is his goal to do an experiment every day.
If you're not an inventor, trying to do an experiment every day is a tough thing to do. But even if you don't do an experiment every day, if you're looking to do an experiment every day, you're learning.
Looking for an experiment to do every day means you're looking for surprises, abnormalities or violated expectations. In other words, you're looking for things you don't understand. And that's the first step to learning.
But in addition to looking for experiments to do, it has also gotten easier to do certain types of experiments, thanks to the net.
- Google's Website Optimizer. It's a free service that allows you to compare two versions of a web page for their effectiveness in getting site visitors to take an action, such as clicking a Buy button. If you have a website with lots of traffic, you can gather data very quickly. What if you don't have a website with lots of traffic? In that case, experiments may take a long time before you collect enough exposures for meaningful results. Then, use someone else's traffic. Use Google Adwords.
- Google Adwords. Adwords allows you to create ads to be displayed on Google search results pages and among the Google ads embedded in other people's pages. You pay nothing to create and display ads but pay a cost-per-click fee when someone clicks on your ad. Create multiple versions of an ad and Google will randomly expose one of the multiple versions to users. You can then check the click-through statistics to learn which version of the ad produced the most click-throughs.
With tools like these, it's easy to have experiments running every day, and maybe even easy enough to conduct an experiment every day.
Posted at 9:55 AM (permalink)
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continuous improvement, experiments