I’m an unabashed petrolhead. No, horsepower doesn’t impress me (torque is what wins races), but reading all about cars is my “candy store moment” and baseball park—all rolled into one.

What I admire about car companies today is that they’ve managed to turn safety into something that’s both sexy and cool. And on the bleeding edge (no pun intended) of automotive safety are features like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane departure warnings. (Yup, we’ve come a long way since Ralph Nader’s push to make seat belts mandatory.)

Unfortunately, safety in website optimization hasn’t garnered nearly as much attention. Of the dozens of RFPs I’ve assisted with, most are little more than feature checklists, involving such questions as:

  • How fast can campaigns be deployed (i.e., the 0-60 MPH time)?
  • Can I auto-promote winners (i.e., do top drivers make the Chase for the Cup?)
  • Can I target to segments x, y, z (i.e., adjust the suspension by road condition)?

And make no mistake: these features (or rather, the business benefits they deliver) are essential to the money-making reasons you test in the first place.

But a good RFP is holistic in its approach; it’s about more than features designed to turn an efficient ROI, and looks at the journey that ultimately helps get you there.

So What Is Safe Optimization?

If you’re an IT professional, you understand the importance of keeping the lights on. Websites can’t fail to perform, so good teams go to great lengths to minimize technological risks.

In the true spirit of risk management, four questions guide these teams:

  • What could go wrong with the test?
  • What is the likelihood each risk occurs?
  • If the risk manifests, how detrimental is the result?
  • What mitigating actions can I take to reduce the risk (or the severity of the result)?

But let’s take it down a level—what should you ask about website optimization?

  1. Is the vendor’s tag asynchronous? Asynchronous JavaScript loads independently of all other JavaScript on the page. No other tag will delay your campaign content from loading. And just as important, the asynchronous tag won’t delay anything else. In addition, asynchronous JavaScript enables your default and campaign content to load concurrently, leading to a faster load time with no risk of holding up the page.
  2. Can you preview campaigns? It’s important to look before you leap, making sure the campaign renders properly across a range of different browsers. The thing is—the campaign preview must actually work.
  3. Does the tool respect Do Not Track? Different countries have different laws, and websites that ship and sell internationally must be compliant. The ability to respect “Do Not Track” won’t make you any money, but it’s an  essential way to stay out of trouble.
  4. Can the tool scale to high levels of traffic? Sharp and sudden increases in traffic can overload a server, quickly taking a website down. Your testing solution shouldn’t be cause for concern. Instead, it should offer easy horizontal scaling to meet near-infinite levels of traffic.
  5. Does the tool pause campaigns if page templates change? Quality Assurance should have redundancies, involving both the client success professionals you work with on a regular basis, as well as automated controls that detect website changes that might conflict with active campaigns. When your testing solution can auto-detect site changes that are incompatible with a campaign, it’s able to disable that campaign in real time and alert your services team.

These five features rarely rank among a vendor’s most impressive capabilities, but if you believe that technology is greatest when you don’t know it’s there, perhaps they should.

Safety is sexy; it just take a different sort of lens to see it.