Tree testing

Tree testing evaluates the effectiveness of menu labels and navigation structures of websites and digital products (e.g. apps and software).

Locating content is crucial to an effective user experience. Furthermore, one of the most common issues we see when conducting usability testing is poor labelling and unintuitive organisation of content.

Tree testing is an activity for validating navigation structures and the organisation of content. It is typically used when designing a new website navigation structure and site map. Commonly it is conducted after card sorting has been undertaken to inform the design of the broader Information Architecture (IA). 

Why conduct tree testing?

Tree testing delivers numerous benefits to the process of designing navigation and organising content, as well as to the broader process of managing digital products. 

  • Using the insights from tree testing improves navigation and content find-ability which enhances the customer experience.
  • Making changes to the organisation of content and navigation labels prior to launching a product is less costly and reduces the risk of re-work.
  • Undertaking research to test the navigation can reduce the risk of launching a product that is difficult to use and navigate which can, in turn, lead to customer churn and increased support costs.

Tree testing removes guesswork and opinions from designing effective navigation structures.

Using human behaviour to understand how people use your navigation structures.

How tree testing works?

Participants are invited to the activity (much like a survey) and complete a series of tasks. Tasks are created to reflect the kinds of information users are seeking on a website. For example, finding a t-shirt on a clothing website. Typically between 8 and 12 tasks are completed.

To complete each task participants are given a list of navigation options to select from. They then identify if they have found the correct location for their task. The process allows an assessment of content groupings and categorisations as well as navigation labels. Follow-up questions are also included to gather additional feedback. 

Typically we use Optimal Workshop for running our tree tests. 

Applications for tree testing

Tree testing can be used in a number of ways, including:

  • Benchmarking: Two structures can be compared in two tests. For example, comparing  the current structure vs the updated structure. This is a great way to understand whether there will be an improvement.
  • Iterative: Undertaking multiple rounds to enhance the design by applying learnings from each round. 
  • Diagnostic tool: To uncover what areas are performing well and what areas are performing poorly, independently of the content and visual design.

Insights and reports from
tree testing

Analysis of participant behaviour is undertkane to understand what aspects of the structure are working and which need refining. Where appropriate changes are made to the navigation labels and content grouping. 

A report is provided which documents the findings from the research and the recommended next steps. 

Final outputs are typically a recommended navigation structure (including navigation labels) or site map.

If you would like to discuss your project needs please get in touch.