KAYAK is a tech company focused on making online travel better. KAYAK allows a user to compare hundreds of travel sites at once, and then choose where to book. Paul English, cofounder and former chief technical officer of Kayak.com, credits iterative action for his web-based travel site’s growth and evolution:
“I go against big grand plans. The original grand plans are usually wrong. Instead, I try to test ideas every day…and I remain open to variations of ideas every day.”
Kayak has made this approach—what software companies call A/B testing or split testing—a way of life. Continual testing to compare options serves as the firm’s engine for iteration. Here’s how it works. Every week, two fully operational versions of the Kayak.com site, dubbed A and B, go live. Customers are randomly assigned to each, and by the end of the week, the company can analyze its data to figure out which performed better for users. The winner is then pitted against a new version the following week. With local versions of KAYAK in over 30 countries and twenty languages, and over one billion travel queries processed per year, KAYAK has the scale to continuously learn through targeted and rapid experimentation.
Like other innovators in software development, KAYAK has made iteration part of the firm’s culture and infused it into an integrated set of ongoing practices. Think about your current projects—are there ways you can implement a controlled iterative practice, like A/B testing, to improve a process or a product?