Skip to main content

How to Opt-out of A/B Tests


Occasionally when running tests you may see unexpected behavior due to A/B testing (a.k.a. split testing) of the application you're working with. In order to keep your tests running without issue we need a clean way to opt-out of these split tests.

A Solution

First, here is a primer on Split Testing.

Split Testing

Split testing is a simple way to experiment with an application's features to see which changes lead to higher user engagement. A simple example would be testing variations of an e-mail landing page to see if more people sign up. In such a split test there would be the control (how the application looks and behaves now) and variants (e.g., 2 or 3 changes that could include changing text or images on the page, element positioning, color of the submit button, etc.). Once the variants are configured, they are put into rotation, and the experiment starts. During this experiment each user will see a different version of the feature and their engagement with it will be tracked. Split tests live for the length of the experiment or until a winner is found (e.g., tracking indicates that a variant converted higher than the control). If no winner is found, new variants may be created and another experiment tried. If a winner is found, then the winning variant becomes the new control and the feature gets updated accordingly.

Thankfully there are some standard opt-out mechanisms built into A/B testing platforms. They tend to come in the form of an appended URL or forging a cookie.

Let's start with an example for each approach with a popular A/B testing platform, Optimizely.

About The Author

Dave Haeffner is the original writer of Elemental Selenium -- a free, once weekly Selenium tip newsletter that's read by thousands of testing professionals. He also created and maintains the-internet (an open-source web app that's perfect for writing automated tests against).

Dave has helped numerous companies successfully implement automated acceptance testing; including The Motley Fool, ManTech International, Sittercity, and Animoto. He is also an active member of the Selenium project and has spoken at numerous conferences and meetups around the world about automated acceptance testing.

Dave Haeffner profile picture