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Product Development

How Delta Testing Uses Atomic Habits to Promote Data-Driven Decisions

March 25, 2022

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

This quote from Atomic Habits, by best-selling author and habit expert James Clear, is as true for using customer insight to drive product decision-making as it is for training to run a marathon, not biting your nails, or remembering to unload the dishwasher every night. Success is less about declaring your intentions and more about how you set yourself up to achieve. In other words, it's about your systems.

The difference between companies where customer feedback is seamlessly threaded into the product development life cycle (and the professionals making that happen) isn't just more discipline, stretchier goals, or stronger alignment within leadership. It's also a system like delta testing, which makes collecting real-world feedback and putting its insights into practice easier and more satisfying.

A system is a pathway for reliably working toward your goals at an everyday level by reinforcing micro (read: atomic) habits. Bit by bit, these habits become second nature, which makes way for achieving truly incredible results.

Without systems to reinforce the customer-driven decision habits you already know would make your product better, it's way harder to make big plans for improvement stick. Instead, those goals will end up on your list of New Year's resolutions year after year (and you'll keep beating yourself up, wondering why you just can't seem to make them happen).

Here's how delta testing uses the Four Laws of Behavior Change outlined in Atomic Habits to help you build reliable systems and stick with data-driven habits. By making it obvious, easy, satisfying, and attractive to collect and use customer feedback, you can finally start reaping the benefits of regularly incorporating it into your processes and product.

The First Law: Making It Obvious

We've all had that coworker with the dish of candy on their desk. (Or maybe you are that coworker — we won't judge!) Whenever anyone passes by, they end up munching on one or taking a couple of pieces to go. Why? Because it's right there.

The power of making something obvious is…well, obvious. Contrast this with data silos, which hide information that could be useful if only people remembered to find and use it. A spreadsheet tucked away in Google Drive is basically a place where data goes to be forgotten.

Delta testing helps you break up these silos and get real-time, pre-prioritized insights in front of your action-takers and decision-makers. By keeping your results organized so that your most impactful improvements are right there, delta testing ensures your results are readily accessible to key stakeholders, who are then much more likely to remember and rely on them.

The Second Law: Making It Easy

Traditional beta testing is a pain. Before delta testing, all of the moving parts, like segmenting audiences, collecting and organizing feedback, and prioritizing what to act on, had to be performed manually.

Often, professionals running beta tests the old-school way get so caught up in the minutiae that they don't have the bandwidth to get a better payout for their efforts. Getting feedback from testers, pulling that feedback into spreadsheets, and figuring out which items matter most mean there's less time to act on feedback, connect with stakeholders to answer product questions, improve processes, and increase program ROI.

Delta testing runs on automation, and it's automation that makes reaping the benefits of user testing easier (and therefore habit-forming).

  • Project Automation counters the messiest parts of organizing your user test with plug-and-play planning functionality. You plug in the features you need to test, and it spits out a schedule and project template.
  • Engagement automation shoulders the load of communicating with testers to keep them focused on the features and experiences that need attention and ensure you get full feedback coverage. It also learns from and adapts to tester behavior, scheduling reminders when it makes sense for each individual tester, not your work hours — which means more participation and feedback.
  • Feedback automation organizes incoming submissions in two ways. First, by core types like Issues, Ideas, and Praise, then by the severity, popularity, and impact of each piece. From there, this information becomes a prioritized list of insights that you can easily forward to your product, dev, and QA teams to address.
  • Automated Metrics give you clear, reliable, real-time updates on your project, program, and product success. We'll go into more detail about these KPIs in the next section.

By taking the heavy lifting off your plate, delta testing frees up time for you to really make use of what you get from these interactions with users.

The Third Law: Making It Satisfying

The trick about progress is that seeing progress feels amazing, but making progress is a lot less fun. And that's because it takes less effort for people to do things the way they've always done them, no matter how effective or ineffective that way is. Change, even good change, is hard.

It's also challenging when progress isn't consistently linear. It can feel like your attempts to cut down on sugar, wake up earlier, or add weight to your deadlift will never happen in a world where free donuts, snooze buttons, and muscle fatigue exist.

We've already talked about how delta testing relieves a lot of friction by making it easy to both get and share actionable results from user testing. But part of successfully reprogramming your organization rests in showing how following processes and incorporating user testing data makes measurable progress over time.

That's where KPIs come in. Delta testing uses automated metrics to track the progress you're making within three critical areas: your project, your program, and your product.

  • The Delta Health Score measures the level of engagement your user testing project is getting, based on the number of active testers, tester engagement, and feature coverage. It gives you the at-a-glance insight you need to act, whether that's making fixes in your project or switching focus to other tasks with peace of mind.
  • The Delta Impact Score showcases the impact that your user testing efforts are having on your product over time. It's a great indicator of how well you're directing and prioritizing your efforts.
  • The Delta Success Score weighs the impact of positive and negative feedback submitted by testers, enabling you to track shifts in satisfaction and product acceptance as your project progresses. This KPI gives you the visibility you need to forecast your product’s success at launch or release to leadership and your stakeholders.

The Fourth Law: Making It Attractive

James Clear writes that "habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings." Habits are easy to stick with when they make us feel good about ourselves, our products, and our organizations.

Delta testing makes it easy, obvious, and satisfying to share the wins from user testing, whether that's issues averted pre-launch, improvements made, or praise collected from satisfied customers.

It makes your engineers feel good by measurably demonstrating the impact of their fixes on usability and satisfaction. It makes QA testers feel good by validating and expanding test cases and prioritizing issues. It makes Support happy to tell customers that a bug they reported has been fixed. Your product team will delight in seeing which features customers are adopting and where they should put their focus next. Marketing and Sales, meanwhile, will be thrilled to use direct quotes from customers praising the product in their messaging.

With delta testing, making customer-informed and data-driven decisions becomes second nature throughout your organization. Learn more about its holistic benefits and how to bring the practice into your company with guidance from our ebook, the Delta Testing Quickstart Guide.

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