What Gilmore Girls Teaches You About A/B Testing

What Gilmore Girls Teaches You About A/B Testing

Best Practices

Confession: I’ve spent the past few weeks rewatching Gilmore Girls. It’s on Netflix, so if you haven’t watched it yet, I can wait while you do. If you don’t quite have the time for all seven seasons, I’ll give you a quick synopsis. A young, fast-talking mother-daughter duo (Lorelei and Rory, respectively) live in a small town in Connecticut, and together they navigate growing up, family drama, romantic entanglements, and their relationship with each other. It’s good stuff.

But what if Gilmore Girls could teach us about more than the transcendent power of mother-daughter relationships? What if it could teach us about… dynamic A/B testing?

Rory, the teen daughter, is caught in a love triangle in season 2. There’s Dean, her boyfriend–loyal, sweet, gave her a car that he made, somehow. Then there’s Jess, a smart, rebellious teen bad boy, who loves Kerouac (of course he does), and just moved to town. Rory goes through episode after episode of dithering about whether to choose Dean or Jess. It’s good television, but it seems a little stressful.

What if, instead of deciding through her own personal reflection and pro-con lists, Rory had created a dynamic A/B test to make her decision? Dynamic A/B testing (also called “Multi-Armed Bandit” testing) is what we use at ShareProgress for all share page testing, and it seemed like it would work pretty well for Rory.

deanjessTest Version A and Test Version B

In one corner, we have Dean, The Old Standby. This is what you’ve been using up until now. When you started using this, it seemed like your only option. You were so excited about it when you first started using it! It’s… fine. It works, people seem to like it, there’s nothing wrong with it, exactly. But it’s a little boring. And it doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. There might be a couple of people who are really attached to this option–like your coworkers, or the townspeople of Stars Hollow. You can tell them not to worry. You’re not getting rid of Dean, you’re just testing out whether something else would work better. If your other option starts to fail, you’ll go back to Dean, and it’ll be like this whole thing never happened.

And who is your other option? It’s Jess, the Exciting Newcomer. You have this amazing new idea that you want to try–but it’s a little risky. It’s edgy, or has a sense of humor that not everyone gets, or makes a reference that might fly over people’s heads. But you really want to give it a shot, because if it works, it might be amazing. Like, way better than Dean. But it could also completely fail. Your boss (or your mom, Lorelei) is pretty skeptical of this option, but is willing to give it a shot.

It’s time for a dynamic A/B test.

How does dynamic A/B testing work? With traditional A/B testing, each of your versions gets equal traffic, and you need to check back later to see if one version is ahead by a statistically significant amount, and manually select it as the winner. Dynamic A/B testing, on the other hand, automatically routes more people to the better-performing version of what you’re testing, and will show the best version to nearly everyone if you reach high statistical confidence. That ensures that the most possible people will see your winning share language, and that you don’t have to repeatedly check in on your tests in order to choose the winner.

So Rory could have set up her dynamic A/B test between Dean and Jess, and left it to work itself out. If Jess started to seem less appealing, she would see him less frequently. But if Rory enjoyed her time with him more, he could surge ahead and beat out Dean to win Rory’s heart. Instead of this completely sensible option, Rory instead tried to figure things out in an ad hoc manner, with predictably messy results. But the next time you need to test out a bad boy option, you can learn from her mistake and use dynamic A/B testing instead of going with your gut.

Gilmore-Girls-Rory-Chinese-FoodAnd if things don’t work out, there’s always Option C.

Written By

Anna Schmitz