Multi-variant testing wordpress themes  

You may be viewing this site with a new theme. Or you may not. Let me know what you think, and any suggestion, in the comments! Your feedback is much appreciated! Why the uncertainty? I am only testing the new theme on some visitors, so you might be lucky or not. Here is a discussion of the tech. setup behind multi-variant testing:



I’ve been wondering about the layout of my blog recently, and whether it may need a revamp to make it a little easier and enjoyable to read. Aware of some of the sophisticated tools available as part of Google Analytics (a very helpful, free web statistics analyser) I decided to test out the effect of a new theme. For something that seems obvious to want to do, it was fairly involved. I was sure it would involve multi-variant testing in some way, but the full process is not so straightforward.

Here are some step-by-step instructions for anyone else wanting to test the effects of different themes in their wordpress blog

  1. Have an exisiting Google Analytics account, or set one up now.
  2.  

  3. download, install, and activate wordpress Theme Switcher Reloaded. This allows wordpress to select which theme is displayed based on URL parameters.
  4.  

  5. Activate the Theme Switcher widget, take note of the URLs for each theme option, and then deactivate. You probably don’t want the selections visible to visitors, but you need to get the URL to set up multi-variant testing. The URLs will be in the format: “http://<your domain>/?wptheme=<theme name>”
  6.  

  7. set up multi-variant testing with two or more theme URLs from above. This will require pasting code into the header and footer files of your themes. All you really need is the content control code Google gives you to place in your starting page, but you can also set up a conversion page to test which theme gets the most conversions. I’m more interested in themes effect on metrics, so it is not necessary to even set up conversion code or tracking; I’m effectively just using the code to deliver a different theme to 50% of the visitors.)
  8.  

  9. Add custom variables to Google Analytics tracking code, with the name of the theme. Modify your existing Google tracking code (best located in each theme’s footer template file) to include something like:

    pageTracker._setCustomVar(
    1, // This custom var is set to slot #1
    “Theme”, // names this custom var
    “WordPress Default”, // Sets the value of “Theme” to current theme
    3 // Sets the scope to page-level
    );

    between the “pageTracker._initData();” line and the “pageTracker._trackPageview();” line. Modify the theme name accordingly.

  10.  

  11. set up Advanced Segments in Google Analytics based on your custom variable values eg. “Custom Variable (Value 1) Matches exactly Green” to test the Green theme.

 

That’s it! Check your Analytics results in a day or so and start comparing.

2 thoughts on “Multi-variant testing wordpress themes  

  1. Did it work? I don’t know much about wordpress but I would imagine that there wouldn’t be enough variability between themes for you to notice any substantial changes. You also have the problem of people like me who read the blog via RSS so they don’t see the styling anyway.. it’s an interesting idea though to put up two versions of the same content, would be interested to hear how you got on. Hope you are well

  2. I use multiple themes on the same content for my clients, to show them variations of what their site might look like in the end and choose the one closer to their wishes and needs. In order to do that I use however an online theme generator called Lubith – it allows me to quickly design multiple themes, make duplicates, make changes separately, I test the themes and download them in no tim, with no compatibility issues.

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