A Complete Guide To Usability A/B Testing

What is Usability A/B Testing?

Usability A/B testing is a human-centered process to evaluate a product, website, app, or other resources with real users to gain insights into their experiences. With usability A/B testing two variations of the resource are shown to a panel of users to find the version that delivers the biggest impact, achieves the goals of the test, and will drive business metrics.

Essentially, usability testing takes the guesswork out of decision-making and enables administrators to make data-backed decisions with the confidence that it is the right choice. In usability A/B testing ‘A’ refers to the ‘control’ or the first testing variable, and ‘B’ refers to the ‘variation’ or the new version of the variable. In usability testing versions, A and B are the two options you have for your test.

The version that gains the most votes and is deemed the better option is the ‘winner’, with usability A/B testing you will also receive clear explanations from your user panel, giving you data to back up the ‘winner’. Implementing the changes of the winning variation to your business can drive engagement, recognition, and improve ROI.

The metrics to track for each test depend on what you are testing. For example, if you are testing a landing page it may be appeal, relevance, or uniqueness. While for a product or new feature testing the metric might be purchase intent.

Usability A/B testing is one of the best tools for understanding what your audience wants and making the right decisions before your business goes live. One of the things we love the most about usability testing is it works for any business and has many use cases. It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B or B2C business or whether you offer products or services – you can utilize usability A/B testing to learn more about your audience and make the right decision to be successful from the start. If you’re not testing you’re losing out on potential business revenue.

Why You Should Consider Usability A/B Testing

If businesses are struggling with their first decisions like website design and layout or decisions later down the line like new app features and introducing a new product, usability A/B testing can help. These resources are affected by some common problems like unattractive design, faulty layout, or even just not understanding the audience.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of usability A/B testing:

1. Understand Your Audience

Each time you run a test and use the results to inform the decision you make for your business; you are making smart improvements based on the opinions of your audience that are more likely to fit their needs. Using the results of your test ensures you are choosing the option that your audience likes the most.

A usability test will help you understand your audience’s wants and needs, as well as their opinion of your brand. These insights help you optimize your entire business, your audience is your biggest asset so understanding them and creating products and services they will love is essential to success.

2. Save Time and Money

The goal of usability A/B testing is to find issues with the user experience and provide you with the information you need to fix them before they cause real problems. Finding the bugs in your usability saves a lot of rework and development time for your business. When you decide to skip usability A/B testing problems users have will be overlooked or not found.

If you create and implement a testing process you will identify the ways to optimize your designs with feedback from real people. You will spend less time and money on development, redesign, and planning by getting it right the first time.

This process has worked for many businesses and saved a lot of valuable resources in the process. Usability A/B testing with Poll the People lets you make decisions based on facts and data, not assumptions or gut feelings, improving usability.

3. Improve User Experience

Usability testing is all about optimizing user experience and that is exactly what Poll the People helps your business do. If you’re looking to guide your websites visitors to a specific page or resource you need to make sure it’s easy to get there.

Your users don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a page or trying to complete a task. Usability A/B testing can tell you exactly what that experience is and if there are any issues. A user that can’t achieve their goals on your site will go to a competitor and find another way to get what they want.

This is why a great user experience is so important. Every business wants to satisfy and keep their users, usability A/B testing is a great way to achieve that.

4. Creates a Better Product

Businesses should implement usability A/B testing as an ongoing process throughout the design phase and whenever they want to introduce something new. Doing this will create a product that can reach its potential by understanding exactly how it will benefit customers. The more testing that a team does the better grasp they will have on its issues and how users think. This leads to a product that is free of issues and meets the wants and needs of consumers.

5. Find Hidden Opportunities

Usability A/B testing lets you find any potential issues with your designs but because Poll the People requires users to give detailed responses you can get much more. By filtering through the results of a test you can find new opportunities for your business.

The panel of respondents has a different view of what you are testing so they might find different ways that you can improve the business. We’ve seen that the responses you get don’t just tell you the problems but can tell you additional features or new things that would improve user experience. You get a fresh view of your business with new ways to optimize.

6. Competitive Advantage

Today just about every industry has a lot of competition with new players entering almost every day. Any competitive advantage you can gain goes a long way. We’ve seen through companies like Zappos and Netflix that focusing on the customer does a lot for the business.

By simply investing in a usability A/B testing process with real people with the goal of giving users what they want, you gain an advantage. Testing helps create resources that go beyond user expectations and create an optimized business.

What Can You Usability Test?

Your audience ultimately decides the fate of your business. This is why everything you present to them needs to be optimized to its maximum potential. This is true for anything that can influence the behavior or intent of your users and conversion rate. When you begin usability testing, test the following elements, these are some of the most common tests we see on our platform. Check out our examples page for specific tests.

1. Website Design

The design of your website has a big impact on user experience and success of your business. It is one of the most commonly tested aspects of a business. In a usability A/B test of your website design, you are aiming to understand satisfaction, efficiency, and effectiveness. It is very important to understand how attractive the website is, how the design makes users feel, and the opinions they associate with the design.

The factors that go into the website design are the images, colors, text, animations, and videos. Believe it or not all of these things and how they are presented can affect the traffic, engagement, and conversions on your site. Using a website prototype that can be tested at a low cost will allow you to optimize the website for future success.

2. How Easy is it To Navigate

Ultimately, you want users to be able to navigate your website or app as efficiently as possible to find what they are looking for. The positioning, layout, and size of products and menus are key parts to creating an effective user experience.

If you are concerned about how easy it is for users to navigate and find your resources or are considering a layout redesign, a simple usability A/B test with Poll the People will help you optimize and find issues.

In this example, users are presented with two versions of the layout and asked questions about the navigability and ease of use. The participants will vote on the best version and give you written feedback to help you understand problems and why one version is preferred.

3. Logo Testing

Your brand’s logo is one of the most important aspects of your business. It is one of the first elements of your business a potential customer sees and needs to create a good first impression.

The logo you choose for your business needs to represent the value your business holds and express the brand in the best way possible. In the beginning stages of your business, you most likely have a few versions of your logo but might not know what version to run with.

Testing your designs with real people through Poll the People helps you find the design that creates a good impression. Testing elements like shapes, colors, fonts and more will create the optimal logo.

The good news is a logo test is very simple to run and takes less than an hour. With actionable insights, your logo will be optimized for future success.

4. Ad Testing

If you are a decision-maker for a business, you know that you can spend a lot of money on ads, and that number is only growing.

Businesses spend a lot on ads because they can be an effective tool for growth or increasing revenue. A great way to make sure the money spent on ads is worth it is by doing a usability A/B test. Usability testing ads lets you make data-backed decisions from the feedback you gather, the feedback from users might give you new ideas that come straight from your audience, helps you understand what ads your audience will respond to, and eliminate the risk of spending time and money on ads that aren’t converting.

In the usability A/B test you present the audience two versions of the ad and allow them to interact and pick the ads that create the most appeal, relevance, and purchase intent. This will improve user experience and likelihood that ads will get results.

5. New Products & Features

New products and features are exciting for businesses as it is an opportunity to improve the business and increase revenue. However, if they are not what the user wants or are unusable they can end up hurting the credibility and revenue of the business. The usability of a product or feature is defined as how easily or effectively that resource can achieve the desired goal and satisfy the user.

Running a usability A/B test will provide the business with issues or changes that can be made to make the new product or feature the best it can be.

There are many more elements of your business that can be tested for optimization. Check out our usability testing ideas blog to discover more ways you can use usability A/B testing.

Usability Testing Statistical Approach

A usability test is only useful if you have statistical significance. This means that you need to have enough feedback to feel confident in the winner of the test. Poll the People makes it easy to set the number of respondents for a test with a dedicated user panel that will quickly provide a choice and feedback on why they chose it.

For most tests about 100 responses is good enough to create statistical significance, this will give you enough feedback to present the findings confidently to decision-makers. If you need more confidence and less margin of error, simply increase the number of respondents. If you are on a budget you can choose a smaller number and receive feedback even faster. But, luckily most usability tests with Poll the People can be created, launched and analyzed in less than an hour.

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How to Perform a Usability Test

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Usability A/B testing gives you a process of finding out what works and what doesn’t for any element of your business. As a business progresses, increasing conversions and traffic can be more difficult and expensive, it becomes more important to give your users what they want and need. It will help them achieve their goals and allow them to convert in the most efficient and fastest way possible. Usability A/B testing your business allows you to get the most out of your existing audience and increase revenue.

A usability testing program can make your business efforts more profitable by understanding the most impactful areas to optimize. A/B testing is no longer just a post-launch, once in a while activity, but can be a great tool for getting the most out of anything a business is doing. It is now a structured and ongoing process that can be done before launching your business or when you want to test new resources or changes.

Step 1: Research

Before planning your usability A/B test you need to conduct research on how changing the element will affect your business. You will have to do research on the business and what parts of your website, app, products, or features aren’t performing. You want to start by making a shortlist of the most glaring issues your resources might have and what can be optimized for revenue or conversions. Both qualitative and quantitative research can help to prepare for the next steps in the usability A/B testing process, making actionable observations about your business for the next steps.

Step 2: Have a Hypothesis

After you decide what element you want to test you should create a hypothesis that can be backed up by the data. For example “Changing the navigation menus will allow users to find products faster” or “A blue color pallet will be more appealing than a red one”. This step helps you understand the data and decide if the test was a success or if changes are meaningful. You want to be able to prove or disprove the hypothesis you create for your test.

Step 3: Set a Goal

The beauty of usability A/B testing is that you can achieve goals and gain confidence in decisions. One of the most important parts of planning is setting specific goals. What’s the goal of your test? What type of response are you looking for? How will you use the data once you’ve gathered it? These are all the questions for which you will need to find the answers. The first step is always a defined goal.

The goal of your test should always be optimization and improving user experience. Specific goals like implementing a checkout process that makes purchasing easier is important to have for measuring the effect of usability changes.

Specific Testing Goals

A vague goal is nothing but an issue for a usability A/B test or any other choice your business makes, but a specific goal has the capability to bring out the most reliable results. Mostly, people only have a general idea of what they want to test but they don’t put more effort into turning that idea into a specific goal. Adding this step to the procedure can increase the quality of the feedback received.

By writing specific goals, you tend to require a minimum amount of responses as you prefer a high level of certainty from the test. It also minimizes the time and effort required and the most significant part is that the feedback is also specific.

Step 4: Create Variations

The next step in usability A/B testing should be to create variations of the elements you want to test based on your hypothesis and goals. A variation is another version of your current or first version with the changes you want to test. You can create multiple versions to be tested against each other in multiple tests. Create the version that will confirm or deny your hypothesis and will achieve your specific goal. For example, users are having trouble finding a product? Users aren’t filling out your form? Users don’t understand what a page is about? Testing variations with different designs or layouts can give you the answer to these questions.

Step 5: Run Test

Before launching the test it is important to decide on the type of test you want to run and the questions you are asking of the panel. Once you’ve made those decisions and zeroed in on your goals it is time to run the test. Run the test and wait for the responses to roll in to get confidence in the results. Keep in mind that no matter which version you like best, the statistical accuracy and feedback will determine the end result. Poll the People eliminates the need to wait days or weeks to find the best option, your test will run and complete in about an hour (depending on how many respondents you need).

Step 6: Analyze Results and Make Changes

Once you have created, launched, and received your feedback you’re ready to dive into the results. Poll the People provides an easy-to-digest dashboard that gives you the winner with the quantitative data on how much the “winner” won by.

You will also be able to filter the users that chose version A from those that chose version B and analyze their responses. This will let you understand what was liked about the version and what wasn’t, as well as the potential usability issues. This feedback is valuable because some of the negative feedback might give you improvements that only your audience can give you. The positive feedback will allow you to continue to make the best business decision possible.

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Usability Testing Mistakes to Avoid

Usability A/B testing has a lot of benefits but they can only be seen if you run a successful test. There are a lot of mistakes that can happen and it very common to commit one of these 8 usability A/B testing mistakes.

1. Not Having Clear Goals

Sometimes the goals of a test aren’t specific enough. “We need to have a good website” isn’t a goal that gives you the best choice. The audience might give good feedback on both your designs and each could be deemed “good”. Having a clear goal, such as “We need to choose the layout our audience will be able to easily navigate and will respond to the most” gives you the information you need to sift through the data and choose the best option for the business.

Take time before running a usability test to make your goals specific and actionable to get the most out of the test.

2. Not Asking The Right Questions

The goal of a usability A/B test is to find issues and be able to optimize your business. You won’t be able to achieve that if you don’t ask your test participants the right questions. The results won’t be significant, prove your hypothesis and the participants might run into issues while completing the test.

The users will not provide you with any value if they don’t have a clear and specific task to complete or questions to answer. Sometimes you could be asking questions that aren’t actionable enough and will waste your time and money. Make sure you consider what you want to get out of your test to create the right questions.

3. Using too Many Variations

While it might be tempting to test every variation you come up with, having too many variations can be problematic. Each variation can break up your audience or could create multiple winners because they aren’t different enough.

The best practice in usability A/B testing is to use two variations, allowing your audience to make one decision at a time. If you need to test multiple variations test them against each other and continue to test winners to find the best choice.

4. Targeting The Wrong Audience

Usability testing relies on getting real feedback from your customers. Without the right audience, the data could have no significance to your business or goals. The right audience and targeting make all the difference, genuine insights from your customers allow you to have the best answers to your most important questions.

Make sure to take time to specify your audience and targeting in order to get the information you need to make sense of the data.

5. Using Technical Language

We spend a lot of time with our businesses and know all of the ins and outs of how things work, how they are put together, and how the business explains everything internally. But when you are testing with users that aren’t part of the business they don’t know all of the technical wording that you use.

Assuming the users understand your business as you do is a common mistake in usability A/B testing. If you use technical jargon the participants might get confused, frustrated, or struggle to complete the test in the right way. When you are putting together a usability A/B test try to look at your business through the eyes of the target audience.

6. Conducting Only One Test

Another usability A/B testing mistake is only running one test. When you test a resource you will find issues with the version and get insights that help you improve it. But once you find those issues and use the insights to fix them you need to test the fixed version to know if all of the issues are resolved.

There is also some degree of error in a single test, each one will provide different feedback that could help in big ways. A single round of testing is never enough, create a testing process within your team or overall business. It will help you understand how successful a test is and help you get the most out of your business.

7. Testing To Confirm Your Ideas

In usability A/B testing one of the most common mistakes is testing to confirm that the version or resource you like the most is the best one. We all fall victim to confirmation bias but usability A/B testing should aim to eliminate that.

If you aren’t unbiased or if you guide the participants to one version over another the results of your test are invalid. Avoid asking questions that guide users, let their insights and opinions guide you to the best option and improve your business.

8. Using the Wrong Tool

With usability testing becoming a widely accepted method for optimization, many new tools have been made. Not all of these tools are equal and not all of them can do the same things. Some tools can make the creation process lengthy, some might take days or weeks to give you feedback, while others might be very expensive and not give you the answers you’re looking for. Usability testing with these tools can risk the value of the test from the start.

Poll the People is a great tool for running any of your tests but if you want to see other options check out 3 up-and-comers to watch in the concept testing industry or look into the many other options for usability testing.

Usability Testing Challenges

The return on investment from your usability test can be huge. These tests help you move your business in the right direction by finding the main pinpoints for your users. However, all of the benefits of usability testing can come with challenges. The main challenges a tester might encounter are as follows:

Challenge 1: Decide What To Test

You cannot just make a snap decision on the elements you’re going to test. The element you want to test is important, testing a new feature will be done differently than testing a navigation menu. You will use different templates, ask different questions and the results will give you different insights. Unfortunately, not all small changes to your images, messaging, or colors are meaningful when you consider business goals and might not result in the significance you want. The same goes for larger changes and more complex tests. Take the time to consider what might need changing, what the problem areas are, and what can be made better through testing.

Challenge 2: Defining Goals

We’ve gone over why it is important to have specific goals for your usability A/B test but it might be challenging to create effective ones. Formulating goals is where the research comes in, having the information that points you toward the goals that will work best for your test. You need to discover where the problems are with your business and come up with how the test will fix them. This will not happen unless you have a well throughout usability testing plan and have done the research.

Challenge 3: Testing With The Right Users

You don’t always need a massive pool of users to get significant data but the right users are required. Targeting users that will give you the best feedback and those that are most like your target market will create the most effective usability A/B test. As a business, you need to identify the target audience that will be the focus of the test. Utilize segmentation tools in your testing platform to create a panel that represents the users you are targeting with your products. Additionally, you should not use the same respondents too often as they might be more comfortable with the business and learn what you want them to say. Using a mix of people that are familiar with the business and people that might not know who you are or what you do will help you create a business that is usable for anyone.

Challenge 4: Choosing the Right Sample Size

Not many people doing usability testing are statisticians. A lot of the time we end a test too early or don’t gather enough responses to make the best decision because we want the fastest results possible. The size of the panel can change the answer to your questions and give you varying levels of confidence in the winner. Asking how many responses you need to assure you’re making the right decision is important to creating a successful usability test. Today usability tests aren’t done in a lab or in person there are many online platforms like Poll the People that give you the same benefits while making it easier to test. Poll the People gives you a dedicated panel of thousands of users and allows you to choose how many users you need to gain confidence in results.

Challenge 5: Analyzing Result

Analyzing the results of a test is the final step and is where you find out what changes need to be made. Some platforms can make it difficult to find the most meaningful feedback that will help you improve the business.

Luckily, Poll the People has done a good job of making it easy to filter through the feedback and find the true winner of a test. However, it can still be a challenge to choose a winner if both versions seem successful and get a lot of positive feedback or if both received a lot of negative feedback.

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1. A Successful Test

There are some cases where the ‘votes’ will give you a winner but only by a small margin and both options receive positive feedback. Most of the time a tester will deploy the winner but will fail to effectively interpret the results. Diving into the feedback and explanations is important to understand why that option won and why the other didn’t. The question to always ask when analyzing results is Why? Why did they choose option A over option B? Why did the panel say one design is better than the other? The insights you gather from the panel will help answer these questions and more as well as paint a complete picture of the test that can be used for more tests down the line.

2. A Failed Test

Another possible challenge is if there is a winner but both options got mainly negative feedback. While this isn’t a common issue to overcome it can happen and it’s important to understand how to fix it. The negative feedback can actually be more valuable to your business, it can tell you that neither version you test are the best one for your business to roll out. The negative feedback gives you a lot of new pain points but will help you in creating the best elements for your business and get you on the path to success.

Plus, it’s quick and easy to run multiple tests with Poll the People, you can keep testing until you find what works.

Challenge 6: Creating a Testing Culture

One of the most important things to understand about usability A/B testing is it’s an ongoing process. This fact is one of the biggest challenges that a business deals with when testing. The testing process will help you make the best decisions for your business and set you up for success, so why stop after one test?

For your optimization efforts to be the most successful there should be a cycle of testing the elements of your business that frequently change. The placement of buttons, the images you use for content, any new features or ideas you might have all need to be consistently tested to make sure you aren’t wasting your valuable time, money, and effort on things that won’t achieve your goals. The challenge isn’t just testing anything and everything but it’s creating a culture of quality tests that will help you in the long run.

Usability Testing Examples

Usability Testing For B2B/SaaS Businesses

Get high-quality leads, increase free sign-ups, attract the target audience, or optimize any other elements of the business through testing and implementing changes. To achieve these goals businesses produce the most relevant content, send out awareness and lead ads, put up special offers, and many other methods for growing the company. But all of these methods could be a waste of time and money if they aren’t optimized for the best user experience.

For SaaS businesses, usability A/B testing is used to provide the best experience for users and to increase conversions. You can test landing pages, form components, ad messaging or creative, new concepts or features, and many other parts of the business.

For example, lead generation is a big asset to a SaaS business, testing how effective the form is and how likely users are to fill it out can go a long way in increasing leads. Testing the number of fields included in your form can help you to get the most leads. A form that is too long or asks for a lot of personal information is less likely to be filled out. But, you still need enough information to properly nurture leads. Testing different variations of length, fields, and information required is a great method for optimizing the effectiveness of lead generation.

Usability Testing For The eCommerce Industry

Usability testing lets online stores make a better checkout process, create the best design, find the best new product, and so on. You might try testing where you ask for a credit card when shipping options are displayed, coloring and text on the checkout page, or visibility of new products. All of these elements can have an impact on sales and revenue, testing any feature that might improve the business before launch can go a long way.

Amazon is the clear leader in the eCommerce industry, one of the reasons they are so successful is do due to their dedication to creating the best user experience. One of the most revolutionary elements of their buying process is the ‘1 click ordering’ feature. This feature betters the user experience by making the buying process quick and easy without having to move to a checkout screen or navigate through the site to purchase an item. Amazon did a lot of research into the experience of ‘1 click ordering’ and how the user would react to it. They followed the testing process to find the best way to present the feature to their customers.

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A buyer has to enter their shipping and payment information once, then all they need to do is click a button and the item is purchased. Amazon kept more users on their site with ease of purchase making it less likely they’d go to another website or store. ‘1 click ordering’ became one of Amazon’s most popular features and many other eCommerce businesses have tried to replicate it.

But developers and decision-makers like Amazon didn’t come up with this idea and create it out of the blue. It was continuous testing and optimization that allowed Amazon to implement a game-changing feature. Every new feature, color, or other changes are tested on their users before they launch. While Amazon’s buying experience is similar to many eCommerce sites you will notice that every step of the process is set up exactly how the user expects it to be.

Each page of their website is designed for user experience and every feature clearly points to the next step to convert the user to a buyer. Utilizing insights and data every part of Amazon creates a user experience that meets the customer’s expectations.

Usability testing for the media industry

A media company wants to get the most readers or viewers to create the largest audience possible, to increase subscriptions, boost video or content views, and increase time spent on the platform. The appeal, believability, and usability of the platform affect the engagement and growth of the audience. Usability A/B testing is used to test new content, social posts, or optimize promotional offers.

Anyone who has Hulu knows they provide a high-quality user experience but might not know how they manage to make all of their features the best for the audience. Hulu like many other popular streaming services follows a usability testing process to provide a good user experience that other media companies might struggle with. Every new feature or change to Hulu’s platform goes through extensive testing before it is rolled out on their service.

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A great example of how Hulu creates a great user experience is personalization. The platform will appear different for each and every user, they choose how many rows will appear, and what shows or movies are recommended based on watch history and preferences. Hulu, like Amazon, didn’t just launch these features without testing, they follow a process to ensure their changes will be widely accepted by the users.

Testing new features before they are deployed to audiences is a tool that businesses in just about every industry utilize. It allows you to make the best decisions and optimize every element of the business for user experience. After all, the users are the most important part of your company, use a usability A/B testing process to make sure they want to come to your business and stay once they’re there.

Conclusion

After reading through all this information on usability A/B testing, you should have all the knowledge needed to plan your tests and optimize your business. Follow each step we’ve laid out for you and keep an eye on the major and minor mistakes that might happen if you aren’t careful. Keep in mind the main challenges of usability testing as you put together a plan for testing any resources. Usability testing can be one of the best tools for any business in any industry but only if you do it right.

If you are dedicated to optimization and use the knowledge you now have, usability A/B testing can reduce a lot of risks involved with changes or additions to a business. It can also save a lot of time and money that might go into an element that might not work because you already have an answer to what will work best.

If you found our guide useful feel free to spread the word and help others trying to create the best user experience possible without falling victim to usability testing mistakes or encountering major challenges. Check out some of our other content and resources or sign up to start testing.

Usability Testing FAQs

What is Usability A/B Testing?

Usability A/B testing is the process of comparing two variations of a website, app, product, or other resources to gather feedback and insights on user experience. You test version A against version B and use the data to decide what variation is most effective.

Why Do Usability A/B Testing?

There are many reasons to conduct a usability A/B test. Some of them include solving user pain points, increasing sales, conversions, or leads, and decreasing the risk of a bad decision. Read through our guide to understand all the reasons to use usability A/B testing.

How Long Does It Take To Run A Typical Test?

Poll the People is by far the fastest usability A/B testing system on the market. You can expect to see responses almost immediately – with most tests finishing within minutes – not days. A typical survey of 100 respondents completes in about 30 mins.

What Can I Do To Make My Test Run Faster?

We are by far the fastest market research platform on the Internet. Our tests are known to run in minutes – not days. If your test is running slow, the issue is most likely to fine-grained targeting qualifications that reduce the size of the panel.

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